Man, 28, had stroke while getting ready for work due to unknown hole in heart
A ‘fit and healthy’ 28-year-old man suffered a stroke caused by a hole in his heart which he had no clue existed.
Chris Johnson, from Stockport, Greater Manchester, was alone in his flat getting ready for work one morning when he suddenly lost vision in his right eye, and all feeling on the right side of his body.
Shortly after calling an ambulance, he also lost the ability to speak and was left terrified waiting for paramedics to arrive.
After being rushed to hospital, the young barrister was shocked to discover that it was all down to a hole in his heart he didn’t know existed, the Manchester Evening News reports.
Recalling the ordeal, Chris, a keen cyclist, said: “It was early morning. I was alone in my flat, getting ready for work. I felt fine, days before I had been riding at the regional XC MTB championships.
He continued: “In a moment, I lost the feeling in the right side of my body, and the vision in my right eye was reduced to broad patches of colour.
“I waited a moment, sure that it would resolve, but it didn’t. I was able to call an ambulance, but by the time it arrived I was struggling to talk, and unable to describe what had happened.
“The paramedic said that it couldn’t be a stroke, because I was only 28.”
But it did turn out to be a stroke, caused by a clot passing through a hole between the two sides of Chris’s heart and blocking a blood vessel in his brain.
Chris, a keen cyclist, then spent a week in the Hyper-Acute Stroke Unit at the Royal London Hospital.
“I couldn’t see out of my right eye or feel the right hand side of my body, and I struggled to talk,” he says. “The stroke was caused by a hole in my heart, which had to be surgically closed.”
A&E doctors used Chris’s thumb print to access his mobile phone and phoned his most recent call which was his shocked girlfriend, Hannah Stubbs.
He said: “My girlfriend answered a call from my phone to an A&E doctor asking to identify me – she was obviously shocked and worried.”
“When discharged home, I was left with altered sensation in my right side, difficulty finding words, difficulty recalling information, ferocious headaches and fatigue.”
Chris said he believed himself to be “entirely fit and healthy” and had no idea at all that he had a hole in his heart.
He says he had a “fantastic team” of medics, who described to him how he was in a subset of people whose hole in the heart – which exists in everyone before birth, but typically closes shortly after being born – had failed to do so naturally after birth.
He added: “I had no idea at all that I had a hole in the heart. I believed myself to be entirely fit and healthy.” Thankfully, following surgery, Chris has now almost entirely recovered and is back at work full time, dividing his life between London and Manchester.
“As a result of medical care, including quite remarkable surgery to close the hole in my heart, and the patience and support of colleagues, friends and family.
“Now, ten months on, I have recovered almost entirely, left only with a tingling sensation in my right hand, and an intractable inability to remember people’s names.”
Chris decided to help his recovery – and others – by getting back on his bike and setting himself a goal.
He said: “Cycling was an enormous part of my recovery, and my motivation to recover.”
Now, he has decided to take on the Basajaun, a 760km gravel ultra-race in Spain, with his brother Jack to raise money for brain injury charity Headway.
Chris added: “While I was unwell, and recovering, I had a horrible sense of vulnerability that was difficult to shake.
“In the back of my head, when I persuaded Jack to sign up to the Basajaun, was the idea that working towards and achieving something momentous might be the best solution to that problem.”