A super-fit father of four nearly died playing pickleball when he suffered multiple strokes and a torn artery in his neck after “turning his head too quickly.”
Joel Hentrich, 35, from Festus, Missouri, was playing pickleball with friends when he felt a “pop” in his neck as he turned his head to search for the ball.
“Turning my head quickly was something I’ve done a million times. I went out there that day and was just playing a regular game, nothing strenuous. I was just having fun and just turned my head quickly to the left to try and track a ball,” Hentrich recalled, per the Daily Mail.
“I felt a pop in the back of my neck. I wasn’t sure if anyone else could hear it but internally I could.”
After the pop, his vision immediately blurred and he experienced the “worst vertigo” of his life. Then, Hentrich collapsed on the floor and projectile vomited, before he felt a tingling sensation across his face, hand and legs.
“About two minutes after it happened I was having to be helped over to the bench with support because I couldn’t stand on my own at all,” he said. “My world was spinning, literally and figuratively but I trusted my instincts as all the different signs together pointed to something pretty serious.”
Hentrich – who also works as an operating room nurse – was rushed to the hospital, where scans showed that he had torn an artery in his neck, one of the four main arteries which runs from the neck to the brain,
As a result, he suffered three strokes in the cerebellum, the area at the back and bottom of the brain responsible for balance and coordination of movement. These cerebellar strokes occur when the blood flow to the brain is interrupted.
Hentrich ultimately spent four days in the hospital that November recovering from the injury. On his second day at the hospital, Hentrich said he still felt dizzy walking to the bathroom just a few feet away, but grateful that he was able to walk despite suffering from three life-threatening strokes.
“It was just such a wonderful feeling because I didn’t really know until that point in time what the outcome was truly going to be,” he said. “It was a special moment to be able to get up and realise that I could still walk, balance and live my life how I did before this.”
Now, the Missouri dad has returned to pickleball after the accident, and won’t let the “fear” of being injured again stop him from playing his “passion”.
“I love pickleball so much it’s one of my passions and I don’t want to live my life in fear of something like that happening again, I just want to be able to go out and do what I love,” he said. “In life, we only have a short amount of time anyway, so we might as well live it to the fullest.”
Joel Hentrich is now raising money on his GoFundMe page to help care for his four children: Madelynne, eight, Liliya, six, Elijah, three, and Nikolai, 16 months. The dad has since raised $3,430 out of his $6,000 goal.
Each year, more than 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stroke is a leading cause of death for Americans.
High blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity, and diabetes are leading causes of stroke, although many people can still suffer from a stroke without having any pre-existing health conditions. Dave Parkyn is a carpenter who suffered a life-threatening stroke, blindness, sepsis and pneumonia after a wood splinter in his hand became infected.
Parkyn was left blind in his right eye, partially sighted in his left and physically disabled after a stroke at the age of 28.