Younger people are falling victim to strokes

(NBC)- When you think of stroke adults are usually the victims, but they can strike the very young as well.

One quarter of all stroke victims are under the age of 65.

Recovery can be very difficult, not only for kids, but their parents as well.

Matthew Leyva Wishnak is a typical teenager, likes riding his bike, listening to music and hanging out with friends.

Captain of the San Rafael High School wrestling team, Matthew was practicing with his teammates, when something went terribly wrong.

"Everything turned sideways and then back up and then sideways. I got this profound vertigo. I was totally off balance. I started vomiting convulsively," Wishnak said.

Matthew was rushed to the hospital where doctors struggled with a diagnosis.

"We were terrified that something might happen to him that night. We just wanted to make it through the night," his mother Debra Leyva said.

He made it, and the next morning, an MRI determined that the healthy teenager had suffered a stroke.

"I was completely surprised. When I think of strokes, I think of elderly people having strokes, not a 16 year old boy," Leyva said.

"No one ever heard of a kid my age ever having a stroke," Wishnak added.

But they do.

In fact, it affects 5,000-10,000 kids in the US every year.

"The majority of children having stroke are actually just previously healthy children who don't have any sort of underlying risk factor like that," Dr. Heather Fullerton, a Pediatric Neurologist, said.

Dr. Fullerton says she's seeing more and more child stroke patients and says most children will survive but not without intense rehabilitation.

"We often tell parents that it's going to be like going back to that first year of life, which can be extraordinarily difficult and painful for families to watch," she said.

The stroke left the star athlete unable to walk, but Matthew was determined to overcome it.

"Walking from one room to another is how it started. Each day he would try to walk a little bit farther and then farther," Leyva said.

And soon, Matthew was up and running.

Just two years later, Matthew finished the Marin county triathlon.

"It was pretty much the best feeling I ever had," Wishnak said.

And he's only just begun.

Matthew is now training for his next triathlon.

He hopes his story will increase awareness that children do have strokes and early detection can be the key to a full recovery.

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