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A stroke of luck

Imagine your head starts to go cloudy. You can’t think straight and are completely disoriented, and then to make matters worse you begin to lose your vision.

This is exactly what happened to 64-year-old Ian Thompson – and while he did not know it at the time, he was having a stroke.

“After meeting other stroke survivors I feel lucky, as if I had dodged a bullet,” says the Mornington father-of-three.

“Thankfully, the staff at Frankston Hospital Emergency Department recognised the signs and responded so quickly.”

A member of Frankston Archery Club, Ian was at the club when the stroke hit.

“I was using this new solvent to repair the arrows and it’s really volatile stuff,” explains Ian.

“It was after I’d had a whiff of that my head started to go all funny, so I put it down to that. I knew something was wrong but I couldn’t even walk into the club house – I didn’t know where it was. I didn’t know how to use my phone to call my wife. All I could do was sit there.”

It was 4.30pm and the clock had started ticking to save Ian’s life and limit the effects of the stroke.

“A stroke happens when blood supply to the brain is interrupted,” explains Dr Shyaman Menon, Frankston Hospital’s Emergency Department Clinical Director.

“Blood is carried to the brain by arteries, which contains the oxygen and nutrients your brain cells need. Without this, brain cells die.”

“While brain cells usually die shortly after the stroke starts, some can last a few hours if the blood supply is not cut off completely. This is why it is so important people get to the Emergency Department as soon as possible so medication can be administered to save these cells.”

Ian’s archery club mates could see something was badly wrong, so they took Ian home to his wife Sandy. Sandy took one look at him and brought him straight to the Emergency Department.

By the time he arrived the Emergency Department staff had just 45 minutes to diagnose the stroke, determine what had caused it, and administer the lifesaving clot-busting medication.

“They found I had two blockages – one on the right side, which was the part that affects eyesight, and one at the top of the spinal cord,” explains Ian.

“They were working really hard with the four hour window to give me the clot buster. I ended up getting it with 20 minutes to go – so I was lucky.”

After a few nights in hospital, Ian was able to go home, and onto the Stroke Detours program.

“My sight is still recovering so they taught me really practical things for coping with that, how to get my bearings back – for example they’d drive me down to the local shops and then I had to direct them home.”

Though still recovering from the effects of the stroke, Ian is back caravanning and spending time with his grandchildren.

Help more people like Ian get fast access to emergency stroke care, close to home, by donating to our Spring Appeal today.