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Martyn - Interview 17

Age at interview: 64
Age at diagnosis: 57
Brief Outline: Martyn initially experienced a short episode of numbness and tingling in his arm which his doctor suspected was a small TIA, and was told to take aspirin. A few days later he experienced a further small TIA. Since that time he has had no further symptoms and feels that these two minor episodes have given him the opportunity to prevent anything more serious happening to him.
Background: Martyn is married with two adult children. He is a retired head teacher. Ethnicity; White British.

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 Martyn was at a work meeting one day when he felt a strange tingling sensation in his arm, and his hearing was also affected. He was unsure what was wrong and so adjourned the meeting and later that day rang his GP who thought it sounded like a very small TIA. He was advised to take aspirin, which he did. A few days later he saw the GP who was going to arrange for him to have some tests and investigations, but before that was put in place Martyn experienced a further episode whilst he was in bed having breakfast. This time he experienced visual disturbance and was unable to speak coherently to his wife, but again, the symptoms subsided soon afterwards and after a short sleep he woke up and found that things had returned back to normal. 

 
Martyn attended the stroke unit at his local hospital as an outpatient, where a number of tests and scans were carried out and it was confirmed that he had experienced two minor TIA’s and he was advised to continue taking aspirin on a daily basis. He also now takes perindropil to regulate his blood pressure, and statins to reduce and regulate cholesterol levels. Since that time he has had regular appointments with his GP to ensure that his condition and medication regime is monitored. 
 
Martyn feels lucky that both episodes were relatively minor and he sees them as a warning sign that enabled him to undertake preventative measures to ensure that he remains in good health and is able to enjoy his retirement. These experiences later prompted Martyn to volunteer to help out at a local stroke support group, as a way of helping others who had less fortunate outcomes than his own. He also found that working with stroke survivors helped him gain a sense of perspective and reinforced his feelings that he had been lucky that his TIA had been relatively minor. 
 
 

After having two small TIAs diagnosed Martyn regularly visited the GP to have his blood pressure...

After having two small TIAs diagnosed Martyn regularly visited the GP to have his blood pressure...

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I carried on with the medication. The medication changed slightly. Saw the GP once every three months maybe. The blood pressure was higher than it should have been, high, it was higher than was reasonable so she changed the blood pressure medication.
 
Oh, that’s right, I had a, the surgery gave me a blood pressure monitor for a week to do three readings a day, so I had 21 readings in the week and it was obviously high, it was about 100, average of I think 160 over 100 which was a little too high for comfort I guess on the long term, long term basis. So I was changed onto two blood pressure pills, like 2mg perindopril and 10mg of, of felodopine and I was taking, I started taking those, I’m still taking those. Been taking them since the last seven or eight years. And I’ve been taking the aspirin. I still take the aspirin. Oh that’s right, and I was prescribed a statin as well, and obviously I had blood tests, at the various times I had blood tests and as a, the result of that test they decided my, my cholesterol was higher than, it wasn’t too high, it was about five or six or something, but they wanted it a bit lower so I went onto 10mg of pravastatin and ever since then I’ve had an annual blood test and I see the doctor twice a year for blood pressure, once a year for the blood test and they check over the blood test results. So I’m monitored on that basis by the local surgery. My cholesterol is quite good. My the bad, the LP, whatever it is, the bad cholesterol is very low, and, I’m sorry, and the good one is higher so that is fine. The blood pressure is very well monitored and controlled and that’s quite acceptable. So no nasty episodes since.
 
I’m being monitored. Which I’ll, which would not have happened, which I guess would not have happened had the TIAs not happened.
 
So you’re getting an extra bit of MOT. [laughs] That’s …
 
It could be argued therefore the TIAs were, well I can’t say they were a good thing but in a sense, they in a sense they, it was a warning and since then the monitoring has been very good and, yeah, I’m very happy with the way I’m looked after.

 

 

Martyn’s wife helps and encourages him to keep to a healthy diet, and he feels that a good diet...

Martyn’s wife helps and encourages him to keep to a healthy diet, and he feels that a good diet...

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Jean was, Jean was very concerned obviously when it happened and has been very supportive in me maybe following the right sort of diet. So I guess we’re more careful in this house now on what we eat, bearing in mind we’re all cholesterol, got cholesterol at the back of our minds I suppose. And she’s very, she’s happy that I follow what you might call a healthy lifestyle, so I try to follow a healthy lifestyle. I hope it doesn’t sound too sanctimonious but this is what we’re advised to do and certainly it makes you feel good, doesn’t it?

 

 

Martyn has now retired and has more time to himself. He and his wife have joined the local sports...

Martyn has now retired and has more time to himself. He and his wife have joined the local sports...

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I try to follow a healthy lifestyle. I hope it doesn’t sound too sanctimonious but this is what we’re advised to do and certainly it makes you feel good, doesn’t it? So we exercise. I exercise at the swimming pool. Jean exercises cleaning the house. So I don’t clean the house, she cleans the house. I go swimming. And that’s fine.
 
Is that a change …
 
And it works …
 
… from how things were before? Did you not maybe do quite so much of that sort of thing before? Or …
 
I did used, I used to swim and I used to love, and I, I walk because I love walking, I always have done etc. But I certainly do more of it now, well I’ve retired as well so I’ve got the chance to go swimming maybe four, five times a week. And I’ve been, like, so I joined the local swimming club. Club? Well sports centre. And so I trot off there.

 

 

Martyn explained “It’s not a permanent thing – and thank God for that”

Martyn explained “It’s not a permanent thing – and thank God for that”

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I’ve always called it TIA.
 
Right.
 
Which as I understand it is the, it’s temporary, it’s passing.
 
It’s a matter of minutes or hours maybe but not, not long, it’s not a permanent thing. And thank God for that.

 

 

Martyn had two TIAs, the first one affected his hearing and he had tingling feelings in his arms,...

Martyn had two TIAs, the first one affected his hearing and he had tingling feelings in his arms,...

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I was at work in - I was a head teacher in Surrey and I was we were having a meeting about Christmas preparations and I had sort of a funny sort of tingling in my right arm and my hearing changed and I felt it as a weird sensation, I thought, “What’s happening to me?” I didn’t really know. So it, what I did was, I stopped the meeting and we adjourned and later I rang the doctor and the doctor said, “That might have been a TIA. Take a junior aspirin.” As they were called in those days, 75mg. So I went and got some aspirins from Boots in town and did that. And then, and that was that.
 
And then a few days later I saw the GP and we talked about it and I, she then was going to do some investigations. I was retiring at this time, and this was in December. And about two weeks late, two weeks later, so I retired towards Christmas and then I was just, just, just turned Christmas, just into the New Year, beginning of January I think, it was January 03 in bed one morning, no problem, woke up, got up, got breakfast. Back to bed to eat my porridge, usual practice. Strange, looking at the TV in the bedroom I had like a split vision whereby part of the TV was down there and part was up there. So it was like it was on a sort of fault line.
 
And then Jean, my wife and I were talking as you do and she couldn’t get a straight answer out of me and I realised I couldn’t give a straight answer to her questions and I wasn’t being awkward, I had difficult, I just couldn’t give a straight answer. And that was, lasted for, only for a minute or so, quite short, very quick. As was the first episode, very quick and very transitory. And then I went to sleep. And quarter of an hour later I guess, I woke up and I was fine.

 

 

Martyn experienced a short episode of numbness and tingling in his arm and shoulder whilst at...

Martyn experienced a short episode of numbness and tingling in his arm and shoulder whilst at...

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Well, it was funny, we were planning the Christmas carol service I think and I must have either read something or been aware of TIAs and mini-strokes and all the rest of it, and these vascular problems and so, me, my consciousness was heightened of it and I didn’t really, I’m still not actually sure whether it was a TIA or that I was sitting very badly on the chair, and I was chairing a small meeting, there were four or five of us in my office and my body was twisted right round. And my shoulder, and all my weight was on my right arm. And the tingling I had was in my right arm. That I do remember. But the hearing was strange, so maybe it was a TIA, maybe it wasn’t, I don’t know.
 
I rang, I rang my local surgery, yeah. I worked in [local town] and I live in [different local town] and I contacted the surgery which is down the road here at [local area] and put me through and he said, “Could be a TIA, take an aspirin”.

 

 

Martyn feels lucky that nothing more serious happened to him and sees the TIA as a warning sign

Martyn feels lucky that nothing more serious happened to him and sees the TIA as a warning sign

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I think I was very lucky. I look upon it as a sort of warning sign really. And as the doctor said at the time, “You were very lucky Martin [own surname] it was just a sort of an episode, two episodes but fairly minor and it could have been far, far worse. And now you know what to do to you’re taking medicines etc, medication to prevent anything nasty in the future”. So I think I was very, very lucky indeed.

 

 

After having a TIA Martyn began helping out as a volunteer at the local stroke group. “It made me...

After having a TIA Martyn began helping out as a volunteer at the local stroke group. “It made me...

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What happened was, you see, I thought, “Well, I’ve been lucky here” And so about a year later, a year later? No six months later there was an advertisement in the paper for volunteers at a local stroke support group and I went along as a volunteer. And I spent about four or five years there every Monday or, then it became Wednesday I think, afternoons for two hours just helping, helping, helping out. Making the tea and just being with and talking to and listening to and doing things with and helping along. which I quite enjoyed. It made me realise how lucky I was and made me realise how hard some people have to fight and work to get back their previous, what they were previously capable of. Em, yeah.
 
Is that something that you were prompted to do by, through your own experience?
 
Yeah.
 
Do you think it, I mean, so it sounds like it was quite helpful to be mixing with other people who’ve kind of had similar but maybe worse experiences than you, yourself?
 
Possibly. Probably, I don’t know if it was helpful or detrimental. I was doing it really, I mean, I found it, I found, selfishly I found it quite interesting and useful from my own point of view but I hope I was doing something worthwhile for other people.
 
What do you mean by interesting and useful from your point of view?
 
Well made me, gave me a yardstick as to where, as to where I was on the sort of vascular attack, you know, spectrum.
 
Yeah.
 
Like people who have had really bad stroke can’t do anything at all really can they? And they’re wheelchair bound etc, etc, etc.
 
And how does that, does that play into how you feel about yourself in the future as well, at all?
 
I think it, what’s happened is that having had the two TIAs has made me quite wary and quite, and very interested in all such things to do with vascular attacks, vascular problems. So I now, I think I know now far more than I ever did ten years ago before it happened about strokes, mini-strokes, TIAs and all the rest.

 

 

Martyn says having a TIA was a ‘useful experience’ because he now knows how to avoid anything...

Martyn says having a TIA was a ‘useful experience’ because he now knows how to avoid anything...

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No, I don’t, no. I, no I get a, I nearly cried, not cried, watered, tears came to my eyes when we were talking about the, the two episodes seven or eight years ago because that was a, that, looking upon it, I was, it was a tearful experience from many points of view. It wasn’t, it wasn’t a happy experience but on the other hand it was, it could, we call it a useful experience because we now know what to avoid in the future.

 

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