Mini-strokes - a major warning for Datchworth couple

Mini-strokes - a major warning for Datchworth couple

This May is ‘Action on Stroke Month’, and East and North Hertfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group is backing the Stroke Association’s campaign to raise awareness of mini-strokes.

A stroke is a serious medical condition that occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off.  The main symptoms of stroke can be remembered with the word FAST: Face, Arms, Speech, Time:

Face – the face may have dropped on one side, the person may not be able to smile or their mouth or eye may have dropped
Arms – the person with suspected stroke may not be able to lift one or both arms and keep them there because of arm weakness or numbness
Speech – their speech may be slurred or garbled, or the person may not be able to talk at all despite appearing to be awake
Time – it is time to dial 999 immediately if you see any of these signs or symptoms.

When someone has a mini-stroke – also known as a Transient Ischaemic Attack or TIA – they experience the same symptoms, but those symptoms wear off within 24 hours.  This can mean that people don’t take a mini-stroke seriously, but they should.  

Dr Robin Christie, East and North Hertfordshire CCG’s lead GP for stroke care said:  “A stroke is an emergency which needs urgent medical attention.  Even if you feel as though you are getting better, don’t write off temporary stroke-like symptoms as a funny turn – call 999 straight away.  The faster you get specialist help, the better your chances of recovering and avoiding a further, more damaging stroke which could affect you for the rest of your life.  Every second counts.

“Most people think of strokes as only affecting old people, but a stroke can affect anyone. Being a smoker, drinking excessively or eating an unhealthy diet can all increase your risk of having a stroke, so try to lead a healthier lifestyle to reduce your chances of suffering one.”

Doreen Hodson-Smith from Datchworth described what happened to her husband Clive: “One morning in early February I found my husband Clive in the kitchen slumped over the draining board. I tried to encourage him to walk to a chair only to find he was unable to move his feet. As he has Parkinson’s disease, I assumed that he was having a Parkinson’s freeze and I grabbed a chair for him to sit on. I then realised his speech was slurred and although his face seemed normal he was unable to raise his arm.

“Still not sure whether Clive was experiencing a Parkinson’s disease turn, I rang NHS 111 only to be told that he could be having a TIA  or ‘mini-stroke’ and that they would arrange for an ambulance. By the time the ambulance arrived, Clive seemed to have recovered. However they insisted he was taken to A&E, a decision I was later relieved about as he had three further TIAs. Following emergency treatment he was transferred to the Hyper Acute Stroke Unit where he received 24-hour monitoring for two nights. On returning home he has had various outpatient appointments and follow-up tests.”

If you, or someone you know has a mini-stroke:

Don’t make your own way to hospital, your GP, a minor injuries unit or the QEII in Welwyn Garden City.  You will be wasting valuable time that could impair your chances of making a good recovery. 

Do call 999.  Once the ambulance control centre is alerted to a suspected stroke, they will make the nearest specialist stroke centre aware that you are coming, so that they can be prepare to treat you straight away.  Paramedics will use your journey time to treat you appropriately. The specialist stroke centre for our area is the Lister hospital in Stevenage.

Dr Jon Baker, Emergency Department Consultant at the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust said: “When someone arrives through the doors of our emergency department, treatment to minimise the impact of the stroke starts immediately. Strokes are often treated with clot-busting drugs which dissolve the blockage which was restricting the blood supply to the brain. Time lost is brain lost, so the faster a patient is seen, the better the outcomes for that person.”

Notes to Editors:

1. Photograph attached shows Clive Hodson-Smith aged 82.

2. In 2012/13, thousands of people across the East and North Hertfordshire CCG area were registered as having been affected by strokes or mini-strokes at some time in their lives:

CCG locality area / Number of people affected by stroke/ mini-stroke
North Herts = 1,898
Lower Lea Valley =  1,227
Stevenage = 1,210
Stort Valley & Villages = 696
Upper Lea Valley = 1,754
Welwyn Hatfield = 1,909

3. To find out more, or to arrange an interview about mini-strokes, contact the press office at East and North Hertfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group on 01707 369710.

4. Public Health England has made an effective short film to raise awareness of the symptoms of stroke.  Why not link to it from your own website?

5. Led by local GPs, East and North Hertfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group plans, designs and buys health services for 580,000 people in Hertfordshire, and monitors the quality and effectiveness of those services.