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Brian - Interview 08

Age at interview: 77
Age at diagnosis: 77
Brief Outline: Brian had a TIA in March 2010. He felt dizzy and found it difficult to walk, and his vision became blurred. His wife called an ambulance and he stayed in hospital overnight. He has taken part in a TIA research project.
Background: Brian is retired from the ambulance service. He is married with 2 adult children. Ethnic background/nationality' White English.

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Brian had previously had heart problems, including a heart attack in 2002, which led to a triple heart bypass operation in 2003, and atrial fibrillation in 2008. Since then his health had been OK, but one afternoon in March 2010 he was sitting at home when he realised he couldn’t see the TV properly and he felt woozy and strange. He asked his wife to fetch his blood pressure monitor but his blood pressure seemed normal. He tried to get up and move across the room, but he couldn’t walk properly, and it felt as if he were drunk.

Brian’s wife thought something was wrong, particularly given his past history, and dialled 999 for an ambulance. The paramedics did various tests and took him to hospital, where he was kept in overnight and then sent home. At first there was a query as to whether he had had a stroke or a TIA, but it was decided it was a TIA. Before discharge, Brian was asked if he would take part in a research project, and he agreed. Being in the research has involved having MRI, CT and Doppler scans, and doing some tests of mental functioning. He monitors his own blood pressure regularly and takes the readings in for the research staff. Brian feels the research could help other people, but also finds it reassuring that he gets closely monitored as a result of taking part. He likes the feeling that he can ask all the questions he wants to because research staff seem to have more time to spend with you to explain things (though Brian feels his care has been excellent throughout). He encourages other people to ask questions if they don’t understand something.

Brian’s wife Rosemary also volunteered for the research to be a healthy member of the control group. She has also been interviewed (see TIA09).

There is some family history of stroke, including Brian’s mother, who was seriously disabled as a result of stroke and never came out of hospital. One of Brian’s elderly neighbours has also had a TIA and his sister-in-law has had a stroke, so he talks to them about their experiences, but does not go to any support groups. It is now four months since the TIA and he has had no further symptoms. Mostly he tries to push it to the back of his mind that he has had a TIA and not let it worry him. It has not really affected his life. Immediately after the TIA he was asked not to drive. His advice to others is to follow professional advice but not to panic.

Brian’s own symptoms were rather different to those shown in the FAST campaign (facial weakness, arm weakness or numbness and speech problems), but he and his wife knew something was wrong because of past experience of other medical conditions and knowing others who have had a stroke. He feels it’s important that people should feel able to dial 999 to get help quickly if they think something is wrong, but he also would not want to make people feel too anxious. It is a difficult balance to get right.
 

 

Brian felt that everyone he had come into contact with during his treatment had done a wonderful job

Brian felt that everyone he had come into contact with during his treatment had done a wonderful job

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In all honesty, the medical staff that I have come across and been involved with I think have done a wonderful job. Hence I’m still here talking to you [laughs]. I told my GP, after I’d been in and had my heart bypass, I could not fault the service from the consultant down to the cleaner. And I still stand by that. In this area particularly I think we’ve got wonderful hospitals and staff. And I don’t think you’d better it anywhere. Certain aspects, I think, are better than most. But I’m very proud of the medical staff we have in this area and I think I always will be.

 

 

Brian’s consultant said he’d had a ‘small stroke’ which he thinks means the same thing as a mini...

Brian’s consultant said he’d had a ‘small stroke’ which he thinks means the same thing as a mini...

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Who actually told you it was TIA? Was it the ambulance staff, or was it in the hospital?
 
Brian' In actual fact the consultant at the hospital told me it was a small stroke [laughs]. So it was actually the research staff. I mean, a small stroke can mean anything, the same as a mini-stroke, or a TIA.
 
Rosemary' In actual fact that paper that come with you out of the hospital had got a “query TIA/ or stroke. It had got a question mark.
 
Brian' Yeah.
 
So basically the research team kind of changed the diagnosis when they came to see you?
 
Brian' Yeah.
 
Mm, interesting.
 
Brian' Yeah, I mean, all three terms were used when I was actually in hospital overnight. Small stroke, TIA, and syncope. So, you know, you take your pick [laughs].
 
Does that worry you, not - that sort of lack of …?
 
Brian' No.
 
No? OK.
 
Brian' No. Because I know it’s nothing serious, then, let’s put it that way. In my own mind it’s, it’s just an inconvenience at that time, sort of thing. But to some people it could be extremely frightening.

 

 

Brian was approached about taking part in a research study while he was on the ward. He took part...

Brian was approached about taking part in a research study while he was on the ward. He took part...

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And at what point where you asked if you’d be willing to take part in the TIA research programme?
 
This was the day after I’d had the TIA, before they actually discharged me from the hospital. They came and had a talk with me etc, and said that I could be discharged, and the doctors moved away. And then one of them came back, the consultant came back, and said they were doing the sort of stroke consultation and he thought I would be a suitable candidate for it. Would I like to go ahead? And I agreed, because I can’t do a lot to help other people now as I used to, when I was on the ambulance service, but perhaps by providing information, whether it be sort of vocal information or physical information, it could help people in the future. And this is why I agreed to go ahead with it.
 
Were you thinking about any personal benefit that you might get from it as well, or was that not really a factor for you?
 
It wasn’t really a factor, but afterwards I thought, “Well, they’re going to keep a closer eye on me anyway now, so, what’s the point of refusing?”

 

 

Brian is philosophical about his illness and finds ways to distract himself from thinking about...

Brian is philosophical about his illness and finds ways to distract himself from thinking about...

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I’m inclined to be perhaps a realist, thinking that one man’s meat is another man’s poison, as it were [laughs]. Everybody has different opinions and I feel, you know, that when my time comes and the good Lord beckons, that will be it.
 
It’s just one of those things, it’s no good worrying about. It just sort of hastens things if you worry unnecessarily.
 
I think this is one of the biggest problems that we have, people do worry, very much so, when that only sort of complicates matters, makes matters much worse than they really are. I know when I went in to have my heart operation there was another chap in the ward. We went in sort of the afternoon prior to the day we were having the op, and this chap he was in there and he was terrified. And although I wasn’t particularly happy I tried to cheer him up, [laughs] sort of put his mind at rest, to a degree. And I think it helped him a bit. It probably helped me, really, because it took my mind off of what I was thinking
 
So with the TIA, do you sort of try to forget about it most of the time?
 
Yes.
 
Or is it always at the back of your mind?
 
No, I try to push it right to the back. As I say I’m more inclined to be thinking about my neighbour and how she’s progressing. She does live on her own. Although she’s got sort of family, they’re dispersed all over the country and they can’t always sort of get to her. But I think the family know, you know, that we’re here for her as well, my wife and I. And that helps them a little as well. I hope, anyway.

 

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