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A life-altering stroke hits an active 21-year-old

Noah recovered from an acute ischemic attack, thanks to prompt action and treatment.

Young man who suffered a stroke at age 21 in white sweatpants and shirt running in Central Park
Noah takes good care of himself and enjoys jogging in Central Park in NYC.

Noah Broxmeyer, then 21, was enjoying dinner out with his girlfriend when the lights in the diner appeared to glow brighter. “It was like the flash you see when a lightbulb burns out, except the lights stayed really intense,” he said. Noah, a student at New York University who’s from Oyster Bay, NY, was surprised when his girlfriend said she didn’t notice anything.

For the rest of the meal, Noah felt off. “I’m prone to fainting when my blood sugar gets low,” Noah said. “I hadn’t eaten much all day, so I thought I’d feel better after I had some food.” Instead, Noah felt so out of sorts that he called his mom, Lisa, to give the couple a lift.

During the drive, Lisa noticed that her son was talking slower than usual. Noah said he thought he might be getting a migraine. The explanation seemed plausible: Noah has a personal as well as a family history of migraines. Noah felt certain he’d feel better in the morning, but when he woke, he discovered that everything in his room looked colorless or washed-out.

Although an eye exam later that day showed no change in his vision, the specialist suggested a peripheral vision test. “I thought I did great on it. No problem!” Noah recalled. He was shocked when the optometrist said that Noah could no longer see out of the top right corner of either eye. Even more surprising: The doctor felt the problem was with Noah’s brain, not his eyes.

Young man in very colorful button-down shirt, leaning on a chair back.
Noah’s early stroke symptoms—vision changes and slowed speech—were a red flag something was wrong.

Noah and his mom rushed to the emergency department at North Shore University Hospital. There, the medical team started IV medications to treat a suspected migraine, and he was given imaging scans of his brain to rule out other problems. “I’m named after my paternal uncle who died from a brain tumor before I was born, so I was terrified that might be my fate, too,” he said. “I was panicked!”

Although the scans didn’t reveal a problem, Noah was admitted into the hospital and received a more advanced CT angiography (CTA). This scan uses an IV contrast dye to produce 3D images of the brain’s blood vessels that aren’t visible on a routine CT scan. This time, the results showed the remnants of damage from a small blood clot. The 21-year-old had suffered an acute ischemic stroke.

A stroke temporarily blocks the flow of blood through an artery in the brain. The neurologist who treated Noah, Jeffrey M. Katz, MD, told him that he was fortunate that the blood clot that caused his stroke narrowly missed the part of his brain responsible for high motor function. “He told me I was lucky in the location that it hit,” Noah said. He’s also grateful for the North Shore University Hospital emergency department doctors. “I owe my life to the doctor who decided to admit me and run additional tests.”  

Noah received IV medications to reduce the chances of another clot and stayed at the hospital for three days under Dr. Katz’s care. “I had to perform certain facial exercises with the nurses like frowning and smiling to check for signs of another stroke,” Noah recalled. “The nurses knew how scared I was. They helped me forget my worries for a while by joking around and making me laugh, which eased my anxiety.”

Dr. Katz also ran blood tests to see if Noah was genetically predisposed to clotting. Those tests came back negative; however, Noah did have several other stroke risk factors including his history of chronic migraines. In addition, Noah’s mom had been treated for deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a dangerous blood clot that forms in a leg artery, and years after that suffered a pulmonary embolism, a clot that travels to the lung. Because of that family history, Dr. Katz recommended that Noah start taking a baby aspirin every day to prevent new clots from forming.

Young man in sweatsuit and Marvel T-shirt in a park.
A year after his stroke, Noah’s living and working in New York City.

At discharge, Noah still had vision problems so he sought the care of neuro-ophthalmologist Howard Pomeranz, MD. “He recommended eye exercises that I did twice a day on a computer, and my peripheral vision greatly improved,” Noah said.

A year after the stroke, Noah made the dean’s list and snagged a coveted internship in the music industry. “I was terrified while at the hospital,” Noah said. “But everyone on my healthcare team went out of their way to answer my questions and provide reassurances. This care really helped me get through a very scary ordeal.”

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