Am Eye Too Young to Have a Stroke?

It was the end of my senior year in high school and I was pretty much on top of the world. I had just received a full scholarship to my dream college – a school my parents told me I had no shot at attending for financial reasons. In addition to AP classes and trying to maintain my 4.3 GPA, I was preparing for my senior dance recital nearly every night, which included a solo I had choreographed myself.

On a random off night, I went to see Center Stage with my friend (because I never miss a dance movie). About halfway through the movie, I noticed that my vision seemed off, blurry. I went to the bathroom to splash some water into my eyes but it didn’t help. I went back and finished the movie, shrugging it off due to how exhausted and run down I knew I was. That must be it. A good night’s sleep would fix everything.

When I woke up the next morning, I was disappointed to discover that nothing had changed. Something wasn’t right. I expressed my concerns to my parents and we made an appointment with an eye doctor for that afternoon. I will never forget the moment they asked me to cover my left eye and read the eye chart with my right. I burst into tears. I couldn’t see the chart at all. The black spot in the center of my vision blocked out the entire eye chart and it was terrifying.

I later found out that I had a stroke in my right eye. There was a hemorrhage. The black spot I was seeing in the center of my vision was a blood clot, leaving me with only a little peripheral vision in that eye. The doctor said he had never seen anything like it in someone so young. They conducted a whole host of tests to determine the cause without success. All of the results came back normal, apart from low iron, so they concluded it was most likely attributed to stress. I was told that my vision may or may not come back. I would just have to wait and “see.”

I danced my senior dance recital with essentially one eye (not great for balance, FYI), and soon after, I embarked upon my freshman year of college. Gradually, I noticed the black spot getting a little smaller…or at least I thought I did. It seemed like it was but it was hard to tell. Until one day, who knows how many months later, it was definitely, definitively smaller. I could see more. I was sure.

I am happy to report that I fully regained my vision. Tested 20/20. I can’t promise that’s what it still is today but I’m extremely grateful. To reflect on it now, it feels like another life, someone else’s even. But it was certainly impactful. Like many events in our lives, it’s one that really puts things in perspective.

When I heard and read about Hailey Bieber’s recent stroke in the media, it hit very close to home. It brought up feelings and memories related to my own scare and I hope talking about it will raise awareness and encourage others to pay close attention to their bodies and any warning signs. It’s rare for strokes to occur at such an early age but it is becoming more common according to studies showing increased stroke incidence rates in younger populations. You know yourself and your body better than anyone. Does something feel off? Get it checked out ASAP. I know it can be scary and uncomfortable but I always think it’s better to be safe than sorry.

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