Michelle Mello: I worried the COVID vaccine gave my husband a stroke. It took a year to find the truth


I worried the COVID vaccine gave my husband a stroke. It took a year to find the truth

Michelle Mello

May 22, 2023 Updated: May 22, 2023 11:30 a.m.

My husband can’t watch soccer games anymore, and for a year I wondered if the COVID-19 vaccine was to blame.

His first stroke happened a few days after a COVID vaccination. It flummoxed everyone: He had no previous health problems, and the vaccine he got wasn’t associated with stroke. As a health researcher and vaccine proponent, I had a hard time making sense of it.

When his first stroke happened, my husband and I thought we’d never understand why. Still, we got our young sons vaccinated, despite our uncertainty. Since then, I’ve heard from anti-vaxxers who think my husband and I deserve a fiery death for that decision. I’ve also heard from other young stroke victims who reached out to us looking for answers. It took time, but those answers are finally within our grasp, and they aren’t what we expected.

Our road to the truth began when my husband’s recovery suddenly took a turn for the worse; I found him lying on the concrete with his eyes closed at a Halloween party. A brain MRI later showed he had experienced a second small stroke.

This led to a fresh round of tests and eventually a formal diagnosis: antiphospholipid syndrome, or APS. It’s an autoimmune disease in which the immune system mistakenly makes antibodies that cause blood clots to form. APS is rare and can be hard to diagnose, but if you have a stroke before age 50, there’s a 20% to 30% chance you have it.

His diagnosis has been like strapping on a headlamp in the woods at night: Things are still dark, but at least we can see where we’re heading.

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