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OPINION EXTRA

'Let’s remember to take TIA seriously'

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According to a new report by the Stroke Association investigating TIA patients’ experiences, about a quarter of patients agreed that health professionals are too quick to dismiss the condition.

According to a new report by the Stroke Association investigating TIA patients’ experiences, about a quarter of patients agreed that health professionals are too quick to dismiss the condition.

My experience as a patient has shown me that this is all too often the case.

As a busy scrub nurse who didn’t drink or smoke, I never imagined I would have a stroke. But when I had a spell of numbness down both my arms, I knew something was seriously wrong and went for a check-up.

My GP listened to my symptoms, and told me I had a trapped nerve. I had a stroke at work the following day.

“My GP told me I had a trapped nerve. I had a stroke the following day”

I was left with aphasia and mobility problems, and spent a week in a stroke unit as part of my recovery. However, I was determined not to dwell on the damage my stroke had done, but to make the best possible recovery I could. I was back at work in the operating theatre six months later.

Stroke is frequently perceived to be an older person’s condition, when in fact about a quarter of strokes occur in people under the age of 65. I certainly didn’t think I would become a stroke survivor at the age of 34. I now know that stroke does not discriminate. It can happen to anyone at any time, whatever their age.

Approximately 46,000 people are diagnosed with their first TIA every year and given how often the condition is overlooked, the Stroke Association estimates that the figure could be much higher. The condition is a vital warning sign that should always be treated as a medical emergency: as nurses, we all know that prevention is better than cure. Urgently investigating and treating patients who have a TIA or minor stroke could reduce their risk of having another stroke by 80%.

“About a quarter of strokes occur in people under the age of 65”

TIA is a complex condition and not all symptoms are the same. As well as the FAST test (Face, Arms, Speech, Time), other symptoms can include sudden weakness, memory loss, or vision loss.

I’d offer the following advice to all healthcare professionals working with patients who have had a suspected TIA:

  • Treat the patient’s symptoms, rather than the patient’s age
  • Check their medical history: there may be a history of stroke or TIA
  • Listen to your patient, and observe how they’re acting

Throughout Action on Stroke Month and in the future, let’s remember to take TIA seriously, to listen to our patients and to trust that they know their body best. If we bear these simple steps in mind, hopefully we can prevent more patients from experiencing the devastating impact of stroke.

 

Nichola Farrelly is a scrub nurse and is supporting the Stroke Association’s Action on Stroke Month. To find out more, visit www.stroke.org.uk/strokemonth

 

Read the full report by the Stroke Association in The Lancet

 

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