Jeremy Chisamore knew something was up after days of a dull headache and a pupil that looked significantly smaller.
He said, “So I’m eating breakfast and having a cup of coffee and my whole right arm went numb from about the shoulder down — or like the elbow down. It only lasted about three minutes, but I thought this is bizarre. Any numbness I’m not messing around with, so I called 911.”
Stroke symptoms didn’t occur to the fit, health conscious, then 30-year-old.
“He said you have a blood clot in your left carotid artery,” explained Chisamore.
Chisamore’s story backs up new research from Rutgers University using New Jersey Department of Health data. It found from 2010 to 2014 stroke rates increased by 147 percent in younger adults, people ages 35 to 39. The data was compared with hospitalizations during the same period from 1995 to 1999.
“There is a risk factor for active, young adults to have, or even children to have, injury related strokes where the carotid — or back of brain artery, which we call the barterbal artery — can get injured and can get dissected and not supply the blood flow to the brain,” Kirmani explained.
Kirmani says he’s seen patients as young as 12 years old.
Nationally heart disease and stroke death rates are up from 2014 to 2015. Heart disease is still the leading cause of death in the U.S. It increased from 167 to 168.5 deaths per 100,000 people. Stroke is still the fifth cause of death with national rates increasing from 36.5 to 37.6 deaths per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is also up 1.2 percent — that’s a number that hasn’t changed in over a decade.
“It is very important to recognize the signs and symptoms of stroke. They are sudden and they’re usually painless and involve either weakness or numbness of one side of the body and usually come along very, very fast. You can’t wait for these symptoms to go away. You have to call 911, and this is part of the education we spread around,” Kirmani said.
But New Jersey is bucking that national trend. According to the Department of Health, heart disease death rates remained the same from 2014 to 2015, about 166 per 100,000 people. Stroke deaths actually decreased from 31.4 to 31.1.
Part of New Jersey’s success is attributed to what Karmani calls a hub and spoke model for stroke care. The smaller hospitals are the feeders, or spokes, into larger hub health care systems providing that comprehensive care.
Karmani said, “It does tell me that we are doing something right. What that right is, is sometimes difficult to dissect out until we have larger studies to look at the factors that are different in New Jersey.”
For Chisamore, he’s less concerned about exactly how our state and the hospital are getting it right, but that they did for his life and so many others.