BRISTOL, Tenn. - According to the National Stroke Association, stroke is the fourth leading cause of death of among adults; but over the past few years, doctors have seen an increase in children and teens that have been affected by the debilitating illness.
Malcolm Stallard's world changed six days before Christmas. Stallard tells News 5 the roller coaster ride started on December 19 when his grandson, 17-year-old Ryan McCracken, told his mother he had a bad headache. "Like any mother, she gave him a washcloth. She put the washcloth on the back of his head and it didn't seem to give him any relief," said Malcolm Stallard.
They decided to take Ryan to the emergency room, where the doctors had bad news. "He said Ryan has suffered a hemorrhagic stroke. He was bleeding in the back of his head and had to go to surgery immediately," said Stallard.
According to the National Stroke Association, stroke hits only six of every 100,000 children, but stroke is a leading cause of death among kids in the U.S.
Over the past 13 years there has been an increase in cardiovascular risk factors for stroke in people ages 15 to 34.
We asked Wellmont neurologist Steven Morgan if these rare occurrences are preventable. "When you see a young person who has a stroke for the first time, often you know that they have a propensity of developing clots within the vascular-tree," said Steven Morgan.
Ryan McCracken is now in rehabilitation in Salem, Virginia after spending several weeks at the University of Virginia hospital in Charlottesville.
Stallard tells us this week Ryan has shown the greatest improvement yet. "He has gone from being in an almost comatose state to being where he can move all of his hands and legs. Friday they took the tracheotomy out and he was able to whisper some words to his mother for the first time since December 19," said Stallard.
Ryan's grandfather tells us they've been left with more than $500,000 in medical bills.
If you'd like to help Ryan's family with those expenses you can make a donation at any First Tennessee Bank.