A healthy 14-year-old boy got hit in the neck with a basketball. The next day, he had a stroke.

[PIANO] In my mind, I'm kind of just thinking to myself, like, what is happening here?

Most parents don't even understand that your child can have a stroke. So even when there are obvious signs of stroke in a child, not only parents, but even medical professionals will fail to even imagine that that's what's happening.

So I said, he seems like he's having a struggle. Then I'm like, how? He's only 14.

It was 2020, in the summer. I was playing basketball with my friends. And one of my friends missed their shot and it hit me in the back of the head, like on my neck. And right after that happened, we knew something was wrong and called the ambulance.

When Mekhi presented to the emergency room, he had significant disability. And I think it's fair to say that if the interventions that we staged had not taken place, his trajectory in life would be very different today.

What they had seen, I don't think that they hadn't seen it before. They just hadn't seen it before in a 14-year-old.

After it happened, I was basically numb just in this left side of my body. And the other side was completely fine. I was numb in this left side of my body. Because of that, my face was getting droopy. I wasn't able to talk, as well, because my lips were droopy. I couldn't really feel them. And just basically, the whole left side of my body was numb.

He was holding his arm, and he was holding the left side of his body. So yes, the right side is where he got hurt, but he's holding the left side of his body and his arm. And he asked me, is this my arm? And I'm saying, I think I'm going to have to take you to the hospital.

He had evidence of a traumatic dissection in the neck that formed a blood clot and traveled upwards into his brain. It actually was a fairly large blood clot.

They knew what to do. They're doing this in a way that they would do with an adult but being mindful that it's a minor.

Fortunately for Mekhi, he had presented to our hospital shortly after our team had instituted what's called a pediatric stroke protocol. Mekhi came into the emergency room. It was recognized very quickly that he was experiencing symptoms of stroke. The stroke code activation was appropriately activated. Our team was there within minutes. Mekhi was treated with clot-melting therapy, as well as mechanical thrombectomy.

Within 10 hours, you could see that, the next morning, like, wow, this young kid is really improving.

I had memory therapy, speech therapy, and then, actual physical therapy to help with the fine motor skills.

His recovery was so rapid and so profound that he walked out of our hospital after six days.

Being alive is lucky. But in the end, I was technically unlucky to be lucky.

While playing basketball with his friends in the park, Mekhi Bailey, then 14, took a hard hit to the neck. Pain from the collision was temporary.

But the next morning, Bailey woke up and couldn’t feel his arm. Soon, the whole left side of his body was drooping and the teen was slurring his words.

Bailey was having a stroke.

An ambulance brought the Chicago resident to UChicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital, where the stroke was quickly identified, and life-saving emergency surgery was performed to dissolve the blood clot near his brain.

Bailey was the first pediatric stroke patient to be diagnosed using Comer's new pediatric stroke protocol. The system — designed by pediatric neurologist Henry David, MD, and pediatric critical care specialist Casey Stulce, MD — activates a team of emergency doctors to respond to a child with a stroke. They're also working to educate doctors, nurses, paramedics and parents about pediatric stroke.

See Bailey’s story and learn about ways to tell if a child could be suffering a stroke in the video above.

Mekhi Bailey
Casey Stulce

Casey Stulce, MD

Casey Stulce, MD, is a specialist in pediatric critical care medicine. She provides care for critically ill infants and children in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) and pediatric sedation service.

View Dr. Stulce's physician profile
Henry David, MD

Henry David, MD

Henry David, MD, is a pediatric neurologist who specializes in neurocritical care and treats children of all ages with serious neurological conditions who require acute care to long-term treatment. He also is an expert in cerebrovascular disorders, including ischemic stokes and hemorrhagic strokes, and provides comprehensive, compassionate care to patients and their families.

Learn more about Dr. David