If you’re a current subscriber, log in below. If you would like to subscribe, please click the subscribe tab above.
Username and Password Help
Genaro C. Armas
American Heart Association News
On a morning this past February, 16-year-old Carson Cathey got up, went downstairs and scarfed down a donut and glass of milk. His father, Patrick, also was awake, and they had a conversation before Carson decided to return to bed.
About two hours later, Patrick heard a thud. He found Carson – a 6-foot-4, 282-pound defensive line- man at Oswego High School in Illinois – lying on his bed- room floor, unable to move the left side of his body.
“He just said that he couldn’t feel anything on his left side, that he couldn’t move,” Patrick said. “I don’t know what made me think ‘stroke.'” He immediately called 911.
Paramedics took Carson to a suburban hospital. An emergency medicine physi- cian recognized the signs of a stroke, even though it’s unusual for someone Carson’s age.
Doctors consulted a stroke specialist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago via video. They determined Carson had an ischemic stroke, which occurs when a blood clot blocks a blood vessel in the brain.
It was just after noon. The fact that Patrick saw Carson earlier that morning gave doctors a crucial piece of information: He was still within the four -hour window to receive a clot-busting drug that could reduce the damage caused by the stroke.
The medical team moved on to the next question: Why did this happen to a teenag- er, especially one who seemed otherwise healthy?
Doctors typically first check a patient’s heart when there is no known cause. The first tests found nothing unusual. The cardiologist treating him consulted with Dr. Joshua Murphy, the head of pediatric cardiology at Rush University Medical Center.
Murphy had told Carson the problem likely was a hole between the two upper chambers of his heart.
The first test was incon- clusive. Round two showed Carson indeed had what Murphy predicted, a hole known as a patent foramen ovale, or PFO.
Carson went home, then returned about a month later for Murphy to close the hole. Murphy was very famil-
iar with this routine. He had the same procedure to close a PFO after having a stroke at age 37 while he was on his pediatric cardiology fel- lowship at Yale in 2007.
About two weeks after sur- gery, Carson started working out again.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, his high school football team didn’t play last fall. When the delayed sea- son began on March 19, Carson didn’t play. But he returned the next week. He even led the team onto the field, carrying the U.S. flag at the front of the pack. By late April, he’d recovered enough to play the entire final two games.
“Everyone that works in pediatric cardiology is often amazed at how well kids do and how they bounce back,” Murphy said.
Over the summer, Carson was back to attending foot- ball camps. Now a senior, he hopes to earn a scholarship to play college football. He’s still playing defensive tackle, and seeing action on offense at left tackle, the spot usual- ly manned by a team’s best
Neither the stroke nor the
PFO have left any lingering physical issues. Still, the ordeal changed him. His family created T-shirts with Carson’s name and the words “Built Different” on the chest. That phrase has motivated him through his recovery.
“I like telling this story to show that there’s hope, to tell everybody that if I can do it, you can do it too,” Carson said. “Just keep going, keep pushing. Just never give
Stories From the Heart chronicles the inspiring jour- neys of heart disease and stroke survivors, caregivers and advocates.
If you have questions or comments about this story, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright is owned or held by the American Heart Association, Inc., and all rights are reserved. Permission is granted, at no cost and without need for further request, for individu- als, media outlets, and non- commercial education and
awareness efforts to link to, quote, excerpt or reprint from these stories in any medium as long as no text is altered and proper attribu- tion is made to American Heart Association News.
HEALTH CARE DIS- CLAIMER: This site and its services do not constitute the practice of medical advice, diagnosis or treat- ment. Always talk to your health care provider for diag- nosis and treatment, includ- ing your specific medical needs. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem or condition, please contact a qualified health care professional immediate- ly. If you are in the United States and experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 or call for emergency medical help immediately.