Josh Hader’s neck was disturbing him. He’d been sensing the pain for a few weeks and recently believed some light stretching could offer relief.
“I visited stretch it,” the 28-year-aged told The Washington Post, “and as I was using my hand to apply a little bit more pressure than I probably should have, I heard a pop.”
Only one hour later, Hader is in a medical center emergency room struggling to walk and experiencing what doctors said to him was a “major stroke” the effect of a tear in the artery in his neck that had formed a clot.
“He could have died,” Vance McCollom, a doctor at Mercy Hospital in Oklahoma City who treated Hader, told KOCO this week.
McCollom explained Hader had torn his vertebral artery, among the main arteries in the neck that comes up into the brain.
A vertebral artery tear, or dissection, may cause strokes that may affect younger people within their 20s or 30s, and has nothing in connection with a person’s wellness, Kazuma Nakagawa, a stroke neurologist, told The Post.
While it’s unusual for neck popping to result in a tear, it’s not really unusual, said Nakagawa, the medical director of the Comprehensive Stroke Center at The Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu.
“People just need to know that sudden neck pain can potentially be the starting point of a stroke,” Nakagawa said.
On March 14, Hader stated he was doing work from his house in Guthrie, Oklahoma, when he felt the simple soreness in his neck and tried to ease it.
“This wasn’t me cranking on my neck trying to pop it as much as I could,” he said. “It just ended up popping.”
Almost right after hearing the pop, Hader’s left side began to go numb.
Drawing from his encounter as a former police officer, Hader said, he quickly checked to find if his facial area was drooping, among the telltale signals of a stroke. The muscle tissues in his facial area all were working fine, therefore he figured he must have simply pinched a nerve and went to find some ice packs.
That’s when Hader said he noticed some thing was very wrong.
“As I’m walking to the kitchen, I quite literally could walk only at about a 45-degree angle,” he said. “I literally couldn’t walk straight. It was almost walking just straight to the left.”
In the few minutes it took his father-in-law to reach to take him to the hospital, Hader says his health significantly worsened. By some time they reached the emergency room about a half-hour away, Hader could not walk at all and called for a wheelchair.
After a CT scan identified there was clearly no bleeding in his brain, Hader said, a physician examined he was having a stroke and had a need to receive a drug called tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA, which dissolves blood clots.
“I remember sitting there and hearing the doctor yell out that they had 12 minutes to administer the tPA,” Hader said. “That’s when everything hit home.”
He continued: “I was still wanting to be in disbelief. But everything came crashing down, like ‘Nope, this is happening’.”
His wife, Rebecca, told The Post she was also could not believe her spouse had a stroke. She stated she often told him never to pop his neck.
“I thought it had to be something else,” she said. “He’s too young. It was too weird. My whole way to the hospital, I was kind of talking myself out of it being a stroke.”
Hader said he was transported to Mercy Clinic where he remained in the intensive treatment unit for a few days before being released to a therapy facility.
“I was terrified,” Rebecca Hader said. “He says he was never worried he was going to die. I did all the worrying that he was going to die.”
Not merely did Hader survive, but with help from physical therapy, he was on his feet and going for walks within a matter of weeks.
“For the last two weeks or so, I’ve been able to help around the house a lot more, doing regular chores or helping out with taking care of our 1-year-old and 5-year-old,” he said. “Before that, I was fairly useless.”
Hader said that although he didn’t lose any cognitive or speech capabilities, he still has stability issues, problems controlling his left arm, and too little sensation in his right arm and leg, among other lingering symptoms.
Nakagawa said Hader’s situation might have been much worse.
“They’re actually very deadly,” Nakagawa said of the type of stroke Hader experienced.
The vertebral arteries in the neck join in the brain to turn into the basilar artery, which assists the critical role of providing blood to the brain stem, Nakagawa said.
“The brain stem is the heart and soul of the brain,” he said. “Without it, our brain just doesn’t work.”
If a tear in the vertebral artery effects the basilar artery, Nakagawa stated the stroke could be fatal, result in a coma or leave a person in a long term vegetative state.
In 2016, 34-year-old model Katie May died from a stroke after going to the chiropractor for a pinched nerve in her neck, CBS News reported. An autopsy discovered that May’s vertebral artery tore consequently of a “neck manipulation,” relating to HuffPost.
Hader said he only discovered how dire his scenario might have been after going to a vascular specialist a couple weeks ago.
“He put up his fingers real close together and he was like, ‘You were this close to a coma,’ ” Hader said.
Relating to Nakagawa, “99.9 percent of the time you pop your neck and it’s fine.”
Hader, nevertheless, said his days of neck-popping are over.
“I still wake up every once in a while with the urge, and I have to stop myself,” he said. “It’s still a struggle, but I definitely don’t want to pop my neck anymore.”