Rugby Player, 23, Suffers Mini-Stroke Due to COVID Complications: ‘Take This Pandemic Seriously’

A 23-year-old rugby player is opening up about having a mini-stroke to underscore the unpredictability of the novel coronavirus.

Last month, in preparation for traveling out of state, Riley Behrens of Tempe, Ariz., got tested for COVID-19. While he was not suffering from any symptoms at the time, the test came back positive.

“I've done a moderate (but admittedly, not perfect) job of following local health guidelines,” he wrote in a now-viral Twitter thread. “I wore a mask in public, social distanced while I was around others, and almost always ordered groceries for delivery or curbside pickup. Despite this, I was exposed and got sick.”

Behrens later found out that a friend who had been staying with him had recently attended a wedding, which he now believes is how he got exposed to the virus.

Shortly after testing positive, Behrens began experiencing chest pain and headaches, which he said he initially shrugged off — but things soon took a serious, and sudden, turn for the worse.

“I woke up with (my) left side weakened. So, my whole left side — like from my eye being spotty down to I couldn't stand on one leg because of the weakness, and my grip strength decreased,” he said during an interview with Today.

After going to the hospital, doctors told Behrens that he had suffered a Transient Ischemic Attack, otherwise known as a mini-stroke.

“I went from feeling mild symptoms to full hospitalization in less than 48 hours,” he wrote on Twitter. “Before this, I was a healthy, young athlete with no major medical conditions. Now, I'm being told I will likely never return to contact sports because of lasting lung and brain damage. The risk for a second stroke will always be there, and another head injury could be fatal.”

Behrens, who has since been released from the hospital, says that while he is feeling better, he still has a long road ahead of him.

“I don't know how quickly I’ll get over it,” he said during a recent interview with CNN, noting that doctors are hoping he will make a full recovery.

“Most people don’t think about young, healthy people getting this sick,” he pointed out, adding that he never expected to be so seriously impacted by the virus. “I thought if I get sick, if I test positive, I'm just going to have a little bit of trouble but I'll be okay. And I was not okay."

Behrens has also shared that he hopes his story will help illustrate that anybody can be gravely affected by COVID-19.

“Please take this pandemic seriously. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Social distance. Limit travel. Follow CDC guidelines,” he wrote on Twitter. “I never thought that I would be affected this way, but here we are. Don't let yourself be next.”

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