Josh Hader never imagined his story would go viral online after a local news station shared how he survived a stroke caused by popping his neck.
“I’ve gotten hundreds of messages from people all over the world who are grateful to hear about my story,” Hader said. “They just can’t comprehend that this is even possible to do, that you can cause your own stroke.”
The 28-year-old husband and father of two had been stretching his neck for nearly two weeks due to it being stiff and sore. His wife, Rebecca, told him repeatedly not to pop his neck.
“I never liked the sound it makes, and I always thought it wasn’t good for you, but I never could have imagined it would cause this,” she said.
Hader was working from home and caring for his sick child in March when he stretched his neck, heard a pop and felt the left side of his body go numb. He called his father-in-law and asked him to take him to see his primary care physician. A former police officer, Josh knew the signs of stroke but said he tried to convince himself it wasn’t as serious.
“I was being a bit stubborn. I wanted to believe it was just a pinched nerve, but my symptoms got tremendously worse,” he said. “My vision was spinning, I could barely walk, and I knew I needed to get to an ER right away.”
Hader went to the nearby Mercy Hospital Logan County’s Emergency Department and was treated via Mercy’s vStroke program using a two-way video connection that connects local emergency providers with a neurologist to quickly diagnose strokes. This program allows for immediate and appropriate intervention, minimizing complications and saving lives.
He was treated with tPA, an injection that restores blood flow by dissolving the blood clot causing his stroke. He was transferred to Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City for additional treatment.
Dr. Vance McCollom, interventional radiologist at Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City, determined Hader tore his vertebral artery.
“If you have a stroke in that area, you can end up with a patient who’s locked in,” McCollom said. “They completely understand what's going on around them, but they can't communicate. They can't move their body. They can't speak.”
Thankfully, with time and physical therapy, Hader has made a remarkable recovery.
“I’m already doing much better than anyone anticipated,” he said. “All of my inpatient and outpatient therapists were amazing, and now I can walk almost like normal. But the left side of my face and right arm are still numb.”
Nearly three months after his stroke and a month after going viral, the Haders are settling back into a routine.
“It’s crazy to think I’m the guy who went viral for popping his neck and causing his own stroke, but it ended up working out great,” he said. “There’s a real purpose to all of this attention, and I’m just glad people have learned from my experience.”
An easy way to remember the signs and symptoms of stroke is to B.E.F.A.S.T.:
B = Balance. Does the person complain of sudden onset unsteadiness, dizziness or difficulty walking?
E = Eyes. Does the person complain of sudden onset loss of vision, blurred vision, or seeing dark or bright spots?
F = Face. Ask the person to smile and show their teeth. Is the smile even or lopsided?
A = Arms. Ask the person to raise both arms and hold them straight out. Does one arm drift downward?
S = Speech. Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Do words sound slurred or garbled?
T = Time. Knowing the time when the person was last seen “normal” helps determine the course of treatment and improve outcomes.