18-year Old Athlete Kylie Lough Shares How She Recovered From a Stroke


It was in July, about a month before she started school at Boston University, where she was recruited to their Division 1 (D1) rowing team, when Kylie Lough, 18, experienced a stroke. Lough was in a small, remote town on New Zealand’s South Island on a trip with an international rowing program. She was in her hotel scrolling on her phone when all of the sudden, everything started to spin. Then she blacked out. When she came to, she noticed she couldn’t control her limbs. She yelled, terrified, not realizing that the noises she was making were slurred.

Lough gathered the last bit of control she had over her legs and stumbled to her hotel door, unlocking it and opening it to a hallway full of her fellow rowers that had heard the commotion. They helped her to the ground when she could no longer stand or move her legs.

One of the coaches drove her to the nearest hospital, four hours away, where she vomited for most of the journey. When they finally arrived, she was too sick to get an MRI, and her medical team didn’t suspect it was a stroke anyway.

The next morning, still unable to talk, Lough was able to get an MRI, which showed her cerebellum — the part of the brain that sits at the bottom of the skull, which plays a role in motor function and balance control — was mostly dead. The doctors knew immediately that despite being a teenager, she’d had a stroke, which cuts oxygen supply to a part of the brain. An echocardiogram later in her months-long hospital stay found a patent foramen ovale, a hole between the atria, or upper left and right sides of the heart, was likely the cause.


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