Stroke symptoms can vary in type and severity and sometimes people experience unusual symptoms (see ‘The event’ a stroke or TIA‘).
Michelle experienced a TIA before her stroke and feels that her symptoms did not correspond to…
Many people that we spoke to were not aware that they were having a stroke but most knew something was wrong and sought help. Younger people or people that had previously been fit and well did not recognise the symptoms or realise that they could be having a stroke. Those whose stroke had been due to high blood pressure often commented that it was a silent condition with no warning signs [Interview 01]. One older woman thought you would feel worse with a stroke and was surprised when the paramedics said they were taking her to hospital as she felt okay. In some cases, the person recognised they were having a stroke, but experienced long delays in getting help.
Susan recognised that she was having a stroke and called to her husband to get help but her…
He was very appreciative of a friend because she phoned 999 quickly which meant there was little…
Her daughter heard that her voice was slurred on the phone and got help. She felt okay and was…
Occasionally friends, family and even passers-by spotted that the person was having a stroke. The landlord in a man’s local pub had noticed a drop in his face and called an ambulance [Interview 28]. A woman had spoken to her daughter on the phone and the daughter knew something was wrong because her speech was slurred (See Interview 33 above). Several people whose speech had been affected realised they were having a stroke and had written it down to alert others to get help.
The landlord at the local pub noticed his face had dropped on one side and called an ambulance.
Witnessing somebody having a stroke can be a very frightening experience and some people said that those around at the time understandably panicked. People were very appreciative that others had reacted quickly to get help and valued someone taking control of the situation and being calm and supportive until help arrived (See Interview 01 above).
Most called 999 for an ambulance or called their general practitioner as soon as they experienced symptoms even if they did not know that it was a stroke.
For those who called an ambulance some experienced a long wait which became quite worrisome. One individual called 999 with much difficulty as he was limited in movement and speech.
Gavin was home alone when he suffered a haemorrhagic stroke. With much difficulty he managed to…
A few people put off phoning the general practitioner or going to Accident and Emergency (A and E) and some reflected that they should have got help sooner. One man’s brother told him he should have phoned straight away as they can do more to help in the first few hours.
His brother told him that he should have phoned the doctor as soon as he felt unwell because more…
Some people who had phoned their general practitioner had not been able to get help immediately particularly if it was out of hours. One man’s wife was told to phone for an ambulance instead which came quickly. People who had contacted their doctor were often still taken to hospital. A few people were not taken to hospital because the stroke was not considered severe – in some cases this led to delays in getting tests and treatment.
Current advice is that everyone should be taken to hospital as soon as possible, regardless of severity of symptoms. If you do not pass the FAST test (see above) dial 999 or 112 from a mobile for an ambulance to get immediate assessment in hospital.
Many people were taken to A & E by ambulance or by a family member. Experiences of A & E varied, some felt that they were given priority because of a suspected stroke others experienced long delays. A woman whose husband had a severe stroke and went to a busy city A & E was frustrated that his form kept getting put back because people with heart attack were a priority.
People were often told that they had a stroke in A & E (see ‘Getting a diagnosis‘).
Health professionals occasionally find it difficult to diagnose the stroke usually when the symptoms are mild or unusual. A woman who was a trained neurologist did not pick up on her mother’s stroke until her speech started to become affected even though she suspects the stroke had occurred the previous day. An older woman’s doctor was very apologetic that he had missed earlier balance problems which were the start of her stroke, but explained that strokes were sometimes difficult to diagnose.
Her GP apologised that he had not picked up that her balance problems were the start of her stroke.
A Pakistani woman who did not speak English was frustrated because when she went to hospital she was unable to explain her symptoms which she suspected were a stroke.
A woman who only spoke Punjabi knew her symptoms suggested a stroke but could not tell the doctor…
A few younger people were upset when staff asked them whether they had been using drugs. Although they realised why these question were being asked they felt that they could have been dealt with more sensitively. One woman in her early 30s who had unusual visual symptoms was upset when they kept asking if her husband had hit her.