Know the signs

Strokes can happen to young people, too

Published on February 12, 2016

It was an incredibly tense time for Leah Chaulk.

Her son, Jordan — 15, but forever her baby “Jo” — collapsed during a house league hockey game at Twin Rinks in St. John’s.

He was raced to the Janeway.

Doctors thought a severe migraine had felled the big defenceman.

Then they suspected, and treated him for, viral meningitis.


Getting back to where he wants to be


But a CT scan determined something else, something completely unexpected, something that doesn’t happen to active and healthy teens.

Jordan, unconscious and under observation, had a tear in an artery. A blood clot had travelled to his brain.

“At first they were saying it was a blood clot. It was restricting blood flow. And that’s information we could process,” Leah says.

“It wasn’t until we heard the word stroke from a doctor … I said to my husband, ‘Did I just hear the word stroke?’ It was so foreign to us. That’s an old person’s disease. It’s somebody who’s unhealthy and has high blood pressure and not active, and overweight. And Jordan was none of that.

“That was our first reaction. It took our breath away.”

Luckily, it didn’t take her boy.

The odds are miniscule for someone of his age and health to have a stroke. Just a .01 per cent chance, Leah says.

But stats mean zilch and provide zero comfort when it happens to your child.

Leah says Jordan had all the signs of an oncoming stroke. She didn’t recognize them, or think stroke, because he was a healthy kid.

Now she wants to make sure others don’t ignore the symptoms.

“Just know the signs and know it can happen to any age,” she pleads. “Just because it’s a child, it can happen.”

The signs are clearly on display in the adjacent graphic “Signs of Stroke.”

Learn ’em, and increase the chances of saving yourself or someone you love.

As a parent, husband, colleague, friend, hockey player, person, I’ll be committing these to memory because I wouldn’t have recognized them, either.

Jordan collapsed in January 2014.

The stroke left him completely paralyzed from head to toe — vision included — on his left side.

He’s worked his ass off in the two years since, going to rehab at Sick Kids in Toronto for a few weeks and at the Janeway regularly.

Due to his efforts and drive, the only lingering effect is some issues with opening his left hand.

After missing half a year and going part-time for another half, Jordan has also worked hard at school.

He’s caught up after countess hours of studying and sessions with tutors during the regular school year and throughout the summer.

The now 17-year-old will be among the first class to graduate from Waterford Valley High — on time with the rest of his buddies — this June.

Leah says Jordan’s wicked sense of humour got her, her husband, Doug, older brother Matthew and everyone else through it all.

“Everything became a joke,” she says, recalling the moment he regained consciousness to find a catheter in place.

“He wondered who put it in. I joked that it was the cute, blond nurse downstairs. He says, ‘Well, she could have bought me dinner downstairs first.’”


Steve Bartlett is the managing editor of The Telegram. Reach him at Find him on Facebook as JournalistSteveBartlett. He’s @SteveBartlett_ on Twitter.


Signs of stroke

To identify a stroke, use the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s FAST assessment ...

FACE — Is it dropping?

ARMS — Can you raise both?

SPEECH — Is it slurred or jumbled?

TIME — To call 911 right away.


What Jordan is at?

Jordan Chaulk has become heavily involved with the Heart and Stroke Foundation. He’s currently participating in a Heart and Stroke Month awareness video with Mark Critch and Danny Williams. The goal this year is to put a defibrillator in every school. View the video at