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Stroke is still a medical emergency, despite the Covid pandemic

(Adobe Stock)

This World Stroke Day, the Stroke Association is urging the public in Wales to act FAST when they see the signs of a stroke and to call 999. By acting FAST, you can help to make sure people get to hospital quickly and reduce the chances of a stroke survivor being left with a severe disability or even dying.

FAST – which stands for Face, Arms, Speech and Time – details the most common symptoms of stroke; face drooping on one side, inability to lift your arms and/or slurred speech. If you spot any of these symptoms, the charity is warning that you must call 999 and reassuring people that the NHS is fully equipped to treat stroke patients.

With a fire breaker lockdown currently in place in Wales and as new restrictions continue to be announced and fears around contracting Covid-19 mount, the Stroke Association is urging the public to treat stroke as the life-threatening condition it is.

Stephen Attwood, 39, from Bridgend acted FAST when he had a stroke in 2017 and it saved his life, “The quicker you get to hospital, the better chance you have of survival and you are likely to save more of yourself. Don’t let the coronavirus stop you from calling 999 straight away as it will give youa better hope of recovery.”

Stephen needed a thrombectomy, a new procedure that involves physically removing a blood clot from the brain. It can vastly improve the chances of a good recovery but it is not yet widely available in Wales. Instead Stephen had the procedure in Bristol.

“When I found out later that thrombectomy isn’t widely available in Wales, it was a scary thought. I got lucky, my stroke was on a weekday morning and I live fairly near the border with England. If it had happened at a busy time, I might not have had the procedure and might never speak again.

“Thrombectomy should be available to everybody- it shouldn’t be pot luck. If there’s a chance to get the clot out of your brain, it needs to happen. This is why a new stroke delivery plan is needed in Wales as we need services like this to help give hope after having a stroke.”

The Welsh Government’s Stroke Delivery Plan ends in 2022 and the Stroke Association says a new national, strategic plan outlining their approach to stroke care for the future is needed, to ensure stroke remains a priority in Wales.

Katie Chappelle, Head of Influencing and Communications at the Stroke Association said: “The Covid-19 pandemic means we’re living with and adapting to a new normal. But we know that stroke survivors do this on a daily basis; stroke can change your life in a split second. We don’t want Wales to fall behind the rest of the UK when it comes to rebuilding lives after stroke. That’s why this World Stroke Day we’re calling on the Government to introduce a new plan for improving stroke services in Wales, now and into the future.

“We’re also reminding people in Wales that as lockdown restrictions continue, everybody needs to know the signs of a stroke by using the FAST test (Face, Arms, Speech, Time to call 999). A stroke can strike anyone at any time. During the first wave of the pandemic we saw stroke admissions fall around the UK. But we know that people were still having strokes. We want to make sure that this winter people know that the NHS is open and equipped to treat stroke patients. It’s vital that anybody who may be having a stroke is given the best chance of recovery because you acted FAST.”

Symptoms such as facial drooping, arm weakness and speech difficulties are the most common, (but not exclusive), signs of a stroke. The signs of a TIA/mini-stroke are the same as a stroke, but leave within 24 hours. A TIA/mini-stroke is a sign that a full stroke could be on the way.

Other signs of stroke can include:

  • Sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body, including legs, hands or feet.
  • Difficulty finding words or speaking in clear sentences.
  • Sudden blurred vision or loss of sight in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden memory loss or confusion, and dizziness or a sudden fall.
  • A sudden, severe headache.

If you spot any one of these signs of a stroke, don’t wait. Call 999 straight away.