It goes without saying that I get a lot of satisfaction from my stroke-awareness work. Writing this blog, being active on social media, doing The Warrior Podcast, speaking about stroke and stress - not only does it all stop me from sitting at Warrillow Towers looking at the wall, but it all helps to make a difference, however small, to how people view stroke.
Very occasionally, I get invited through my contacts at the Stroke Association to take part in stroke-research workshops - days when the academics involved in the treatment of stroke get to meet and talk with survivors and discuss their latest work.
These are useful on a number of levels - not only do they give me chance to promote what I do, they often provide opportunities to give a survivor’s perspective on what the academics are doing. One such invitation sent me to the City Hospital in Nottingham on Tuesday of this week.
Nottingham is one of the major centres of stroke research in this country and Professor Marion Walker MBE, Professor of Stroke Rehabilitation at the University of Nottingham, is one of the leading lights in the field. It is also home to the Nottingham Stroke Research Partnership Group, a collection of stroke-survivors, carers and academics.
On Tuesday, over 60 delegates (including The Warrior), spent the day assessing four pieces of research being carried out by PhD students and doctors at Nottingham. I won’t blind you with science, because some of the detail can be a little daunting even for someone with a fully-functioning brain, but everyone agreed it was a thoroughly useful exercise.
The statistics around stroke are truly frightening. There are 100,000 strokes every year in the UK, which equates to one every five minutes; there are over 1.2 million stroke survivors in the UK; Stroke is the fourth-biggest killer in the UK; almost two-thirds of stroke-survivors leave hospital with a disability. I could go on….And I learned a few more on Tuesday.
Consider these two numbers: 50 per cent of people who suffer a brain haemorrhage (the type of stroke I had) die within a month; one million brain cells die every minute from the time the stroke occurs to the time treatment is given. That’s why the T in the FAST test stands for ‘Time is brain’. The quicker a stroke sufferer is treated, the better their chances of survival.
I was immensely lucky to be in a bed in a hyper-acute stroke unit within 90 minutes of my stroke. Others are not so fortunate - if you are at home alone at the time of your stroke, for instance, it could be hours or days before you are found. By which time, it may be too late.
It was good, therefore, that one of the projects talked about on Tuesday involved a new drug which could improve the chances of survival - but it has to be administered within three hours. That sounds a long time, doesn’t it? Three episodes of your favourite TV drama; two whole football matches; an entire T20 cricket match. But it isn’t, not when life is at stake. It requires a patient to be taken to hospital quickly; it requires paramedics, doctors, nurses and plenty of other medical staff to act quickly under extreme pressure.
I pointed this out to the researcher involved and he admitted that yes, that was an issue. It’s why medical teams are working hard to cut down the time it takes to get people into hospitals and into beds after stroke.
As readers will know, I do a lot of talks about stroke-awareness and I always ask my audience if they know what the FAST test is. On average, half of any audience will know. That’s not good enough in itself but I often find that people can identify three-quarters of the acronym easily enough, but stumble when it comes to the last letter.
So remember that T stands for Time is brain. And that three hours may sound a long time, but with a million brain cells dying every minute, it really isn’t.