On March 4th, 2019, actor Luke Perry passed away after suffering a stroke. The news came as a shock to our nation because he was only 52 years old. Many women my age grieved the loss of an iconic heartthrob from our younger years. Social media was flooded with memories, mostly of his iconic TV character – Dylan from Beverly Hills 90210. Even if you didn’t watch the show, you still knew him. It was a tragic situation that left many wondering… Wasn’t he too young to have a stroke?
When we think of strokes, we generally think of the elderly population. In nursing school, the topic of a stroke was covered in geriatrics. Many of us have a family member or know someone who has had a stroke. My own grandfather passed away after he had a stroke. In his 80’s, I was not surprised by this because when we think of the cause of death at this age, we think heart attacks, dementia, cancer, and strokes.
Because of a family friend, I knew strokes were not limited to older individuals. She had a stroke at just nine. Her stroke left her with limited use of one side of her body, learning disabilities, and unable to walk, just to name a few effects. It opened my eyes to the fact that children could have strokes. Still, I did not know much and figured this was an incredibly rare occurrence. I believed she would be the only person I knew who had a stroke as a child.
I imagine this is why Luke Perry’s death came as such a shock to many. The words “too young” appeared everywhere. He was too young to have a stroke. He was too young to die. I agree, he was too young to die. He had many years ahead of him. He had children he should have had more time with. However, he was not too young to have a stroke. Strokes do not discriminate. They affect males and females of all races. They affect the elderly. They affect people in their 50’s like Luke Perry. They affect children like my family friend. They also affect babies, before and after birth. I know this all too well.
My daughter had a stroke in utero.
At some point during my pregnancy, my daughter had a hemorrhagic right cerebellar stroke. Almost her entire right hemisphere was affected, but it was not discovered until she was nearly one. My daughter is now eight and has exceeded everyone’s expectations. But the residual effects of her stroke are life-long. Her balance is poor. Her muscles are weaker. It has impacted her learning.
Through social media, I joined a group for parents of children who had strokes before birth. While it’s not common, it indeed is not uncommon. On the day Luke Perry passed away, we were hugging our children a little tighter. Suddenly, the frustrations of life with a stroke survivor were put aside. How lucky we are. You see, not every baby and child survive a stroke. Though Luke was an adult, it still hits too close to home. My daughter could have died, as well. Stroke is among the top ten causes of death in children. It occurs in 1 in 4,000 live births. It is more common than you think.
There are a lot of unknowns around my daughter’s stroke. We may never know the cause. I’m ok with the unknowns. I’m thankful she is with us.
I will spend the rest of my life explaining and educating on strokes. I’m always happy to answer questions and share our story.