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Norman Lamb says he has been given second chance after stroke scare

PUBLISHED: 06:00 12 April 2018 | UPDATED: 15:58 12 April 2018

Norman Lamb. Picture: Steve Parsons/PA Archive

Norman Lamb. Picture: Steve Parsons/PA Archive

PA Archive/PA Images

A Norfolk MP says he has been given a “second chance” after suffering a stroke.

Norman Lamb. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYNorman Lamb. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Norman Lamb awoke in his flat in London with double vision and after extensive tests was told it has been caused by a stroke.

The North Norfolk MP described how he was unable to focus on a picture on the wall of his room and even struggled to find his wife Mary’s number on his phone.

The 60-year-old has vowed he will continue his role but has admitted he needs to “work smarter” after the “life-changing” health scare.

Lib Dem Mr Lamb – who fought a bruising election campaign against the Tories last summer – has blamed the health scare long working days claiming he has been getting by on “four or five hours sleep” a night for years.

And now, just two weeks on from the stroke, Mr Lamb has started work again attending surgeries and he even plans to be back in Westminster next week when parliament returns from the Easter break.

“I set the alarm for 7.30am, woke up, opened my eyes,” he said. “At first I thought I was still waking up so I rubbed my eyes to get them sorted but I became aware that I had double vision.

“I looked at the picture on the wall and there were two pictures. Half of the room was all on the slant. I just couldn’t get any focus. I tried to find Mary’s number but I couldn’t focus on the names.

“It was pretty scary. The weird thing was that I could speak OK and had no other symptoms just this extraordinary double vision.

“My son Ned was with me and came with me to A and E. Luckily it was just five minutes in a taxi. They sent me to the eye clinic but I was sure there was something else going on.”

After a day of tests on his vision it was decided something more serious had happened.

“I ended up being seen by the head of the stroke department and was brought in for an MRI scan. It was described to me as a very minor stroke – not a TIA or transient ischemic attack which is sometimes known as a mini stroke but an actual stroke.

“He showed me on the scan a lighter spot which he said was damage and this was the blood vessel that feeds your eyes. You never think it is going to happen to you and then suddenly you are told you’ve had a stroke. It was a life-changing moment.”

Mr Lamb, who won his seat in 2001 and served as a health minister in the Conservative / Lib Dem Coalition, is adamant he can continue in his role but has been warned by doctors to change the way he works. He says he leads a generally healthy life including regular exercise but he believes getting more sleep is the key.

“I’ve had to have a massive re-evaluation,” he said. “I owe it to Mary who has put up with a massive amount with the job that I do and the way I do it. It is all consuming. It is seven days a week.

“But that is the way I’ve wanted to do it. What I have to recognise now is I have to make adjustments. There is no point killing myself. I’ve got to work smarter. When a doctor tells you about the importance of sleep you have to take notice.

“But, of course, I take personal responsibility for my life. I don’t blame anyone else. I am kicking myself that I have allowed this to happen. I am determined to learn a lesson.

“I have no physical damage to me – thankfully. I count myself very lucky. For me now it is a psychological challenge. In the morning waking up and hoping I am OK – it is pretty freaky.”

How Norman Lamb won the political battle of his life

Norman Lamb was faced with the toughest battle of his political career last year when all the polls predicted his seat would fall to the Tories.

Just days after Theresa May called the snap election in April a well-respected poll conducted by the University of East Anglia predicted he had little chance of clinging on to the seat he won in 2001.

James Wild – a government special advisor – was drafted in as the Conservative candidate and a steady stream of ministers made their way to North Norfolk to campaign on his behalf.

In fact the seat was such a hot Tory target even neighbouring MPs – including Norwich North’s Chloe Smith whoonly narrowly kept her seat – were drafted in to help defeat Mr Lamb.

But they had not banked on the huge amount of good will and support Mr Lamb had built up. In the end Mr Wild was defeated by 3,512 votes in a huge show of support from the constituency.

Stroke: The statistics

There are more than 100,000 strokes in the UK each year - roughly one stroke every five minutes.

Those figures make strokes the fourth biggest killer in the country, while almost two thirds of survivors leave hospital with a disability.

In Norfolk, 580 people die early each year of circulatory conditions, including heart disease and stroke. But according to NHS data, the number of people affected is much higher at 20,066 in 2016/17 - some 2.2pc of the county’s population. This was higher than the England prevalence rate of 1.7pc.

A study which was carried out in Norfolk, found people living with the greatest levels of social deprivation were two and a half times more likely to have a stroke.

Various studies say the number of strokes is rising, particularly in young adults. One study said the number is expected to increase by 44pc over the next 20 years.

It’s believed that high blood pressure and longer life expectancies are some of the factors fuelling the rise.

How to recognise a stroke

The signs of a stroke can vary from person to person but they usually begin suddenly.

The main stroke symptoms can be remembered using the acronym FAST.

• Face – the face may have dropped on one side, the person may not be able to smile, or their mouth or eye may have drooped.

• Arms – the person may not be able to lift both arms and keep them there because of weakness or numbness in one arm.

• Speech – their speech may be slurred or garbled, or they may not be able to talk at all despite appearing to be awake.

• Time – it’s time to dial 999 immediately if you notice any of these signs or symptoms.

The symptoms of a transient ischaemic attack (TIA) - also known as a mini-stroke - are the same but tend to only last between a few minutes and a few hours before disappearing completely.

If you suspect you or someone else is having a stroke, phone 999 immediately and ask for an ambulance.

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