Rare blood disease that causes strokes

Jackson Leitch.jpg
  • Jackson's visit to the school lunch room following his stroke. (Robin and Robert Leitch)
  • Jackson in the hospital with Carin Wilkes (L), his health teacher, and Rebecca Slade, the school nurse. Both Wilkes and Slade will be honored by the Cobb County School Board for their quick thinking during Jackson's stroke. (Robin and Robert Leitch)

For 14-year-old Jackson Leitch, March 4 had started out like any other day.

“He had gotten up in the morning, eaten breakfast and gone to school, ” Robin Leitch, Jackson’s mother, told FoxNews.com. “There were no signs that anything was wrong.”

But when Jackson went to his health class at McCleskey Middle School in Marietta, Ga., the day took a sudden turn.

After running on the treadmill, Jackson sat down on some gym mats in the corner of the room, complaining of a headache. A few moments later, his classmates had gathered around him, calling out for their teacher that something was very wrong. Jackson had seemingly suffered a seizure and was drooling.

Jackson at school formatted.jpgHis health teacher immediately called the school nurse, who quickly identified what was happening: Jackson was showing signs of a stroke.

As the school hurriedly called an ambulance, Robin and her husband, Robert, received a phone call from the school. They were told Jackson had suffered a head injury and was being sent to the hospital for precautionary measures. Thinking their son had just bumped his head, they rushed to meet him at WellStar Kennestone Hospital, in Marietta.

"(The doctor) came up to me and told me about the clots. I literally felt like I didn't have legs."

- Robin Leitch, Jackson's mother

“We got there and as soon the ambulance pulled in, we could see something was really wrong, ” Robert told FoxNews.com. “He wasn’t coherent at all. He tried to smile at us, but one side of his face wasn’t working. We had no idea what was going on.”

The doctors at Kennestone performed CT scans on Jackson, which ultimately revealed two blood clots in his brain – the cause of his stroke.

“When the emergency room doctor came out of the CT scan, he just looked pale, ” Robin said of getting the news. “He came up to me and told me about the clots. I literally felt like I didn’t have legs. I just fell to the ground. I mean, how do you process that?”

After the official diagnosis, Jackson was airlifted to Children’s at Egleston, part of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Meanwhile, Robert and Robin went to pick up Jackson’s brother Alex, 16, and sister Cora, 9. Breaking the news to Alex about what happened was considerably rough.

“He took it so hard, ” Robin said. “He cried and cried, and he was so afraid. I didn’t know what to say.”

One in 700 cases worldwide

At Egleston, a team of neurosurgeons, cardiologists and various other specialists worked together to treat Jackson and find out what exactly caused his stroke. After three weeks, Jackson was finally diagnosed with a very rare condition called primary central nervous system vasculitis (PCNSV), a condition so rare that only one in 700 children have been diagnosed worldwide.

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Popular Q&A

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How can changes in blood pressure cause a stroke?

High blood pressure can lead to heart failure. If the heart isn't pumping properly than the chance of forming a clot increases and if this clot breaks free and makes it to the head than a stroke will occur

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