Coroner Says Teen's Death 'Likely' To Be Linked With 'Sudden Movement'
A teenager has died of a stroke aged only 17 after collapsing at home while making tea for his family.
Army cadet Ben Littlewood didn't drink or smoke but is feared to have turned his head quickly, causing an artery to tear and sending a blood clot to his brain - one of the causes of a stroke.
The youngster was found suffering a fatal seizure on the kitchen floor by his mum when he failed to answer her calls and 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. One senior medic who carried out a brain scan on Ben later said he had not come across such a case in 12 years of treating patients.
At an inquest in Stockport, Greater Manchester, Ben's mother Vicky Brocklehurst 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.
Dr Christopher Douglass, a consultant neurologist at Salford Royal Hospital, said: "In young people who had a stroke, it's a blood clot which is most common. In young people, the most common cause is a blood clot consign from a tear or blockage.
"The vein can be damaged by posture - people who have been painting just tipping their head back, or one case just a person reversing down a lane and just turning the head can do this.
"Same as twisting may have caused the tear in the artery and there is no other reason unfortunately. It is quite common when we investigate strokes - in one in five cases we don't find a cause and it's potentially impossible to know."
Ben, from Dukinfield in Tameside, Greater 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.
The tragedy occurred on 3 April after the family were recovering from colds and coughs. Speaking of her son, saying he had the 'biggest heart', Ms Brocklehurst told the hearing: ''He had been out walking with the dog and seemed much better in himself, bright and alert.
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"Ben had been to college then came home and had the children for a couple of hours while I have gone to work."
The nursery worker continued: "I had a missed call from him which I saw when I came to check my phone at 5pm. I tried calling him back but never got a response.
"Normally he would call back and at least answer but it must have been about 20 minutes and I said to my colleagues, 'I'm going to have to go home - something's not quite right.' I just had the feeling.
"The time I got home was approximately 6.10pm and I just remember walking in the house and the dog ran to get me and then ran straight back to the kitchen where Ben was.
"I summoned the ambulance and immediately paramedics came and noted a bump and cut on his forehead. Staff at the hospital and nurses especially were fantastic.''
Ben underwent a CT scan at Tameside Hospital but tests showed his brain was normal. He underwent another scan on 7 April and tests later concluded that he died of a vertebral artery thrombosis or Ischaemic stroke.
Recording a conclusion of death, coroner Chris Morris said: "Ben was a much-loved son, grandson, brother and nephew, and a delightful and good-natured young man.
"At the beginning of a very talented creative life he was doing very well at college and someone who had everything to live for.
"I accept Doctor Douglass's evidence that [he] cannot be really totally sure of the likely cause in Ben's case. It's likely to be associated with sudden or extreme movement of the neck causing dissection of the relevant artery.
"By the time this Ischaemic stroke was finally diagnosed, there was no realistic treatment option and he tragically passed away. I am very sorry to hear of the sudden and dramatic way Ben has been taken from your family."
Family and friends raised £2,100 towards the Stroke Association following Ben's death.
Featured Image Credit: Cavendish Press