Healthy 20-year-old suffers stroke due to a common condition

Doctors discovered a patent foramen ovale — and closed the hole in her heart

Last summer, Mayla Edick had just completed what was probably the most vigorous experience of her life.

In June 2019, the 20-year-old came back home to Bismarck, North Dakota, after spending 10 weeks at Army Basic Combat Training. Once she was back home and settled into civilian life, she started working at a local assisted living facility in Bismarck.

On Aug. 6, Edick was sweeping floors at work when she all of a sudden felt dizzy and unstable. She didn’t know it at the time, but she would later find out she was suffering from a stroke.

Learn more: Heart care at Sanford Health

“My right side just felt like I was falling,” Edick said. “My left side was trying to keep me up and I thought, this is weird.”

Stroke symptoms equal emergency

Edick then went to the bathroom to sit down. At that time, she noticed her mouth beginning to get numb.

“Then, I went to take the garbage outside and my co-worker was talking to me but it felt like it was in slow motion. It felt like our conversation had been going on for hours,” Edick said. “When I went back inside to where we were working before we took out the garbage I tried to speak and my lip was drooping.”

The young, healthy Army soldier decided to drink some water and take the rest of the day off to get some rest. She drove herself home and told her dad what happened. He determined that Edick needed to get to the emergency room right away.

Edick had several tests done, including blood tests, an MRI and a CAT scan before doctors determined that she had suffered a stroke. It turns out Edick had patent foramen ovale, or PFO.

In simple terms, PFO is basically a hole in the heart. The condition sounds scary, but it’s actually quite common.

One reason for stroke in young people

“The hole in the heart is common, about one in four people have this hole in the heart,” said Dr. Nayan Desai, an interventional cardiologist at Sanford Health in Bismarck. “The way the heart develops in the mother’s womb, two sides of the wall of the heart come next to each other and they leave a small gap.”

The PFO is likely what caused Edick’s stroke. Not everyone who has PFO will develop a stroke, but it can happen. And often times it happens in young, healthy individuals.

Once doctors determined Edick had PFO, the next step was to close the hole in the heart by performing a minimally invasive procedure called patent foramen ovale closure, or PFO closure.

“The whole purpose of closing the hole is to prevent future strokes,” said Dr. Desai. “Because we have seen that the blood clot has gone from one side of the heart to another, so this could happen again if the hole is not closed and it could be very severe.”

Closing a hole in the heart

The procedure is done using a dumbbell shaped device.

“We do it from the leg. We enter in the vein,” Dr. Desai explained. “We put a wire across the hole. We also put a camera and ultrasound in the vein to help us see the hole better.”

Discs are then placed inside the heart to seal the hole and become part of the body within four to six weeks.

Today, Edick is back working and is planning to go back to school. She says life after her stroke is pretty normal.

“It didn’t affect me in a way that changed my life a lot,” Mayla said. “Just the fact that it happened to me. I’ve recovered very well.”

At Sanford Health in Bismarck, 15 PFO closures were done in 2019. Dr. Desai says more than half of those patients were under the age of 40.

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Posted In Brain & Spine, Emergency Medicine, Heart

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