User's Manual: Your Heart

The Scary Truth About Strokes

In April of 1993, Britt Harwe, of Wethersfield, Connecticut, was in a good place in her life. She was 26 years old and married to a wonderful guy, and they had a daughter, Caitlin, who was just about to turn 2. She had a job she loved, too.


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In April of 1993, Britt Harwe, of Wethersfield, Connecticut, was in a good place in her life. She was 26 years old and married to a wonderful guy, and they had a daughter, Caitlin, who was just about to turn 2. She had a job she loved, too. As a customer-service representative at an insurance agency, shed spend long hours with a phone cradled between her neck and shoulder. So when she woke up one morning with an extremely painful stiff neck, she wasnt surprised—just a little concerned. “I wanted to get it taken care of right away because I didnt know if Id be able to work or take care of my daughter,” she says.

Unfortunately, her doctor couldnt see her for a week, so, on a friends suggestion, Harwe called a local chiropractor. He agreed to see her in his office later that day. During the appointment, the chiropractor explained that in rare cases a patient will have a reaction to treatment. “I remember thinking, ‘What kind of reaction?” Harwe says. “But it didnt sound like a big deal.”

The chiropractor put heat packs on Harwes neck. And then he did a cervical adjustment, a common chiropractic treatment for neck pain, holding her head in both hands and turning her neck quickly but gently to the right and to the left. Although the pain didnt go away, Harwe did get some temporary relief, so she scheduled another appointment for a few days later. This time, when the doctor turned her head to the left, she felt nauseated and heard “the sound of the ocean in my head,” she remembers. The chiropractor quickly did an adjustment in the other direction, then asked Harwe to sit up. She couldnt—the whole left side of her body felt limp and numb—and she couldnt speak, either.

“My mind was racing, and I was trying to tell the doctor what was wrong, but I couldnt get any words out,” she says. “It was the most terrifying experience of my life.”


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Last Updated: April 21, 2008

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