Melton/Ipswich: It is vital emergency stroke care is kept at Ipswich Hospital – patient recalls the day she had a stroke

Simon and Jan Ballard

Simon and Jan Ballard - Credit: Archant

ON August 7, 2010 Jan Ballard suffered a stroke. Today, in her own words, she recalls her experience as she vows to fight with The Star to ensure a specialist stroke centre is created at Ipswich Hospital. Without emergency treatment at the hospital, she believes her story could have been very different.

I had roused myself to get out of bed, having had a late night the previous evening.

Gradually coming round, with a cup of coffee some toast and the papers in front of me I started my day.

I was scanning the papers when the phone rang, it was my friend Patsy. I sat down ready for a natter.

I tried to speak; my mouth wouldn’t work.

I tried again; I couldn’t form words, just noise.

Patsy asked me if there was someone else in the house, I somehow got across that the answer was no. She said: “Don’t worry I will be there in five minutes.”

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As I tried to put the phone down I noticed that my right arm wasn’t working. I couldn’t feel it and it was on my head but I couldn’t move it, suddenly it just fell to my side, completely numb.

I suddenly realised what was happening to me. I had seen the adverts on TV and recognised I was having a stroke.

Not knowing how bad this was going to get, I wrote with my left hand in large writing STROKE on the newspaper in case I blacked out.

True to her word Patsy arrived shortly afterwards. She had realised instantly what was happening to me and had called the paramedics.

I went to the door to open it for her, but by the time she had entered the hallway, my legs went.

She caught me and sat me on a chair nearby, reassuring me that she had called the paramedics and they were on their way.

She asked where Simon, my husband, was and I managed to sign her that he was with the dogs, she took my phone and tried to call him but of course there is no signal in the forest, she text him and we waited for the paramedics.

She was agitated at the time it took – in all it was about 20 minutes – she had forgotten my postcode and so her husband was at the bottom of my drive waiting to guide the paramedics in.

Eventually they arrived and were magnificent, very reassuring. They got me on a gurney, took my vitals and confirmed that I was having a stroke and told me they were taking me into Ipswich Hospital.

At that moment my poor husband arrived home. He followed the ambulance and we were very quickly ‘admin-ed’ into the system in A&E.

Although I couldn’t speak, I was completely compos mentis and in no pain whatsoever.

The next thing I remember was the MRI scan, they needed to establish whether it was a clot or a bleed as this would determine what happened next.

It was a clot on the left side of my brain.

The hospital had called the stroke specialist in from his day off. He was called was in because of three things:

n I was young, 54, to have a stroke

n It had only started and hour and a half ago

n It was a clot and not a bleed

This meant I was eligible for something called thrombolisis – a treatment that can only be used within three hours of the onset of a stroke and only if it is a clot and not a bleed.

I was lying on a gurney with Simon next to me and this procedure is explained to us both.

The key here is that it has to be intravenously given over the period of one hour, and we were working to a deadline as the onset was, by now, some time ago.

Suffice to say the medical staff performed fantastically and all the work that needed to be done within the time frame was achieved.

Now we had to wait, a further scan would reveal whether or not this medication had worked, this was a 24 hour wait, so I was taken to the acute stroke unit and made comfortable.

The first thing to strike me was how much older the other inmates were, and frankly how poorly they all looked. I felt a bit of a fraud, I was awake for starters and still nothing hurt.

That second MRI scan revealed the treatment had been successful and there was no sign of the clot at all.

Fast forward six months and I had 99% functionality back in my limbs.

Now we are nearly three years on, and I am back at work, working harder than I did before.

I have all my faculties good as new and I will forever be grateful to my friend Patsy for knowing what was happening to me, and to Ipswich Hospital for looking after me so well.

If I had to travel further than Ipswich Hospital who knows where I would be today. It is absolutely vital emergency stroke treatment remains at Ipswich Hospital and this specialist centre is created at Heath Road.