Pickleball Landed Me In The ICU

Hello everyone, my name is Joel Hentrich.

I am attempting to raise funds while I heal and recover from a scary accident I had while playing pickleball last week, a sport I’ve come to love and cherish. 

While I was playing a regular game last Wednesday night, I turned my head quickly to the left to track a ball. At that moment, I heard/felt a “POP”. Immediately, the world felt like it was shifting under me, my vision blurred, and I could hardly keep my feet under me. I didn’t immediately go to the sideline, but it only took a couple minutes to realize something was SERIOUSLY wrong. Waves of nausea toppled over me as I struggled to the bench and players gathered around me. 

It wasn’t long after that the projectile vomiting began, followed by “tingling” in my left face, hand, and leg. EMS arrived and didn’t seem too concerned even after describing all my symptoms. A friend, Aaron Sutton, and another Georgeann, got me to a local hospital where I was triaged, yet sent to wait with the other 50 people in the ER for nearly two hours before actually being seen. During this time I also consulted with my friend Dr. David Neils, a neurosurgeon, who emphasized the importance of getting imaging done to rule out something more serious.

The wonderful nurse who saw me then REALLY made such a difference. She listened to me fully and said she was concerned, so decided to consult the Stroke Team. After a few minutes they activated their Stroke Protocol and I was in the CT scanner before I knew it, one without contrast and one with to help see what was going on with the vessels within my head and neck. After the scan I expected to be told it was just a severely pinched nerve or something along those lines.

When the doctor came in and told me that I had internally dissected my left internal vertebral artery, I was at a loss for words. Nothing this serious has ever happened to me, so it took a while to sink in. They said I was going to be going to the ICU and being monitored for strokes. They also said I needed an MRI to rule out the possibility that any strokes hadn’t already occurred.

Fast forward to me being in the ICU and finding out from the doctor that I also suffered three small strokes in my lower cerebellum, the area you can think of being responsible for balance and coordination. A couple days later though, I was discharged, walking without perceived deficits, and back home, resting and recovering.

The reason I’m starting this fundraising campaign is to ensure I can heal for the proper amount of time without having a financial cloud hanging over me throughout the process.

I am a father to four beautiful children, Madelynne (8), Liliya (6), Elijah (3), and Nikolai (16 months) and they are my world. I’m their sole provider and taking care of them is my top priority.

Due to unfortunate timing with my new job, I’m several weeks away from qualifying for Short Term Disability funding. I’ve been at my new place of employment for a little over 5 months, yet Short Term Disability compensation isn’t available until you’ve reached your 6 month mark.

Additionally, working at a Surgery Center as an Operating Room Nurse, we do get sent home early many days and that means having to utilize more PTO than other occupations normally would. So, I’m using the last of my PTO today, November 29th, and will be unable to utilize anymore until I can go back to work and build it back up.

My timeframe for healing from my injury (Left Internal Vertebral Artery Dissection and 3 small areas of stroke within my brain) has been estimated at 6 weeks, with follow up scans to confirm the tear in my artery has fully healed and that there are no additional strokes that occurr during that timeframe.

My goal is to raise $1000 per week to help keep my financials afloat while I continue on the road to recovery. I plan to use the funds to pay my medical bills, mortgage, utilities, cell phone plan, student loans, groceries, insurance, diapers, pull ups, baby wipes and other miscellaneous expenses. I do not plan to utilize any of the donations toward any kind of Christmas gifts, nor anything that is not absolutely necessary. 

Furthermore, if I am cleared to return to work sooner and I did not need the entire $6,000
or however much is left over when I can go back to work - my plan would be to donate that extra money to a combination of Stroke Associations that help spread education and awareness of these kinds of injuries. I’d also donate a portion back to my local pickleball association in order to help bring more people to this wonderful sport, regardless of the freak accident I suffered while playing it.

If you are able to help in any kind of way, I would be forever grateful. Life can turn so unexpectedly, yet, I’m most grateful for my health, that I received prompt treatment, and that I am seemingly on the road to a complete recovery. Having additional funds during this time would give me so much peace of mind. 

Thank you so much for considering a donation to my GoFundMe today and I wish you all the very best. 

For those of you wanting to know more specifics about my injury, it was as follows:

• Left Internal Vertebral Artery Dissection From V2-V3

• 3 Small Areas Of Acute Ischemia (Strokes) Within My Lower Cerebellum (Area Responsible For Things Such As Balance And Coordination) 

•Hematoma Formation Within V2-V3 Region Of My Left Vertebral Artery With 50% Reduction Of Flow (Likely Lessoning Each Day, But Still Presenting The Risk Of Additional Blood Clots Breaking Off And Creating Subsequent Strokes)


Joel Hentrich
Festus, MO

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