Page last updated at 23:07 GMT, Friday, 18 April 2008 00:07 UK

'Stroke gave me time to bond with son'

By Jane Elliott
Health reporter, BBC News

Bryan Murcott
Bryan was back at work, on restricted duties, within 10 months

Policeman Bryan Murcott and his wife Tracey were looking forward to the birth of their first child.

But, just three weeks before the due date, Bryan had a massive stroke which led to him losing all the feeling in his limbs.

His first thought when he came round was that he needed to get well enough to help Tracey.

Fortunately, thanks to top class treatment that was something he was able to do.

Bryan, 36, from Nottingham, was given clot-busting drugs in hospital immediately. And four days later, he was released from hospital.

Back at work

Ten months after that he was back at work part-time - and returns to full-time work this month.

"Tracey was 36 weeks pregnant when I had the stroke, so being well for the birth was a top motivator," said Bryan.

The fact that just four days after having a stroke I was able to walk again is incredible
Bryan Murcott

"I was very chuffed to be at home for the birth.

"The day Samuel, who is now 14 months, was due was the first day I was able to drive again after the stroke so I went to pick him up from the hospital.

"Because of the drugs I recovered well and so was able to do everything with the baby.

"I fed him, changed him and was up in the night with him straight after bringing him home.

"I got straight on with what needed doing.

"The stroke was one of the best things to happen to me - daft as it might sound.

"Before the stroke I had just planned two weeks paternity, but I have had over a year with him.

"I have a fantastic relationship with him now."

But Bryan knows that without the speedy access to thrombolytic drugs though, that his could have been a very different story.

"I thank God I was in the right place and received the right care at the right time.

"Things could have been very different for me and my family without access to these wonderful services.

"I consider it to be the luckiest thing that has ever happened to me. "

Government strategy

Last summer the government announced its 10-year stroke strategy, aimed to save more lives like Bryan's by ensuring people get speedier access to care and by making treatment like his the gold standard.

The government has set aside 105m for training and awareness campaigns saying that greater awareness of the symptoms of stroke and immediate access to drugs could save 6,800 deaths and cases of disability and prevent 1,600 further strokes.

Bryan said that when he had his stroke in December 2006 he was lucky that the ambulance crew interpreted the symptoms correctly and ensured he was transferred to Nottingham City Hospital, which has a dedicated stroke unit.

He then had his brain scanned and an assessment, where it was determined he had an ischaemic stroke and was eligible for the clot busting, thrombolytic drugs.

Stroke facts
Every year, over 130,000 people in the UK have a stroke. That's one person every five minutes
Most people affected are over 65, but anyone can have a stroke
A stroke is the third most common cause of death in the UK. It is also the single most common cause of severe disability

Specific test

Patients, like Bryan, have their condition assessed using the new FAST (Facial, Arm weakness and Speech) test.

The FAST protocol is used by paramedics and GPs to assess whether a patient is displaying any new neurological changes which indicate they have had a stroke.

If so, they are taken straight to the specialist stroke unit instead of going to the A&E, ensuring speedier treatments.

Stroke. Photo Credit: P. Marseaud, ISM, SPL
Shows the death of brain tissue due to stroke (blue/green area)

Professor Philip Bath, consultant in stroke medicine at Nottingham University Hospitals and Stroke Association professor, stressed though that not all patients are as fortunate as Bryan, as many do not have the same access to care.

He said that clot-busting drugs could make a big difference - but were not available at every hospital.

"Thromblysis if given within the first three hours significantly reduces death and dependency. It can reduce it by 12% or more.

"It is essential that people are aware how serious strokes can be.

"Just like heart attacks, they are a medical emergency and it is vital that people know what signs to look out for so they can get treatment as soon as possible, just as Mr Murcott did, as the clot-busting treatment has to be given within three hours of the onset of a stroke."

Andrea Lane, from the Stroke Association, said fast treatment is vital.

"A stroke can happen to any one at any age and it is vital that if someone suspects they are having a stroke they must treat the stroke as a medical emergency."



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