Stroke patient's speedy treatment
Brian West, 73, from Pinner, was one of the first patients to be treated in the Trust's new ‘hyper acute’ stroke centre at Northwick Park Hospital, opened following a capital-wide public consultation last year.
And he describes the experience as ‘miraculous’. He collapsed at 2.30 on a Monday morning feeling sick and dizzy with weakness in his legs. His wife called an ambulance and he managed, with help, to get downstairs when the paramedics arrived.
“I was taken to A&E and then immediately given a scan,” he says. “Then they gave me these clot-busting drugs to remove the obstruction that had caused the stroke. About 7am my wife left and by 8am I was offered breakfast.
“I felt fine. By mid afternoon Dr Cohen came round and saw me. He asked how I was and I said I was fine. Then a physiotherapist called and asked if I wanted to try walking, which I did. By the following day I was fit to go home.”
Mr West was not unfamiliar with stroke. He had one three years previously following a triple heart bypass and was in hospital following complications for three and a half months. So the experience this time – in and out of hospital in less than two days – was a revelation for him.
Northwick Park is rapidly opening its hyper acute unit, which is linked to an expanded stroke unit where patients will stay after the initial phase of their treatment is over – normally within 72 hours. Then they may be referred back to a stroke unit near where they live for rehabilitation.
Patients appropriate for clot-busting or thrombolytic treatment need to be investigated by a CT scanner, ideally within three hours of the stroke happening, which means the unit must provide 24/7 treatment. A&E staff are alerted by the ambulance crew and the specialist stroke team is then ready when the patient arrives. If it is out-of-hours the scan results can be sent by email to a senior doctor on call who can access them on a laptop and authorise treatment. If all goes well that is the only treatment the patient needs to recover fully from the stroke.
Without this fast action patients can deteriorate and end up severely disabled. Some die. But now that London is developing eight of these units, including the Northwick Park department, deaths and disability from stroke are expected to fall dramatically.
The message to patients is – if you think you are having a stroke, don’t delay. Call 999.