Arizona coronavirus patient's story goes viral: 'I'm 23 years old and I just had a stroke'

An Arizona coronavirus patient’s story went viral this week after the 23-year-old experienced a mini-stroke due to COVID-19.

Riley Behrens, of Tempe, Ariz., tweeted a thread Sunday evening detailing his medical experience, including his diagnosis that he suffered from a transient ischemic attack (TIA), and encouraging young people to follow public health guidelines.

“I'm 23 years old and I just had a stroke due to Covid-19 complications,” Behrens wrote in the first tweet, which received almost 149,000 likes and almost 43,000 retweets as of Tuesday evening. “Not taking this pandemic seriously? Keep reading.”

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In his thread, Behrens said he went to the emergency room on Saturday after he experienced weakness in his left side, dizziness and spotty vision. Earlier in the week, he endured chest pain and headaches after learning that he tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of his planned trip to visit family for Thanksgiving. 

“I went from feeling mild symptoms to full hospitalization in less than 48 hours,” he said in the thread.

“Before this, I was a healthy, young athlete with no major medical conditions, he said. “Now, I'm being told I will likely never return to contact sports because of lasting lung and brain damage. The risk for a second stroke will always be there, and another head injury could be fatal.”

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Behrens attributes his infection to his friend, whom he allowed to stay with him after the friend lost their housing, The Arizona Republic reported. He said the friend attended a family wedding before moving in and didn’t tell him. 

“My recovery will involve weeks, if not months of both physical and occupational therapy as well as continuous follow-up with my neurologist to determine lasting affects and damage,” he tweeted. “This is not what anyone should have to go through, let alone a young athlete.”

“Again, please take this pandemic seriously,” he added. “Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Social distance. Limit travel. Follow CDC guidelines. I never thought that I would be affected this way, but here we are. Don't let yourself be next.”

Doctors began cautioning in April that COVID-19 was causing strokes in younger adults who otherwise were asymptomatic or having minor symptoms. Since then, several studies, including one from the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, have backed up their warnings. 

The Mayo Clinic reports that TIAs usually do not cause permanent damage, but about 1 in 3 people who have one will have a stroke, with half of those having one within a year.