‘Fast stroke message saved my life’
Every minute counts in getting help when someone has suffered a stroke, but thanks to his quick-thinking wife, one Norfolk man has told how he is well on his way to recovery.
When Frederick Ellis, 84, collapsed at his King's Lynn home while eating his breakfast, wife Hazel knew exactly what to do.
Mrs Ellis was aware of the NHS's FAST campaign and recognised the symptoms of a stroke from the way her husband's jaw and one side of his face had dropped.
Within minutes Mr Ellis had been taken from his home in Gaywood Road to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital nearby, where he was thrombolysed – given clot-busting drugs – and treated in the hospital's stroke unit.
The great-grandfather-of-three said: 'After 24 hours I came round and I was, to all intents and purposes, okay. The only difference was that I couldn't form my words to make sense to anyone. People couldn't understand me and I couldn't understand them. But after another 24 hours that slowly came back to me and I've been fine ever since. Whatever they did to me certainly worked.'
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The retired tool rooms foreman, who had been recovering from breast cancer at the time, credits his speedy recovery - he was out of hospital in just a few days - to how quickly he got medical help after having the stroke in November last year.
Mrs Ellis said: 'I just knew straight away it was a stroke because the right side of his face had dropped and he couldn't talk.
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'It was so scary, but I thought the ambulance people were absolutely great, as well as everyone at the hospital.'
Today is World Stroke Day, and NHS Norfolk is urging people to remember the FAST message, which could save someone's life.
Dr Ian Mack, a GP at Watlington, near King's Lynn, who is also the chairman of NHS Norfolk's Clinical Executive, said: 'Everyone is at risk of a stroke; it can affect the young as well as the old, but there are some very clear actions to take that we must all remember in case someone close by suffers a stroke.
'The FAST message should be in the back of everyone's mind. One day you might need it.'
Another Norfolk man saved by the FAST message is Trevor Forecast. The 76-year-old retired hotelier had always been fit and active and with no family history of strokes had never considered himself a likely candidate for one.
Yet all that changed on October 27 last year as he and wife Christine were eating lunch at home in Sedgeford and planning an afternoon walk at Sandringham.
He said: 'Suddenly my eyes started going round and I felt very giddy. I stood up and walked round and was violently sick. Then my arms and legs started to feel strange. We called 999 and by the time the ambulance guys arrived my face had started to go numb, just as if I had had a tooth injection. My right arm and leg were also going numb.
'I was taken to A&E at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital and seen by the stroke sister and the stroke consultant who asked if I would allow them to thrombolyse me.
'I am normally very even-tempered but I must admit by that time I was beginning to feel frightened because I didn't know what was going on with me, so I said 'yes' to what they were offering.
'I had an MRI scan, which confirmed that the clot was still at the back of the brain. Then around 48 hours after I had thrombolysis I began to come out of it. I could feel my arms and legs again. My speech had not been affected at all. The main signs were the numbness and the fact that my eyes were going round and round.'
Since then Mr Forecast has made a 95-98pc recovery, the only visible effect being that one of his eyes moves more slowly than the other.
He said: 'I am so lucky that this is such a minor thing. Had I not received the right treatment so swiftly the outcome could have been much worse. The staff at the hospital were really quick and efficient in delivering the treatment and I can't thank them enough.'
Dr Mack said: 'If you think someone has suffered a stroke, waste no time in dialling 999.
'If you experience some of the symptoms of a stroke which then pass and you feel better, then you should consult your GP urgently. The symptoms you would feel are significant dizziness together with difficulty in walking, talking, balance and co-ordination. You may feel your face is numb and you cannot use one side of your body properly. These are the telltale signs of stroke or TIA.'