Stroke

Susan - Interview 62

Female
Age at interview: 67
Age at diagnosis: 63

Brief outline: Susan experienced a stroke in 2007 while at home with her husband. Her husband called for an ambulance, which unfortunately, did not arrive until much later. While she was waiting for an ambulance she suffered a fall and injured her left side (hip, shoulder, wrist, and arm), these injuries were left untreated while in hospital.

Background: Susan is a 67 year old retired bank clerk supervisor and bed and breakfast owner. Her ethnic background is White British.

Audio & video

 

Susan experienced a stroke in 2007 while at home housecleaning. When she tried to place her foot on the pedal of the vacuum cleaner to turn it on she could not move her foot. She felt strong “pins and needles” in her head and down her left side (less so on the right) and recognised that she was having a stroke. When she called out to her husband she realised that her speech was affected as well. Her husband called for an ambulance, but unfortunately, she waited for quite some time before help arrived. She was hoping to get to the hospital quickly to get what she called “stroke reversal treatment” (thrombolysis) but it turned out that the hospital did not have that particular treatment. While she waited, she suffered a fall and injured her left side (wrist, shoulder, and arm).
 
Susan spent time in the emergency department where she said she felt safe. Upon moving onto the stroke ward, the reality of her situation sunk in. She felt depressed and frightened. It was hard for her to see so many sick people around her and was reminded of the recent death of her Mom. She realised that she wanted to regain her independence so she sought out physiotherapy. She had already regained some speech and wanted to focus on her mobility but was still really weak. With the help of her husband, she sought out rehabilitation therapy. The staff nurse had seen her doing leg exercises for her arthritic knees and fast tracked her to rehabilitation. She did exercises in bed and practiced walking around the bed. She found that using a wheelchair, moving herself around with one hand and both heels (eventually) enabled her to get circulation moving and helped her feel more independent. She progressed to walking before leaving hospital. She felt that her wheel chair was a great aid in this recovery process. In addition to taking an active role in her recovery, she took it upon herself to help and advocate for other patient’s around her who were in need.
 
While in hospital the main focus was on her stroke and not the injuries that she sustained while falling, despite asking repeatedly for help. She said that doctors and nurses all said, “You’ve had a stroke; what do you expect?” No one investigated further.
 
She had mixed feelings about her care in hospital and home. In hospital, she recognised that the nurses on the ward were very busy which made it hard for them to address all aspects of care (e.g., assistance with eating). After she was discharged home she received home visits which she rated favourably but the physiotherapy was not as helpful as her shoulder and wrist injuries were not taken into account. She was also offered home assistive devices, and was most happy about her wheelchair, which allowed her to practice walking on her own safely (e.g., would push the back of her wheelchair and sit down and take breaks when needed). The downside was that she had a hard time accessing physiotherapy after discharge (two week waiting period and even when in place, it was infrequent).
 
She thinks that her stroke was caused by high blood pressure and being overweight. She was very active and regularly engaged in exercise prior to her stroke, but felt that it may not have been the right type of exercise (i.e., not strenuous enough). Susan also suffers from arthritis (which she has in both of her knees) and is currently awaiting surgery.
 
Susan now attends a community gymnasium to try to improve her fitness and build energy. She still experiences lack of energy, but celebrates small gains, and finds humour in difficult situations. She is grateful to her family (husband and daughters) for their support. She no longer runs her own bed and breakfast business, but it remains in the family as her daughter has taken over the business.
 
Susan feels strongly that better liaison between hospital, physicians, and post stroke community services are required including access to on-going physiotherapy (these services can be difficulty to access due to long distances). In addition, she feels that stroke patients and individuals who experience a fall should have their other injuries treated as well as the life threatening condition which brought them to hospital.

 

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