Stroke at Age 23

Stroke at Age 23

By Lindsey Theis. CREATED Jun 4, 2013

Omaha, NE- DJ Bierd, 25, of Elkhorn is a face of a rising statistic. Three years ago, at age 23, he had a stroke. The risk for strokes for adults younger than 50 has dramatically increased since the mid-1990s.

A week after completing a half-marathon, Bierd collapsed in his home.

"Next thing I know I am on the floor. My eyes closed, I opened them back up and I'm on the floor. The room is spinning, I can't focus on anything. I'm a fish out of water and I don't know what to do," he recalled.

This was back in 2010 and Bierd now admits that he doesn't remember much about his stroke.

He woke up in a hospital bed and couldn't move his legs or arms. Doctors told him that a blood clot had managed to travel through an undiagnosed hole in his heart up to his brain.

From that point forward, Bierd began his incredible comeback. A week later, he was out of intensive care and a week after that was trying to move again with the assistance of a walker.

"It was hard because I was so active; I was running 3 times a week. I was playing flag football on weekend with my buddies. Now I was confined to a walker."

He's the optimist though.

"It was a red Nebraska walker, so I got a lot of compliments."

Perhaps it's that optimism that leads to DJ's rapid recovery.

Just a few weeks after what he only describes as an "emotional" release from the hospital, Bierd began trying to run again.

He ran (or as he put it "hobbled") down the end of his block and back again. Total distance: one mile.

"I don't know what I would do without it {running.} Maybe I take that for granted. It's my release," he said.

Young adults like Bierd are now at higher risk of having strokes. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that strokes can happen in 1 out of 5 adults 20 to 54 years of age. It used to be 1 in 8 back in the mid-1990s.

Doctors said 80 percent of strokes can be prevented by a healthy lifestyle. Bierd was one of the rare cases; he was already living a healthy lifestyle. He says now, he takes a baby aspirin daily for treatment.

Doctors also recommended abstaining from smoking, as smoking is a large risk factor. Drugs and alcohol increase the risk of stroke. Doctors believe substance abuse and excessive drinking are leading indicators among young adults. Even though genes do play a part in future health histories of adults, doctors believe strokes can be prevented by healthy lifestyles.

Statistics show that every 45 seconds, someone in the U.S. has a stroke, and on average, one American dies from strokes every four minutes.

Bierd hopes someone will hear his story of survival and think they are not alone.

"The fact that it happened to me, is beyond me. I don't know why it happened but it happened to me for a reason. I'm healthy and I'm here to tell my story," he said.

Since that first "hobble", Bierd has run more than 20 races. He'll run in another race this weekend.