Be aware of stroke warning signs - act FAST to save lives

Victor Lawrence and wife Toni SUS-180602-112509001
Victor Lawrence and wife Toni SUS-180602-112509001

Stroke survivors are urging people to be aware of the warning signs of stroke and share the FAST message to help save more lives.

Victor Lawrence, 74, from Eastbourne, was found by his wife, Toni, in bed. He was unable to speak or move his body. Toni recognised he was having a stroke and dialled 999.

She said, “The adverts on TV about stroke have always stuck with me. In particular, the message to get help quickly when you think someone is having a stroke.

“When I saw Victor unable to talk or move, I immediately knew what was happening. I didn’t second-guess what I was thinking, and I’m so relieved I remembered the FAST test.”

Victor’s stroke left him with a communication difficulty called aphasia.

Victor and Toni now volunteer at the Stroke Association’s Meads Communication Group, helping other stroke survivors and carers in Eastbourne.

Kate Simpson, of Seaford, was only 25 when she had mini-strokes while pregnant. This lead to clots in the baby’s placenta, tragically causing the pregnancy to end.

Katie, now 30, has spoken about her experience to raise awareness for the symptoms of strokes.

Also known as a TIA or transient ischaemic attack, the mini-strokes started when she was 16 weeks pregnant, but were misdiagnosed as symptoms of a migraine. Weeks later when doctors identified that she could be having a stroke, they urgently needed to perform a CT scan of her brain. As she lost feeling in her body, and her speech started to slur, doctors had to make the heart-breaking decision whether to save Katie’s life by preforming a CT scan of her brain, or for her to deliver her unborn baby first. At 21 weeks pregnant, Katie had to give birth to her son, stillborn.

Katie said, “At the age of 25 I couldn’t believe I had had a stroke – I never thought you could have one so young. You see the adverts of FAST and think it only happens to older people. At the time my daughters were only four and seven years old. I felt like I’d lost my life after my stroke. It was really difficult. All of a sudden the simple things I’d naturally do with my children were really challenging – you never quite realise how much you actually use your limbs until you lose the power to move them.”

The Stroke Association is raising awareness of the signs of stroke, calling on people to learn the symptoms, and call 999 as soon as they spot them.

The FAST test helps people recognise the most common symptoms of a stroke and the right action to take:

l Face: Can the person smile? Has their mouth or eye drooped?

l Arms: Can the person raise both arms?

l Speech: Can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?

l Time to call 999

Tara Galloway, head of Stroke Support for the Stroke Association, said, “Stroke can happen to anyone at any age, at any time, and when it strikes, every second counts.

“We want more people like Toni to learn the FAST test and share it with their friends and family. Knowing how to spot the warning signs of a stroke could save a life.”

Visit www.stroke.org.uk/FAST.

Kate Simpson, of Seaford, was only 25 when she had mini-strokes while pregnant. This lead to clots in the baby’s placenta, tragically causing the pregnancy to end.

Katie, now 30, has spoken about her experience to raise awareness for the symptoms of strokes.

Also known as a TIA or transient ischaemic attack, the mini-strokes started when she was 16 weeks pregnant, but all were misdiagnosed as symptoms of a migraine. Weeks later when doctors identified that she could be having a stroke, they urgently needed to perform a CT scan of her brain. As she lost feeling in her body, and her speech started to slur, doctors had to make the heart-breaking decision whether to save Katie’s life by preforming a CT scan of her brain, or for her to deliver her unborn baby first. At 21 weeks pregnant, Katie had to give birth to her son, stillborn.

Katie said, “At the age of 25 I couldn’t believe I had had a stroke – I never thought you could have one so young. You see the adverts of FAST and think it only happens to older people. At the time my daughters were only four and seven years old. I felt like I’d lost my life after my stroke. It was really difficult. All of a sudden the simple things I’d naturally do with my children were really challenging – you never quite realise how much you actually use your limbs until you lose the power to move them.

Scans confirmed she had had several mini-stokes, and a stroke on the left and right side of her brain. The strokes were caused by an undiagnosed blood condition called Antiphospholipid Syndrome, which thickened her blood, causing clots on her brain and also in the umbilical cord.

Katie spent four days in hospital, and moved into her parents’ home with her two daughters. Katie’s stroke left her with severe fatigue, a communication difficulty called aphasia, left sided weakness in her body, on-going chronic pain, and issues with swallowing which meant she could only eat pureed food.

Katie said, “At the age of 25 I couldn’t believe I had had a stroke – I never thought you could have one so young. You see the adverts of FAST and think it only happens to older people. At the time my daughters were only four and seven years old.

“I felt like I’d lost my life after my stroke. It was really difficult. All of a sudden the simple things I’d naturally do with my children were really challenging – you never quite realise how much you actually use your limbs until you lose the power to move them.

“Walking was difficult, cooking, using kitchen utensils, reading a bed time story, trying to help your children ready for school – it’s so sad when you are the adult, and you can’t do their buttons on their tops, or tie their laces, putting their hair up was all impossible at that time! I remember just crying because I felt like a failure, and that I couldn’t meet their needs like they needed me to. Not only did I have to come to terms with losing my baby, I had the added trauma of recovering from a stroke.

“It has been a challenging roller coaster over the last four years which has left me with permanent disabilities from it. I still have a numb face and fingers, along with severe nerve pain and chronic fatigue. After a stroke your life is completely turned upside down in an instant, and it affects you emotionally and physically. I have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from the trauma, and with the support from the Stroke Association, I’m still carrying on with therapy to help this.

“The Stroke Association have been a lifeline to me and was there from the start throughout my recovery. When you have a stroke, you can’t imagine all the hurdles you’re suddenly faced with, it’s terrifying.

“If it wasn’t for the support I got from the Stroke Association, I don’t know where I’d be today. They helped me fill out forms, apply for support and help with benefits, they listened to me and helped me understand what I was going through. They funded me with a grant which allowed me to buy my own anticoagulant machine which helps me manage my Warfarin medication which I’ll be on for all my life. This gives me some independence back rather than attending my doctors every few days. Without the Stroke Association, I wouldn’t had had this.

“I owe so much thanks to the Stroke Association for being there for me and my family through my darkest days and bringing me out on the other side. The Stroke Association have given me self-esteem and confidence to get me back into the community, attending stroke groups with fellow survivors and attending appointments. They’ve helped me through it all and been by my side the whole time. When my anxiety is high they understand and when I need a helping hand they are there to support me.

“Hearing there may be potential cuts to the Stroke Association’s funding is outrageous, as without them there is no help in the area, there is no hope, support or guidance. They have given me a second chance at a normal life with my recovery and their work to local stroke survivors is irreplaceable, and vital in the local community. And I hope for the sake of other stroke survivors in East Sussex in the future that they too have the support and knowledge I have received.”

A 25-year-old mother of two was told she was having migraines – when she had actually been having mini-strokes which led to the loss of her baby.