HomeNewsStefanie Smith Dies from Neck Injury on Flight Home

Stefanie Smith Dies from Neck Injury on Flight Home

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A 41-year-old Indiana mom died from a neck artery dissection on her flight from the Dominican Republic.

Smith experienced a medical emergency mid-flight on February 28, which led to an emergency landing in Turks and Caicos.

On Wednesday, a forensic pathologist revealed Stefanie Smith’s death resulted from a carotid artery dissection. This condition, a tear in the carotid artery’s inner lining, lets blood split the artery wall layers, possibly leading to a stroke by reducing brain blood flow.

“It was truly a tragic medical event that happened,” Smith’s brother Chris Volz told ABC News. He described his sister as a “special person” deeply loved by her two children, aged 18 and 16.

Vacation Turned Tragic

Smith had been on a five-night vacation at the Iberostar Grand Bavaro in Punta Cana with her boyfriend and another couple. She had enjoyed activities like jogging every morning and sipping poolside mojitos, with no apparent health issues.

However, shortly after boarding her flight back to Indiana, Smith began convulsing in her seat. The plane made an emergency landing in Turks and Caicos, where she was rushed to a hospital but pronounced dead.

Carotid Artery Dissection: A Rare but Serious Condition

Carotid artery dissections are relatively rare but can be life-threatening if not treated promptly. According to the National Institutes of Health, the condition can lead to stroke by disrupting blood flow to the brain.

Treatment typically involves antithrombotic therapy, such as anticoagulants or antiplatelet medications, to prevent further clotting and restore blood flow. However, in severe cases, surgical intervention may be necessary.

The exact cause of Smith’s dissection is unknown, but risk factors include neck trauma, connective tissue disorders, and genetic conditions. Spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) may also increase cervical artery dissection risk, though evidence is inconclusive.

A Heartbreaking Loss

Smith’s sudden and tragic death has left her family and community in shock. Her brother expressed the family’s devastation, stating, “She was a special person. Her kids loved her a lot. I know she loved them, so it’s tough.”

The family plans a peaceful Hendricks County service for Smith this month. This incident underscores the need for quick action on medical emergencies, especially stroke risks.

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