‘It was just out of the blue. It could happen to anybody’

Pauline Chapman from Hill Head, who suffered a stroke.  Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (121333-1)
Pauline Chapman from Hill Head, who suffered a stroke. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (121333-1)

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Pauline Chapman led a very active lifestyle, often socialising with friends and travelling the world with her husband John.

But all that came crashing to a halt at the end of last year when the 73-year-old suffered a stroke.

Now, on Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust’s Stroke Awareness Day, she wants to help raise awareness so people know the signs and what to look out for.

Pauline, from Seamead in Hill Head, recalls the day which changed her life on November 4.

‘We had been out for the day with my little grandson,’ she says.

‘I felt a bit faint and said that I was going to have a lie down.

‘My husband saw my droopy face and slurred speech.

‘Noticing that I was deteriorating, he realised that I had had a stroke and called the ambulance immediately. ‘

Pauline was taken to the acute stroke ward at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham and had a scan to discover the type of stroke she had suffered. It was a bleed and the least serious.

She adds: ‘When I came round I realised I couldn’t move down my left side. But I could talk so that was a positive.

‘I thought ‘‘it’s happened and I’ve got to deal with it’’.

‘It was a shock. I’m not a person who gets ill. My blood pressure and cholesterol are good.’

Following her stroke, Pauline spent five weeks at the QA before she was able to go home.

‘I cannot praise too highly the wonderful care and support I have received from the Community Stroke Rehabilitation Team (CSRT) at home,’ she says.

‘They have been very professional in every way and have at all times taken on board my needs and desires, helping me to reach the targets I have set myself as well as encouraging me to do more.’

Pauline still doesn’t know why she had a stroke.

‘I led quite a busy life. We have had quite a lot of stress over the years, but the doctor didn’t think stress would have played a part.

‘It was just out of the blue. It could happen to anybody.’

She adds: ‘It takes you by surprise. It’s horrible not being able to feel anything. Even now my arm is very heavy.

‘I am told I have done quite well. I can walk slowly now. That was my main aim - to get walking again.’

Pauline reflects: ‘I think in a way I’m lucky. Physically I still have problems but mentally I was all right. I’m waiting to go to physiotherapy to help me walk a bit better.’

Since suffering her stroke, life is very different.

She’s had to rely on her husband to do the cooking and the cleaning and the general chores around the house. For a large proportion of her rehabilitation, she was in a wheelchair..

‘My big problem is fatigue,’ she says.

‘I have started going out and about but I can’t really do much walking at the moment. There are lots of things I can’t do, but there are also lots of things I can do.

‘The worst part is getting so tired. I accept it because I know that fatigue is part of it.

‘But I have stayed fairly positive most of the time. You must try not to get depressed.

She adds: ‘My husband has been absolutely wonderful. It’s hard on him because he’s having to take on lots of things he wouldn’t normally do.

‘I can’t drive any more. We have to give it about a year. So it will be about getting my confidence back.

‘I used to do a lot of driving. I miss that.

‘I’m trying not to get frustrated but it’s hard. The little things are so frustrating, like trying to put socks on by yourself.

‘But having a shower on my own for the first time was wonderful.’

Now Pauline is hoping her experiences will help others.

‘It’s important,’ she says.

‘People need to know and the public need to be educated. It could happen to anyone at any time.

‘My husband and I knew the symptoms and what we had to look out for. I’ve seen the TV adverts.

‘If I saw somebody else I would recognise it. But I’m sure the general public doesn’t know enough.’

She adds: ‘I’ve been lucky in that I was articulate, which is good for the nurses and the patient. Some people don’t have that.

‘It’s really difficult if you lose your speech. It must be so frustrating. It does tip your life upside down.’

Pauline advises others who suffer a stroke: ‘Be positive and have a sense of humour about things you have to put up with.’

She adds: ‘We’re very lucky in that we do have a huge number of friends and we’ve had lots of support.

‘I’ve got two children and a gorgeous little grandson which is keeping me going.

‘I’m told I’ve done very well and I’m lucky.

‘I realise that. But I was told that’s partly because I’m determined and have tried hard to be positive.’

WHAT IS A STROKE?

A stroke is a ‘brain attack’ caused by a disturbance of the blood supply to the brain.

There are two main types of stroke, which require different types of treatment.

An Ischaemic stroke is the most common form of a stroke. It is caused by a clot narrowing or blocking blood vessels so that blood cannot reach a particular area of the brain. It leads to the death of brain cells due to lack of oxygen.

A haemorrhagic stroke is caused when a weakened blood vessel in the brain bursts. This produces bleeding into the brain, which leads to damage.

THE F.A.S.T. CAMPAIGN

The advertising campaign F.A.S.T. aims to make people aware of the symptoms experienced when someone is having a stroke.

The F.A.S.T. slogan represents Face, Arms, Speech and Time.

Face - has their face fallen on one side? Can they smile?

Arms - can they raise both arms and keep them there?

Speech - is their speech slurred?

Time - time to call 999 if you see any one of these signs.

For more information, go to The Stroke Association website at stroke.org.uk

REHABILITATION

Dr Jane Williams has worked tirelessly over the years to provide a dedicated service for stroke patients in the Portsmouth area.

Dr Williams, Chief of Service for Medicine for Older People at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, has played an important role in improving stroke and rehabilitation services at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham.

She says: ‘It’s absolutely essential to ensure that people with a suspected stroke get urgent attention.

‘The sooner you get to a stroke centre, the better the outcome for you.

‘We need that service here for our local population.

Dr Williams adds: ‘We know that poor diet, poor exercise, an increase in high blood pressure and high alcohol intake will all lead to greater numbers of strokes.’

She converted a continuing care ward into a rehabilitation unit.

‘I just fell in love with rehabilitation,’ she says.

‘You spend more time with the patients and families, watching them progress and helping with the transition from hospital to home.’

Dr Williams adds that the trust’s Stroke Awareness Day is vital.

‘Hopefully people have seen the national campaign,’ she says.

‘That’s the message we want people to remember, and for people not to delay.

‘If they suspect they are having a stroke, pick up the phone and dial 999 straight away.’

Dr Williams has been chair of the Royal College of Nursing rehabilitation and intermediate care nursing forum. In 2011 her book, Acute Stroke Nursing, was named the medical-surgical nursing book of the year by the American Journal of Nursing.