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Rosemary - Interview 09

Age at interview: 73
Brief Outline: Rosemary's husband Brian had a TIA in March 2010. She realised something was wrong and called an ambulance. Brian took part in a research programme on TIA and Rosemary also took part as a healthy volunteer in the control group.
Background: Rosemary is a retired secretary. She is married with 2 grown-up children. Ethnic background/nationality' White English.

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Rosemary’s husband 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 Rosemary 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.

Given his past history, Rosemary was worried that something was wrong, and dialled 999 for an ambulance. The GP and Brian’s heart doctors had always said that if ever they had any worries they should not hesitate to call an ambulance. The paramedics took Brian to hospital, where he was kept in overnight and then sent home. He was told he had had a TIA. Before discharge, Brian was asked if he would take part in a research project, and he agreed. Rosemary also volunteered to be a healthy member of the control group. She has had a blood test, had her blood pressure measured, given her family history, and taken part in some tests of mental functioning. This includes tests such as being given a sentence and then asked to remember it a few minutes later, or spelling a word backwards. This helps the researchers compare the responses of people who have had a TIA with those of people who have not, to assess how far TIAs affect people’s brains.

Rosemary has found the research easy to do and very interesting. She would not want to take part in a trial which involved taking different drugs, but anything like this which is easy to do she would be happy to take part in. She also likes the fact that she is able to go along to Brian’s research appointments and listen or ask questions. The research staff are very friendly and make you feel like an equal. She says it has made her feel ‘I wasn’t an outsider any more, I was involved with it.’ It is reassuring to know he is being so closely monitored, as well as thinking it may help others in future.

Rosemary’s advice to other family members is that if they are at all worried by any changes or symptoms they notice in a relative, they should not hesitate to seek help, even if the person themselves does not think it is anything important. Sometimes the person may not realise what is happening, so you should trust your own instincts and call an ambulance if you are worried.

Brian was also interviewed (Interview 08).
 

 

Rosemary found that the research staff were easier to talk to and had more time than routine...

Rosemary found that the research staff were easier to talk to and had more time than routine...

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I think with everything like that, the more you know the better. But then there are people that don’t want to know, because they’re scared of what can happen. But as far as I’m concerned, I like to know what’s going on, for myself and for family.
 
And how have you found the members of the research team that you’ve seen?
 
They’ve been great. You know, it’s like a friendly atmosphere. You don’t feel as if you’re in a clinical environment. They make it so friendly, chatting away, not only about the research and everything, but on a personal level as well, that you know, every day-to-day things that go on. So that they make you feel at ease, you know, not as if you’re in a clinical environment at all.
 
Husband' They talk with you rather than to you.
 
Yes, I would say that when you’re talking with them , they’re talking with you, not to you, not you know, sometimes you can feel that someone is sort of towering above you and you’re the little one down on the floor, but this is not. It’s just as if you’re sat in normal conversation.

 

 

Rosemary described the onset of symptoms when her husband experienced his TIA ‘as if he was drunk...

Rosemary described the onset of symptoms when her husband experienced his TIA ‘as if he was drunk...

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We’d been out in the afternoon and came back, and it was a wet afternoon, so we came in and settled down, had a meal. My husband sat down and went off to sleep, in rather a deep sleep. And he woke up and he put the television on to watch the evening news and about seven o’clock, as it was finishing, he looked as if there was something wrong with him, and I said, “Are you all right?” And he said, “My head’s gone a bit funny. My eyes are funny. Everything’s gone sort of muzzy.” So, having experienced him having a heart attack, I began to think, “Is it something with the heart?” And he went to move and couldn’t get out of the chair. So I said, “What were you going to do?” He said, “Take my blood pressure.” So I said, “Well, I can do that.” So I got the blood pressure machine and took that, and that was quite normal. And he then said was it hot in the room? And I said, “Not particularly. It’s just comfortable.” And he said he felt very hot and sort of not co-ordinating properly. And he then got up to move, because his chair’s quite near the radiator, so he moved across the room to the settee where I’m sitting, and he had a job walking across the room. It was just as if he was drunk, sort of wavering about walking.

 

 

Rosemary feels it’s very important to seek help for someone when they are experiencing...

Rosemary feels it’s very important to seek help for someone when they are experiencing...

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I think very important to sort of notice what’s going on, if someone is having an attack of any kind, is that the person it’s happening to quite often will say, “Look, it’s nothing. I, leave it. Let’s see what tomorrow’s like.” But, in my opinion, don’t do this. If you’re worried, concerned that something’s happening do seek help straight away.

 

 

Brian’s wife Rosemary agreed to take part as a healthy volunteer or ‘control’ in the research...

Brian’s wife Rosemary agreed to take part as a healthy volunteer or ‘control’ in the research...

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And I found this very good with the research programme, because I was able to go as a controller, because I haven’t suffered any heart problems or stroke problems. And I found that I didn’t panic over anything at all, and I would, my advice is to anyone else who experiences the same thing, do not panic but don’t hang about waiting. Get on to the paramedics to come out.
 
And with this, with this research programme going on, I was able to go along, answered a questionnaire, did the same sort of test as my husband was having done, and I don’t know what the outcome was, whether I was better at the answering the questions they put, or whether he was better than me. But it gave a sort of in-look as to how someone who hasn’t experienced any strokes or heart problems, and compare it with someone who has.
 
And I think a very good idea is for a wife, husband or partner to be involved so that you can ask questions, and know what might happen in the future and what to be aware of. And while we’ve been on this I’ve found that they’ve been very helpful in answering any questions that either of us have asked.
 
Right. So it’s a kind of a route into getting extra information for you, as well as helping them.
 
Yes, I think it is. Yes, that they can find what’s going on with, in different people, and also that those that are affected can get the information that they require and not being kept in the dark.
 
Do you think that’s different being part of a research project? Do you get more information, more time?
 
I think, yes, you do, because, normally, if you accompany someone on a normal sort of interview or a check-up then you haven’t got the same opportunities to enquire over things.

 

 

As a healthy volunteer in TIA research, Rosemary had just one visit, which involved mental...

As a healthy volunteer in TIA research, Rosemary had just one visit, which involved mental...

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They were mental functioning tests, mainly, sort of they would give you a word, and you had to make connections with that word, or there was a word, they would give you a word to spell, and you spelt it as normal and then you spelt it backwards.
 
What other kind of tests were there? Did you have the MRI scan?
 
No, they didn’t do any physical tests. It was mainly mental and asking your background, family background, what your parents died of, at what age, whether you had siblings and whether they suffered any heart or stroke problems. And so that I think they were building up a picture of each side of the family.
 
Blood tests, did you have any blood tests?
 
Yes, I did have blood tests. They did blood tests and blood pressure. And I think I think that was that was all the physical tests, was the blood tests and the blood pressure.
 
Right. And for control participants, was it just one visit or are you still--
 
No.
 
--involved?
 
It was one visit for the controller. And you’re welcome to go along when the patient goes back for any tests or interviews and they like you to sit in on it.
 
Right, but they’re not going to do any further tests with you?
 
Not as far as I’m aware.
 
No, just that.
 
But they said, anything that , now I’ve gone into the research programme, anything that happens with my health through my own GP will be recorded so that they keep a sort of watch on anything that might happen in the future.
 
Are you happy about that? Sometimes people worry about their data being shared with other people.
 
No, I’m quite happy, because I think if it helps for future patients, then it’s a good thing. You know, it’s not, it’s not like its being put in a newspaper or something like that, not worldwide. It’s kept more or less confident anyway. It’s confidential.

 

 

Rosemary phoned 999 for an ambulance when her husband (a former ambulance man) was taken ill - ...

Rosemary phoned 999 for an ambulance when her husband (a former ambulance man) was taken ill - ...

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Rosemary' And I would say that in my experience I’ve found that the paramedics were very good, treatment in the hospital was A1, and I couldn’t fault anything that’s gone on at all. Everyone had been most helpful.
 
Was it frightening at the time it was happening, or did you feel fairly calm?
 
Rosemary' No, I wasn’t frightened. I was quite calm over it, which surprises me because I always thought I would panic over anything like that. But no, I remained quite calm, and I think probably this comes about more because we’ve been involved with medical procedures because my husband was in the ambulance service for many years. And probably we, I wouldn’t panic knowing some of the things that go on, but to someone who is not familiar with medical procedures they might panic over it. But my advice is try not to panic, be calm, and it’s a lot easier.
 
That’s interesting. I suppose, yeah, the fact that you had that sort of family history of the ambulance service might mean that you trust the ambulance service more, you know, when you, when you think, “Where do I get help?” they maybe your first port of call, when perhaps they might not be for other people. I don’t know?
 
Rosemary' I don’t know. I’ve always thought, yes, you know, if it was something that I thought was urgent yes, but with past history it’s been that the hospital and our GP have said, “Don’t hesitate, just get onto the nines.”
 
Yeah, it’s a difficult balance, isn’t it, because sometimes you hear people saying there is sort of inappropriate use of ambulances, and then other times people saying, “Oh, no, you should call 999 straight away”. I think people are often left feeling a bit unsure whether something is appropriate or not or?
 
Brian' As a little input there, I think you would probably find that the ambulance service, i.e. paramedics, would prefer to come out on a call where eventually they were not required, than not be called and something serious happen, which could have been prevented.
 
Rosemary' Yes, you do hear of people calling an ambulance when it’s inappropriate, but I would think most people would realise whether it’s something that they ought to call for or something that’s it’s not really necessary. You know with an accident that you need to call them, but with things happening in the home, normal medical things, then, you know, perhaps someone just getting a bad headache, you don’t need to call an ambulance unless it goes on for several hours. That, that’s my advice is that you should know whether it looks like something serious or something that will go away.

 

 

Rosemary finds the research staff really friendly, and feels she’s been treated as an equal. She...

Rosemary finds the research staff really friendly, and feels she’s been treated as an equal. She...

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

 

And how have you found the members of the research team that you’ve seen?
 
Rosemary' They’ve been great. You know, it’s like a friendly atmosphere. You don’t feel as if you’re in a clinical environment. They make it so friendly, chatting away, not only about the research and everything, but on a personal level as well, that you know, every day-to-day things that go on. So that they make you feel at ease, you know, not as if you’re in a clinical environment at all.
 
Brian' They talk with you rather than to you.
 
Rosemary' Yes, I would say that when you’re talking with them , they’re talking with you, not to you, not you know, sometimes you can feel that someone is sort of towering above you and you’re the little one down on the floor, but this is not. It’s just as if you’re sat in normal conversation.
 
Rosemary' I think the staff, I think, you know, on the whole, they know just what to say to people. If you are not sure on something, do question it. And also to have the chance to go on it, I know there are some people that would feel, “This is not for me. I don’t want to be involved.” But if you can help, thinking of other people that might need it, do. If you get the chance, go on the research programme. It’s, it doesn’t take up a lot of time, not for yourself. I mean I spent, I think, possibly an hour with them, with the tests I had done, and I’m not required any more, but I can go along with my husband to just to see how his progress is going. And also I think, with a research programme, the patient is being kept a close watch, and I feel really confident over that, that if there was something that’s not quite right, they’re going to pick it up.
 
It might sound an odd question, but did you enjoy taking part?
 
Rosemary' Yes, I did enjoy it. I found it very interesting, because of the questions that were asked.
 
Brian' Illuminating.
 
Rosemary' And I felt that I wasn’t an outsider any more, that I was involved with it.

 

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