Stroke in young people has seen an increase in the last 15 years — 11% more young people are now at higher risk of stroke than before. The risk factors for stroke in young people are the same as for adults, but young people are usually less likely to pay close attention to their health and wellbeing in the same way that adults would.
For Nitai, a stroke came as a total surprise. He was a healthy and active young man, starting university, and enjoying a new life outside of his hometown. The day started as normal, a typical Thursday morning in his student residence room. When he woke up he noticed that his arm and face felt odd. Numb and tingly, as if his arm had fallen asleep. He figured it would go away soon and carried on with his day.
As the hours went by, the odd feeling in his arm and face didn’t go away, and he even struggled to hold a pen. When he went to grab a tray from the cafeteria, he couldn’t carry it. Soon after that his balance started to be affected, and he was having trouble walking. He called his dad, but he didn’t pick up, so Nitai asked his friends if he seemed odd to them, and explained the symptoms he was experiencing.
A few hours later, his dad called back — once Nitai explained his symptoms, his dad (a doctor) instructed him to call 911 and get an ambulance to the hospital. He knew his son was having a stroke. At 18 years old, Nitai suffered a left thalamic brain hemorrhage (a brain bleed in the thalamus). With that diagnosis, Nitai spent a significant amount of time in the ICU, where doctors closely monitored him, and then went to an in-patient rehabilitation center where he worked on his speech, mobility, brain function and so much more. Although Nitai was young and in fairly good health, rehabilitation after a stroke proved to be very challenging. It took him weeks to recover his strength, and during this time he gained a new perspective on life.
“I was rehabbing alongside amputees, people that were semi-paralyzed, some in wheelchairs, some unable to speak, and some hooked up to breathing tubes. I empathized with their journeys. I could see the pain in their faces. I could see the weight of their new diagnoses sitting heavy on their shoulders. Anyone that goes through something difficult can understand. We are not just walking a different path, wherever we go from here, we’re paving our own path. It reminded me, circumstances don’t define us… we’re defined by how we handle our circumstances.”
Today, Nitai has become an advocate for raising awareness of stroke in young people, spreading kindness and love wherever he goes, and writing a book about his experiences. This year, Nitai spent some time in Australia (a surfer’s paradise) where he designed and delivered a surfboard to Billabong HQ, as well as embarked on a 7-day challenge in which he raised funds for other stroke survivors.
You can view Nitai’s project here — be sure to follow, like and share!
When we push through discomfort and do the hard things, we can go way further than we think we can.Nitai Weinberg
The Stroke Foundation would like to thank Nitai for sharing his story, embarking on this project, and raising funds that will impact the lives of stroke survivors recovering from a stroke. We hope to raise more awareness of stroke in young people so that everyone is able to recognize the signs and act FAST!