Theo Applebaum was just 14 years old, a typical teen enjoying middle school and playing lacrosse. He and his mother, Lei Applebaum, say they didn't see it coming. Doctors still haven't determined what caused his stroke. It's been a rough two years for the entire family.
“He’s been struggling to recover and stroke recovery is very arduous, very frustrating, and very slow,” says Lei. “It’s crushing emotionally.”
The brain damage left Theo almost entirely incapable of talking. He could only utter two words: yes and no. He was paralyzed on the right side of his body. Through the heartache and hardship, one thing lifted his spirits: his favorite TV series Game of Thrones.
“It was something to like escape from reality because it’s not pretty,” says Theo.
So when Emilia Clarke, who stars in the HBO show, revealed that she suffered two brain aneurisms, her young fan felt inspired and empowered. Using an iPad donated by the Blythedale Children’s Hospital Foundation, Theo drew a picture of the actress.
The artistic effort is proof that the two years of physical therapy and treatment at the hospital in Westchester County have helped him come a long way. He has even resumed his studies at the Riverdale Country School.
"I was so euphoric when I heard how Emilia Clarks’ story has lifted him up,” says Lei.
Theo's mother says she hopes the actress sharing her story helps shine a spotlight on strokes in pediatric and young adult patients, because the damage to the brain caused by an interruption in blood supply is typically associated with older patients.
The Game of Thrones fan also watches NY1.
He says he hopes his story lets other teen stroke victims know they are not alone.
“I’m still normal. This happened, but I still want to be treated like a normal kid,” Theo says.
Theo says his short-term goal is to finish his freshman year in high school and, hopefully in the future, run in the NYC Marathon.