What happens if you have a stroke?

by Katie Jeeves (Physiotherapist)—Before I even meet someone who has suffered with a stroke, each individual has already started a journey. To have a good appreciation of what stroke sufferers have already gone through, it is useful to understand this ‘stoke journey’.

Katie Jeeves, Physiotherapist

23 April 2013

Before I even meet someone who has suffered with a stroke, each individual has already started a journey. To have a good appreciation of what stroke sufferers have already gone through, it is useful to understand this ‘stoke journey’.

A stroke could affect any one of us at anytime. For the best chance of recovery we need to act quickly. As a consequence, the government released the initiative, FAST. At the very first instance, this acronym is designed to help everyone recognise the first signs of stroke.

  • Face—has their face fallen?
  • Arms—can they raise both their arms and keep them there?
  • Speech—is their speech slurred?
  • Time—time to call 999

If suspected of having a major stroke, all patients in London are taken to a hyper acute stroke unit (HASU). There are 8 HASUs in London designed to provide rapid assessment by specialists within 30 minutes of arrival, give crucial early treatment, provide 24/7 monitoring and physiological intervention and have multidisciplinary specialist teams on-call 24/7. These centres are key in preventing further damage to the brain.

Once these centres have managed to stabilise a stroke patient, they are then transferred to stroke wards in general hospitals, such as Nell Gwynne Ward at Chelsea and Westminster. Alongside continued medical care, this is where much of the rehabilitative work begins, and this is where my role as a physiotherapist starts.

Physical rehabilitation aims to get a stroke patient as independent as possible. For example, if a patient was able to walk without any physical aid before having a stroke, this is what we would aim to achieve after stroke. However, this goal may need to be broken down significantly into smaller steps to become achievable, and the reality is that the overall goal may no longer be achievable.

This is what I constantly have to assess and re-evaluate to help facilitate optimal recovery. This is the start of a long and difficult journey for a stroke patient and their families.

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