Vancouver man in a mysterious coma following several strokes

Affliction a surprise after year of impressive fitness successes

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

Published:

 

How to help

A donation account has been established in Luke Ashe’s name at iQ Credit Union. Donations will go toward medical and living expenses.

photo Vancouver native Luke Ashe, shown here in December 2010, lost 100 pounds in the last year through diet changes and exercise. He was in the best shape of his life when he slipped into a coma last week.

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For the last year, Luke Ashe has fought for a new life, a healthier life.

Now, he's fighting to stay alive.

Last Tuesday, Luke's grandmother received a phone call from his employer. Luke hadn't shown up to work. He hadn't come in Monday, either.

Myrna Brown walked into her grandson's bedroom in the house they share. There, she found the 27-year-old lying on his back, breathing but unresponsive.

"He's been in a coma ever since," said Gwenn Ashe, Luke's mother.

No one had talked to Luke since the Sunday before he was discovered. Earlier that day, he went for a six-mile run and watched football with his friends. He talked to his mom that evening, telling her he wasn't feeling well. He didn't elaborate on what was wrong.

Nobody knows when he slipped into the coma.

Luke was taken by ambulance from his Vancouver home to Legacy

Salmon Creek Medical Center. In the week since, doctors have run MRIs and CAT scans. They've checked for blood clots and tested him for the flu, Gwenn said.

Tests revealed Luke had experienced several strokes, which caused trauma to various areas of his brain. Doctors aren't yet sure about the extent of the damage, said Sarah Ashe, Luke's sister. Luke's heart, kidneys and liver may have also been damaged.

Doctors also discovered that Luke has pneumonia. It may have developed as fluid built up in his lungs while he lay on his back in bed, Sarah said.

On Monday, Luke remained in the hospital's intensive care unit attached to a respirator to reduce the stress on his body. Doctors aren't any closer to knowing why he's in the coma, Sarah said.

"We don't have any real answers as to why it happened or what happened," she said.

Had this happened a year ago, the family may not have been as surprised.

That's when Luke was put on medication for high blood pressure. That doctor's visit shook Luke to action. He started eating a more healthful diet. He stopped drinking alcohol. He joined a gym and started working out with a personal trainer. He took up running, completing his first half-marathon in December.

In a year, Luke dropped 100 pounds through diet and exercise. He was in the best shape of his life, Sarah said.

At a recent doctor's appointment, Luke's blood pressure was normal. His physician told Luke he was proud of him, Gwenn said.

"We are all just so proud of him because he's come such a long way," she said.

Friends and family have rallied around Luke and each other.

"Luke has so many loving friends and family members sticking by him, rallying for him, waiting for him to be the inspiration he has been," said Jeremy Brock, Luke's friend.

Initially, doctors told them to prepare for the worst. Since then, Luke has shown signs of improvement every day, giving his friends and family hope, Jeremy said. Luke is more responsive to reflex tests. His eyes are moving. He's making facial expressions.

"He will wake up. We just don't know when," Sarah said. "And we won't know the extent of the damage until he wakes up."

The damage could mean Luke won't be able to walk or feed himself. He'll likely have a long road to recovery, Gwenn said.

But family and friends are holding on to hope, leaning on prayer and preparing for the day when Luke does wake up.

"They wouldn't have found him alive if he wasn't supposed to come out of this and do something great," Sarah said.


Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546; http://twitter.com/col_health; http://facebook.com/reporterharshman; marissa.harshman@columbian.com.