WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Ranse Jones had set out to compete in a beach volleyball tournament in Florida in 2010.
Volleyball was a passion for the 1998 UNCW graduate; he had been playing on a competitive level for years.
“He was playing all day, and finally he decided to take a break for a little time out, and that was it," Sharon Marthinuss, Jones’ mother, said. "He went into a coma right after.”
A firefighter and healthy athlete in good physical shape, Jones was soon dead at age 34.
“We didn’t know anything was going on," Marthinuss said. "The doctors called it a silent killer, which sounds very much like the Luke Perry story from Monday.”
Hearing about Perry’s death at age 52 from a massive stroke brought back a flood of emotions for Marthinuss.
“Such a shock on many levels," she said. "At 52, or in Ranse’s case 34, this is just not supposed to happen.”
Marthinuss says the deaths of her son and Perry show that strokes don’t just affect the elderly.
“Generally you may think of strokes as a disease of the elderly people in their 80s or 90s but the average age at New Hanover Regional Medical Center is 69," said James McKinney, medical director of the stroke center at NHRMC. “We see far younger, even children.”
A stroke is the sudden onset of neurological dysfunction. The most common stroke involves blockage of a blood vessel, which causes a lack of blood flow and oxygen to the brain. It can be blocked by a blood clot or cholesterol and plaque buildup.
Jones had no hallmark risk factors associated with a stroke. He didn’t suffer from obesity or high blood pressure, and he didn’t smoke. His family said he did complain of a slight headache, something McKinney urges people to not ignore.
“Strokes rarely cause pain. Only about 15 percent will have headaches," McKinney said. "Many patients have numbness and weakness, and they will ignore it and hope it gets better on their own when in fact, it can get worse.”
McKinney said common risk factors of a stroke include:
He also said some pain-free signs of stroke shouldn’t be ignored. McKinney stressed the importance of F.A.S.T — Facial Droop, Arm Weakness, Slurred Speech and Time, as in time to call 911.
“The longer the brain goes without oxygen, and really sugar, the more the brain is damaged,” said McKinney. “Stroke is a leading cause of death and adult disability in the nation, and in our region, it’s vital to treat a stroke to save lives within 24 hours."
Time is something Marthinuss can never get back with her son but she hopes to keep his memory alive through awareness.
“It is very sobering whenever you see someone young that has passed from a stroke,” she said. “Be aware of symptoms, and don’t feel like you are overreacting if you go to a doctor to get checked out.”
Each year in Wilmington and in Florida, the Ranse Jones Beach Jam Volleyball tournament is held to remember Jones and to raise money for scholarships and the Ranse Jones Stroke Awareness Fund. Information on that tournament and fund can be found here.