Stroke claims young Plano firefighter

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by JONATHAN BETZ

WFAA

Posted on March 13, 2012 at 5:52 PM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 13 at 6:33 PM

PLANO — The Plano Fire Department is mourning the loss of one of its youngest firefighters. Brody Fleming, 24, died Monday afternoon from a stroke, his family said.

"The kid was in great health," said his brother, Colter Fleming, 27, as he packed up his little brother's now empty apartment in The Colony. "You just never know when God is calling you home."

He said Fleming suddenly collapsed at a friend's home on Wednesday and died days later at Texas Health Fort Worth Hospital.

His family said Fleming was largely healthy, exercised often, and worked a very physical job as a Plano firefighter.

After Brody Fleming graduated from Carrollton's R. L. Turner High School in 2005, he enlisted in the Navy before joining the Plano Fire Department in June, 2011.

"Brody had a real passion for saving lives," his brother said. "Brody ran to things other people shied away from."

He said Brody suffered from ulcerative colitis — a colon disease — but his family said doctors gave no indication it caused the stroke.

Long considered a problem for older people, strokes are rising among the young. Recent research shows more young people and adults are being hospitalized for stroke, even as the rates drop in older Americans.

The American Stroke Association says the number of ischemic strokes in 15- to 34-year-old men jumped by 51 percent from 1994 to 2007. Over the same time period, it dropped by nearly 25 percent for men over the age of 45.

"We cannot link anything in particular to the trend in younger patients," wrote Xin Tong, a health statistician with the Centers for Disease Control, in a statement when the study was released last year. "I believe the role of obesity and hypertension will prompt a big discussion. Unfortunately, right now we can't speculate on the causes."

Stroke occurs when blood is cut off to the brain — either by a clot or a burst blood vessel. High blood pressure, smoking, and diabetes are all considered risk factors.

According to the American Stroke Association, strokes kill more than 137,000 people a year, making it the fourth leading cause of death in the United States.

Colter Fleming said his brother's stroke arrived "out of the blue" and in the prime of Brody's life. "He had his apartment; he had the truck he always wanted; he had the greatest job you could ever think about," he said. "You really only get one chance in life, so use it."

A memorial service for Firefighter Fleming will be held on Friday, March 16 at 11 a.m. at Christ United Methodist Church in Plano.

Fleming's family donated his organs.

E-mail jbetz@wfaa.com

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