- Christy Kirk had a stroke when she was 27. Initially her doctors told her she was having a panic attack.
- Women and people under the age of 45 are more likely to be misdiagnosed by doctors for stroke.
- Kirk has since made a full recovery. She has run 17 marathons since suffering a stroke.
In 2003, Christy Kirk had a stroke when she was 27. Her doctors initially thought she might be having a panic attack.
Kirk, a Boston-based dentist and marathon runner, was training for his first Boston Marathon at the time. She said her health was good and she was running every day after she spent 5-8 hours in dental school.
One day, after coming home from a training run, Kirk started feeling “a little off” and thought he might have run too hard. A few minutes later he was sitting on the couch and the whole right side of his body was going numb.
Kirk had suffered a stroke. A stroke is caused by a blood clot passing through a small hole in the heart called the “heart”, which starves the brain of oxygen. atrial septal defect.
She said her eyes were fixed to one side and she could not speak without slurring.
“I tried using my cell phone to call my husband, but when I had to leave a voicemail, I realized I couldn’t even form words,” she said. “At that point, I panicked a lot.”
Stroke is the leading cause of death and disability in this country, According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, timely treatment is essential to prevent serious side effects. A stroke is 5th leading cause of death for womenIn the United States, one in five women between the ages of 55 and 75 will have a stroke.
But in young women like Kirk, stroke is often misdiagnosed. People under the age of 45 and women are disproportionately likely to be misdiagnosed in the week before suffering a debilitating stroke. Johns Hopkins.
Doctors initially diagnosed her stroke as a panic attack
After trying to call her husband, Kirk went to a neighbor and asked him to take her to the hospital.
In the emergency room, Kirk said he was still unable to speak without stuttering, but his vitals were normal and he had regained the ability to move his eyes. An ER doctor diagnosed Kirk with a panic attack and said he was fine. He took her prescription for anti-anxiety medication and sent her to her home.
“I knew I was not a panic person. I had never panicked in my life and everything was going very well for me at the time,” she said. rice field. “I called a really good friend. She came to my house and stayed with me because she thought I might die alone at home because I was scared. ”
Part of what led to Kirk’s misdiagnosis was that the clot in his brain caused by the stroke was so small that it didn’t show up on the initial CT scan. Kirk consulted another doctor a few days later and had an MRI, which gave a better picture of her brain to pinpoint her problem.
Kirk has fully recovered
Doctors treated Kirk with minimally invasive surgery, inserting a mesh-like device called a septal occluder that closed a hole in Kirk’s heart. Kirk, now 47, has run 17 marathons and several triathlons since his stroke and has four children.
Kirk said the fact that she was young and “very fit and healthy” may have contributed to the misdiagnosis. “I didn’t look like someone who would have medical problems at all,” she added. But she’s still frustrated that the ER doctor didn’t do further testing, even though she knew something more serious had happened to her than her panic attack.
“When you can’t control your body, when it’s paralyzed and out of control no matter what your brain tells you, it’s an indescribable feeling,” she says. “I feel really lucky and really happy to have been healthy all these years.”
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