COVID-19 Causing Stroke – Even Amongst Youth
by Linda Noorafkan – Employment and Disability Lawyer
Younger Canadians may think that they’re immune to COVID-19 effects. This is far from the truth.
Recently, Riley Behrens, a 23-year-old in Arizona, suffered from a stroke because of COVID-19. He was a healthy, young athlete that suddenly had a “mini-stroke”, also known as a transient ischemic attack (“TIA”), because of a COVID-19 infection.
If COVID-19 is causing strokes, even amongst young adults, what does that mean for employees that have suffered from strokes or are at high risk of strokes?
How does COVID-19 cause strokes?
It’s not clear how COVID-19 causes strokes. Some scientists have said that, once COVID-19 infiltrates the body, it can lead to blood clots that cause strokes.
COVID-19 could cause different types of strokes, such as Acute Ischemic Stroke, including severe large-vessel acute ischemic stroke, and TIA.
What happens if I have a stroke?
In some cases, like a TIA, the stroke may not cause permanent damage. However, even TIA may cause long-term neurological impairments that affect work functioning. For instance, the 23-year-old from Arizona feels dizzy if he sits in front of a computer to use Zoom. Doctors aren’t sure if he will ever recover.
Other strokes can cause permanent or long-term impacts that affect employment, such as:
- Physical: leg and arm limitations, and fatigue;
- Communication: Trouble speaking, writing, and reading; and
- Cognition: Forgetfulness and concentration difficulties.
Even celebrities suffer, or suffered, from long-term impairments after strokes, including:
- Lisa George, an actress on Coronation Street, was left partially blind in one eye because of a stroke; and
- Larry King’s stroke left him unable to walk for a long period of time.
What can employers and employees do to limit COVID-19 exposure?
If you (or someone you know) had a stroke, or are at high risk for stroke, it’s important to limit exposure to COVID-19. But, what if you can’t work from home? Here are some ways to keep you and your loved ones safe:
- Infectious Disease Emergency Leave: You may get job protection through various leaves; and
- Accommodations: You could ask your employer to socially distance employees and provide protective gear.
As employers, it’s vital to limit employee exposure to COVID-19, including through:
- Work from home policies: Implement strategies that allow employees to work from home as much as possible; or
- Social distancing policies: Integrate methods that keep employees distanced.
What happens to my job if I have a stroke and can’t work the same way I used to?
Unfortunately, your ability to work could be impacted because of a stroke. Some stroke-sufferers can never return to work. Others can return later or on modified duties.
The employment and disability lawyers at Ertl Lawyers have successfully represented clients who have experienced stroke – in fighting for their long-term disability benefits and severance pay.
Contact us today for a free consultation to see how we can help.
This blog is for educational purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice or create a lawyer-client relationship.
 American Heat Association Inc., “Characteristics and Outcomes in Patients With COVID-19 and Acute Ischemic Stroke” (9 Jul 2020), online: <https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/STROKEAHA.120.031208>.
 Global News, “A 23-year-old had a stroke due to coronavirus. He hopes his story is a ‘wake-up call’” (2 Dec 2020), online: <https://globalnews.ca/news/7496716/coronavirus-mini-stroke-riley-behrens/>.
 Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, “Returning to work”, online <https://www.heartandstroke.ca/stroke/recovery-and-support/back-to-work>.
 Mirror, “Coronation Street star Lisa George left half-blind in one eye after stroke” online: <https://www.mirror.co.uk/3am/celebrity-news/coronation-street-star-lisa-george-23114810>.
 Us Weekly, “Larry King Reveals He Was in a Coma After Suffering a Stroke, Hopes to Be ‘Walking by Christmas’” (27 Nov 2019), online: <https://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-news/news/larry-king-reveals-he-was-in-a-coma-after-suffering-a-stroke/>.
 Government of Canada, “Stroke in Canada: Highlights from the Canadian Chronic Disease Surveillance System”, online: <https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/diseases-conditions/stroke-canada-fact-sheet.html>.