An 18-year-old Hawaiian beauty queen died after a massive stroke that came without warning.
About 20 minutes after Sheryl Wolfe’s father dropped the Mililani, Hawaii, teen off at school one morning, she suffered the stroke and collapsed.
“All of a sudden, everybody was in shock,” Mililani High School principal John Brummel told NBC.
Wolfe stayed alive for days after suffering the stroke but had a blinding headache, her father said.
“Her head was hurting a lot but she was still being humorous when she was awake,” he said. “That was just Sheryl.”
Wolfe, who won two beauty pageants and was about to compete in a third Miss Hawaii Teen World, spent her last night surrounded by former beauty queen competitors.
At the end of a queen’s reign, she [does] her farewell walk,” friend and former competitor Ashlyn Piercell told the “Today” show.
Pageant sister Florence Villanueva will represent Wolfe in the Miss Hawaii Teen World pageant and wear the same dress Wolfe planned to wear.
“I’ll miss her a lot,” Piercell continued. “No regrets; just live your life, because that’s what Sheryl did.”
After she died, Wolfe’s last wish was granted: She became an organ donor.
“I would trade my life in a heartbeat,” her father, Allen Wolfe, told Hawaii News Now. “I should be the one there. She shouldn’t be. My daughter, she’d light up everybody. People were down, she had the right thing to say to them as far as how to bring their spirits up.”
Wolfe’s death was all the more alarming because strokes are highly unusual in teenagers.
“In young people, any kind of stroke is rare,” Dr. Ravish Patwardhan, a neurosurgeon and director of Comprehensive Neurosurgery Network in Louisiana, told AOL Health.
Rare, but not impossible, according to NBC News’ chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman.
“It’s not common, but it’s a reminder that yes, these things can happen in young people,” Snyderman said on the “Today” show.
A severe headache might be the only warning sign — but sometimes, sudden vomiting and a change in speech and balance can be symptoms of a stroke, she said.
Wolfe apparently suffered what is called a hemorrhagic stroke, which generally has no risk factors associated with it, according to Patwardhan. He said that type of stroke is often caused by a birth defect called an arteriovenous malformation, in which a person is born with a tangle of blood vessels that causes blood to flow directly from the arteries to the veins without going through the capillaries.
“It can rupture, and they can just bleed into an area of the brain,” Patwardhan said.
An MRI is the only thing that can detect such a condition. The web of blood vessels can be removed in order to prevent health problems later, according to Patwardhan.
Young people with a family history of stroke, heart disease or high blood pressure might be predisposed to suffering from a stroke, but not the kind Wolfe apparently had. Smoking while taking birth control can also increase the risk of stroke, but neither of these were factors in Wolfe’s case.
Those who have sudden, severe headaches, no matter the cause, should get medical help immediately.
Time is of the essence,” said Snyderman. “A lot of teenagers don’t even see a doctor until two or three days after symptoms. Play it safe. Get to the doctor.”