What started out as a typical day at school quickly turned into a day the Allred family would never forget and that would change their family forever.
Joseph Allred, AKA Joe, was just a typical, healthy 13-year-old student attending Lincoln Middle School in Green River. Things appeared to be going normal on November 8 when Joe started noticing that his body was acting strange.
Joe recalled how he had to ask a teacher for help opening his locker because he physically couldn’t get this hand turn the lock. But Joe shrugged it off and went about his day. Then he started having problems walking during recess later that day. Joe said he would try to walk, but his leg wouldn’t move.
“The left side of my body stopped working,” Joe said.
That’s when staff noticed something was wrong with Joe and took immediate action. After that, everything was kind of a whirlwind as Joe was rushed to the nurse’s office for evaluation, 911 was called so an ambulance could come get Joe, and his parents were also contacted.
Joe’s dad Spencer Allred remembers the call he received from the school.
They told him they thought Joe was showing signs of a stroke, and they were going to be taking him by ambulance to Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County. Surely, he heard that wrong. His son is only 13. How could he have had a stroke?
Since Spencer works in Rock Springs, he actually beat the ambulance to the hospital and waited for this son to arrive. As soon as he did, the medical team at the hospital worked quickly to determine what was going on with Joe. At first, they thought he was experiencing a hemiplegic migraine.
According to americanmigrainefoundation.org that type of ailment is “a rare and serious type of migraine headache.” Many of its symptoms mimic those common to stroke. Muscle weakness can be so extreme that it causes a temporary paralysis on one side of your body which doctors call hemiplegia.
However, MHSC staff struggled to get a correct diagnosis because of the braces on Joe’s teeth. They couldn’t do a complete MRI scan because his braces were interfering with the images.
At that point he was taken by ambulance to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City. Spencer said it took a while for Joe to be transferred to Primary because of overcrowding at the the hospital. Once they arrived the medical staff removed Joe’s braces so it could complete the scan.
The scan confirmed Joe had suffered a stroke on a big chunk of his brain causing the left side of his body to shut down. Joe was in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for four days while the doctors kept a close watch on him to make sure he did not suffer any brain swelling.
Despite everything that had happened and everything that was going on, Joe wasn’t worried.
“I kind of felt like I was going to be OK,” Joe said.
The stroke was caused by a virus and is called Focal cerebral Arteriopathy (FCA). When Joe’s body was responding to the virus his arteries also responded, which caused a blood clot to form and the stroke to occur, Spencer explained.
Joe started his rehabilitation after leaving the ICU. He’s learning to walk and use his left arm and hand again.
The rehab is designed to wake up the left side of Joe’s body. While there is nothing wrong with his muscles, his brain has stopped talking to the left side of his body.
Some of the exercises Joe completes include rolling a ball in his hand and balancing a basketball in his hand and then shooting it. He likes this portion of rehab because he really enjoys basketball. In fact, he even has a basketball hoop in his room.
Joe was proud to say he rode a bicycle through the hospital which isn’t something everyone gets to do. That rehab exercise was the highlight of Joe’s day.
The Allreds expect Joe to remain at the hospital completing rehab through January and quite possibly February, but it all depends on how rehab goes and how quickly Joe’s body responds to it.
Spencer said during Joe’s rehab he met a 5-year-old child who had suffered an FCA stroke and was getting discharged after successfully completing rehab. To see a child recovering from the stroke and doing so well has really motivated Joe to do his best to recover. He has already seen firsthand what can be done if someone puts in the work.
“He was a cool little example of walking again,” Spencer said.
Through everything, Joe appears to have remained positive.
The Allreds can’t say enough kind words about the amount of community support they’ve received following Joe’s stroke.
“We feel very blessed,” Spencer said. “We’ve had wonderful people in the community raising money for us.”
From bake sales and monetary donations to cleaning the family’s home, bringing the family meals, visiting Joe at the hospital and sending gifts and cards, the family has been thankful for all the support and love shown to them.
“Thanks for all you have done and to everyone who kept us in their thoughts and prayers,” Spencer said.
Even though Joe may have a couple of months to complete rehab in Salt Lake City, Spencer is already planning for Joe’s return and what that might look like.
He’s already thinking about changes that must be made to the house to help Joe get around easier. He’s installing handles in the shower and a chair lift to help Joe up and down the stairs.
While Spencer is at home with two daughters and a son, Joe’s mom Mindy remains with him in Salt Lake City.
The couple then switch and Spencer stays in Salt Lake City while Mindy is home taking care of the kids. Traveling back and forth and trying to juggle all the regular daily activities has been hard on the family, but they continue to support Joe in his recovery.
All of the kindness shown to them has kept them going. Lincoln Middle School recently raised $2,000 at a fundraiser for Joe while the bus driver and class sent him cards and posters. At one point, Joe’s room was so full of cards, posters, and gifts they didn’t know what to do with it all.
Spencer has already started to wonder how they will pay for Joe’s occupational, physical, and speech therapies when insurance won’t cover it anymore. For now they just want him to continue improving.
The Allreds wanted to thank everyone who has given them support from monetary donations and cards to saying prayers and keeping the family in their thoughts.
Without the community’s support, the family wouldn’t be able to keep going, which in turn keeps Joe going. Hopefully, he’ll be riding his bike outside instead of in the hospital hallways or playing his favorite game of basketball soon.