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My TIA - by Keith Belton


I’ve been feeling unwell for over a week. But felt a bit better this morning so I drive to work and sit at my desk with a cup of tea. I try to do some work, but find I am unable to concentrate and start to feel very unwell. I’m sure it will pass. One hour later, I’m still unable to do any work and lose all the feeling on the right side of my body: leg and arm feel numb; face and eye feel very strange; vision blurred. I think I know what is happening: I’m having some sort of stroke. With all the FASTads on the telly, I have all the symptoms: Face, Arm, Speech,Time to call 999. Only it’s not yet time for two reasons: firstly, I don’t want any drama at work, and secondly, I know I’ll probably end up in hospital and I’d rather it be one closer to home.

20 minutes later, the feeling has started to return to my arm and leg, so I make a cup of coffee and sit a while longer. I report sick and foolishly, I drive home. I can’t remember much about that 22 mile drive, but I made it. LESSON: Take the symptoms seriously! In hindsight, I should have gone straight to hospital by ambulance.

I phone the doctor, and as expected, she says that I am probably having a TIA (transient ischaemic attack) or mini stroke and to go immediately to the nearest emergency department. My wife comes home from work and takes me to the North Hampshire Hospital, Basingstoke, which is less than a mile from my home.

Over an hour’s wait before even being assessed by a triage nurse. Grrrr ... then straight to the treatment area for endless questions, needles, wires, tubes. Answers? Well, sort of. The doc thinks it’s a TIA too, but I need to go to the acute stroke unit to be checked out further and also a CT scan … tomorrow!

Most of the feeling has come back to my leg arm and face now, but I still have pins and needles in my right foot and hand as I’m trundled up to the Acute Stroke Unit. There is some confusion when I get there, as it appears I’ve jumped the queue and pinched someone else’s bed. The stroke unit is not a nice place to be – very sad to see the others there in a much worse state than me. Although I move myself from trolley to bed, I’m told by a very stern nurse to stay in bed and not to try and get up until I have been properly assessed. I do as I’m told! A doctor comes to take my history, so I answer all the same questions again.

Dinner (yuck, inedible) and a cup of tea (lukewarm and weak) and trouble from the bloke in the bed opposite. I’m told he usually keeps everyone awake, but he’s quiet tonight, probably due to something they put in his tea.

Tuesday 28 April 2009

Hospital life starts early. Obs at 0645, then breakfast (better than last night’s dinner). I risk the wrath of the nurses and get out of bed to get washed and dressed. “Oh, you’re up and walking! That’s good”

Doctor (different one) sees me and does a neuro assessment – score zero, which is good! Big cheese consultant comes to say hello, then physio assessment. Slight residual weakness on right side, but otherwise fine. CT scan, then lunch (just about edible). I wait all afternoon until the doctor comes and says everything is fine with the scan and I can go home. I’m also told I must not drive for one month, although I do not need to tell the DVLA. Another wait for the discharge papers and meds – aspirin. More pills to add to my growing daily intake!

I’m home and resting now. This was quite a minor event, but a scare nonetheless, and lessons learned. I knew what was happening from the start, but didn’t follow the much publicised advice:

Face, Arm, Speech, Time to call 999

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