Model’s Stroke Caused By Doctor Error
Katie May, a 34-year-old former Playboy model, died in February 2016 days after a chiropractic adjustment. Los Angeles Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter confirmed that May’s vertebral arteries were ruptured during a neck adjustment performed by a chiropractor.
The flap-like tear tear (also called a dissection) in the vertebral artery blocked blood flow to May’s brain causing an ischemic stroke.
The vertebral artery is located in the neck and supplies blood to the brain. After the tear, blood enters the wall of the artery and forms a blood clot. The wall of the artery then becomes thick and the flow of blood becomes slower and slower until it a full stroke occurs.
May, sometimes referred to as the “Queen of Snapchat” sought treatment from a chiropractor for neck pain she experienced while holding an awkward pose during a photo shoot.
Initially following the procedure, May believed that she was suffering a pinched nerve or other benign problem that was causing her neck pain.
On January 29th she tweeted, “Pinched a nerve in my neck on a Photoshoot and got adjusted this morning. It really hurts! Any home remedy suggestions loves? XOXO”
Pinched a nerve in my neck on a Photoshoot and got adjusted this morning. It really hurts! Any home remedy suggestions loves? XOXO
— Katie May (@Ms_katiemay) January 29, 2016
In a follow-up tweet two days later, May wrote that she planned to return to the chiropractor for the injury. “Thanks love! It still hurts, going back to chiropractor tomorrow xoxoxo”
Thanks love! It still hurts, going back to chiropractor tomorrow xoxoxo https://t.co/xTw080sjrK
— Katie May (@Ms_katiemay) February 1, 2016
May died February 4, 2016 following a full stroke. Tragically, the 34-year-old model left behind a partner and 8-year-old daughter.
Know the First Signs of a Stroke
Katie May’s tragic death shows that strokes can happen to any person at any age regardless of looks, prestige, or social status.
It’s essential that doctors understand the first signs and symptoms of stroke. In May’s case, her death may have been preventable had her doctors recognized early on that blood to her brain was being blocked and she was in the early stages of a stroke.
The symptoms of vertebral artery dissection – like what May experienced – include head and neck pain and intermittent or permanent stroke symptoms such as:
- change in alertness (including sleepiness, unconsciousness and coma)
- changes in hearing
- changes in taste
- changes that affect touch and the ability to feel pain, pressure or different temperatures
- confusion or loss of memory
- difficulty swallowing
- difficulty writing or reading
- dizziness or abnormal feeling of movement (vertigo)
- lack of control over the bladder or bowels
- loss of balance
- loss of coordination
- muscle weakness in the face, arm or leg (usually just on one side)
- numbness or tingling on one side of the body
- personality, mood or emotional changes
- problems with eyesight, including decreased vision, double vision or total loss of vision
- trouble speaking or understanding others who are speaking
- trouble walking
Strokes from vertebral artery dissections are usually diagnosed with a contrast-enhanced CT or MRI scan.
Vertebral dissection is most likely to occur after physical trauma to the neck such as a blunt injury (for example a traffic crash, strangulation, or manipulation by a chiropractor, physical therapist, or masseuse). On some occasions, strokes from vertebral artery dissections can happen spontaneously.
Doctors Must Recognize Stroke Symptoms Early
People often believe that all strokes happen suddenly and possess all of the classic signs, but that’s not always the case. In fact, many different groups of people, including women, often experience atypical stroke symptoms.
This is especially true when strokes are caused by injuries or trauma. For example, when an injury causes the brain to bleed – called a hemorrhagic stroke – the brain can often compensate for a period of time with only mild symptoms. Then, almost out of nowhere, the brain is overcome resulting in collapse and sometimes death.