London – A fit and healthy teenager died of a stroke aged only 17 after he collapsed at home while making tea for his family.
Army cadet Ben Littlewood is feared to have turned his head quickly – causing an artery to tear and sending a blood clot to his brain.
The youngster, who did not drink or smoke, was found suffering a fatal seizure on the kitchen floor by his mother when he failed to answer her phone calls. He died in hospital eight days later.
Due to his young age, doctors didn’t initially realise Ben had suffered a stroke until four days after he was admitted to the intensive care unit.
At an inquest in Stockport, Ben’s mother called for greater awareness and research into the cause of strokes. The average age of people in England who have a stroke for the first time is 68.
Ben, from Dukinfield, near Manchester, had been studying joinery and carpentry and was a lance corporal in the Army cadets. He was hoping to join the Territorial Army after qualifying at college.
His mother, Vicki Brocklehurst, a nursery worker, told the hearing: ‘He was the best big brother, cousin, grandson and nephew. He lived at home with me, his stepdad and sister and she turned three the day after Ben passed.
‘His tutor told him he was one of the best students he had had and he loved college. There were no health problems and no concerns about drugs or alcohol.’
The tragedy happened on April 3. Mrs Brocklehurst said Ben was at home looking after his sister while she was at work. When he failed to answer her calls she decided to go home where she found him lying on the kitchen floor. He had made sandwiches for himself and his sister.
Ben underwent a CT scan at Tameside Hospital but tests showed his brain was normal. He underwent another scan on April 7 when doctors realised he had suffered an ischaemic stroke.
Dr Christopher Douglass, a consultant neurologist at Salford Royal Hospital, added: ‘Nobody suspected a stroke and I have to say these kind of strokes are very unusual even in older patients. In a 17-year-old lad who’s fit and well, thinking about a rare stroke wouldn’t be top.
‘In young people who have had a stroke… the most common cause is a blood clot… from a tear or blockage. The vein can be damaged by posture, people who have been painting, just tipping their head back or, in one case, just a person reversing down a lane and turning the head can do this.’
Coroner Chris Morris delivered a narrative conclusion.