Fifteen-year old Ashton Combs loves lacrosse, and played on the Tates Creek High School team.
By all signs, Ashton was a perfectly healthy teenager. But his world, and his families, turned upside down on Christmas morning.
"I woke up and I couldn't see out of this eye. It was all blurry. And I couldn't get my balance. And this arm wouldn't work, it was just shaking."
Ashton's mother, Jennifer Bricking, rushed him to the emergency room at U-K. She says after some tests, the ER staff told her, they were discharging Ashton with a migraine. But Jennifer wasn't satisfied with that, and demanded more testing. A MRI found a clot in a major artery leading to his brain. There was a tear in the artery...shutting off some of the blood to his brain.
Dr. Erica Erlandson, a U-K physician, says, "That can be fatal. So he's very lucky."
Ashton's doctor says that some migraine symptoms are similar to a stroke, and that's it's very unusual for someone as young as Ashton, to suffer a stroke.
Dr. Erica says "you can definitely get confused between a migraine and a stroke. The difference between the migraine and the stroke is if a migraine causes symptoms, it usually doesn't cause weakness or slurred speech or difficulty with coordination of movement. It definitely causes headaches."
A month ago Ashton could not run, had trouble with balance, and doing several tasks at one time. His mother saw him run for the first time in this physical therapy session last week at Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital, and almost cried.
His therapist says, "He's really doing well, he works really hard."
Ashton's fast recovery has amazed even the therapists at Cardinal Hill. They see stroke patients every day. He's working hard in therapy to reconnect what he's thinking...to what he wants his body to do.
Ashton says "getting myself to do it like from up here (points to head) to my leg...like I know what to do, it just wasn't happening." His therapist, Karen _______ says "by having to carry something...he's gotta be thinking of two or three things at the same time...so he has to work on his balance, the cups, and think about counting at the same time."
As Ashton recovers, his mother is thankful for all the doctors and therapists. She's also convinced that during a medical emergency, parents must become a strong advocate for their children.
"Go with your gut feeling. Be an advocate. If you don't feel like it's the right diagnosis, continue fighting and ask for more tests to be done."
His doctor believes Ashton will return to a normal life, and that the clot will eventually be dissolved. The experience has taught Jennifer an important lesson.
"I know that life is so precious. He could go to sleep, and I might not have him in the morning. I take every moment with him as if it might be the last. It's very precious to me."
No one knows why Ashton developed a clot, but his family is very happy he’s improving.