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Yvonne - Interview 41

Age at interview: 54
Age at diagnosis: 54
Brief Outline: Yvonne was driving to work when she found that her vision was becoming fuzzy and her limbs felt numb. When she got to her workplace she felt very unwell but carried on working albeit with difficulty. The next day she went to work again but felt similarly unwell. At a routine GP appointment the next day she mentioned her symptoms and was referred to a TIA clinic, but as she was unaware what TIA meant she delayed the appointment because she was on annual leave from work for a few days. Eventually
Background: Yvonne is married and has an adult daughter and 2 young grandchildren. She is a police officer. Ethnic background' White British

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 Yvonne was driving to work one day when she found her vision was disturbed and her limbs felt numb. At work she found it difficult to concentrate and was feeling distinctly unwell but she carried on working, as she did the following day. At a routine GP appointment soon afterwards she mentioned the symptoms she had experienced and the doctor referred her to the TIA clinic but did not explain what that was, and Yvonne did not think to ask, particularly as she was still feeling under the weather at that time. The next day the clinic contacted her with an appointment but because she was unaware of the meaning of TIA Yvonne delayed her appointment until she returned to work from annual leave a few days later. A brain scan was organised and eventually she was given the diagnosis of minor stroke. 

 
Yvonne felt that the way she was told that she had in fact had a minor stroke and that there was some small amount of brain damage was insensitive and had taken her by surprise as up until that time nobody had mentioned the word “stroke”.
 
Since having the TIA Yvonne has found it difficult to adapt to the limitations that she now experiences especially as she was very fit and active prior to the stroke and now feels she has be more careful. For some time after the event Yvonne felt worried about going anywhere alone in case she might experience another episode. She also felt extremely tired for some weeks afterwards. Yvonne has worked as a police officer for the past 23 years and enjoys her job immensely but is now having to consider leaving the profession because of the demanding and sometimes stressful nature of the work. She has found it difficult to contemplate giving up her profession and struggles sometimes to come to terms with the changes that she realises she is going to have to make to her life. 
 
Yvonne had a heart condition diagnosed a year or so prior to her minor stroke, and her husband has also been diagnosed with cancer so there have been a lot of adjustments to make over recent times. She finds it particularly surprising to have found her health has become such an issue at such a relatively young age and is now more acutely aware of the importance of living life as fully as possible. 
 
 

Yvonne wasn’t happy with the way her doctor casually mentioned that she had some brain damage and...

Yvonne wasn’t happy with the way her doctor casually mentioned that she had some brain damage and...

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I went in on Thursday, spoke to the specialist who at the hospital who was very good, very reassuring and said, “No, I don’t think it I think, don’t think you’ve had a stroke, I think you’ve had an episode.” And that’s the first time I’d kind of heard the word stroke, which was a bit of a shock. And anyway so he arranged for me to have a, a, a brain scan, but said we had to wait, because I hadn’t sought medical attention immediately we had to wait so that if there was any swelling or bleeding or whatever it, it had gone down.
 
So I came home and said to my husband, “Oh, it’s fine, you know. It’s, it’s nothing to worry about.” Started to get exceedingly tired but then I’d been complaining about tiredness before, because I’d previously been diagnosed with a heart condition. So thought, “Oh, it’s just all part and parcel really.” Then I went and had my brain scan which obviously showed up that I had had a stroke and I must admit I was, I wasn’t happy with the way I was told wasn’t the same consultant that I’d seen previously. He started going through my scan pictures on the computer with his back to me and then said “Oh if you look here, that’s the damage, that’s the damage to your brain, that’s how we can tell you’ve had a stroke.” And, “Have you got any questions?” And at that stage I thought, “Gosh I’m sure I’ve got thousands of questions but I’m, I really can’t think of any right now.” My husband asked a few questions about driving and, and stuff like that. And anyway then I came home, burst into tears and said, “I don’t believe this has happened.” You know, “I’ve gone from being Mrs Superfit, to being diagnosed with a heart condition to now having a stroke. All within 18 months.” You know, I’m really not coping with it at all.
 
It felt as if he was almost dismissive as if it was a very minor thing and, you know, kind of, “I don’t know why you’re really bothering us with it.” It felt, and I said to my husband afterwards, I said, “That’s actually quite a major thing in my life now, you know, going with everything else that’s happened over the last, you know, 18 months,” I said, “and to tell me as if he telling me as if I had a, a cold…” I mean, obviously he comes across it all the time and he comes across far more serious cases, and I understand that, but I just feel that he could have been a little bit more subtle in the way that he told me.
 
Just to actually point at a picture of my brain and say, “Well, there’s your brain damage and that’s how we know that you’ve had a stroke.” You know, you mention brain damage and people think, “Oh my God, you know, what, what brain damage?” You know, because brain damage to you means somebody who can’t, you know, perform certain functions of things. And, you know, just to actually say, well actually it’s, it will repair itself, there wasn’t any of that, you know.

 

 

Yvonne has had to consider leaving her job and has thought about doing some voluntary work.

Yvonne has had to consider leaving her job and has thought about doing some voluntary work.

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I’ve spoken to the Force doctor and given all my symptoms and all the things that have happened, he suggested that possibly it’s time to, to knock it on the head and say, you know, he said, “You’re never going to be a front line officer again.”
 
So were you, at that time you were on the front line or …
 
No, I was a front line up until I was diagnosed with a heart condition and then I …
 
Right.
 
… came off front line.
 
It’s been a bit of a problem thinking about it. But I thought I might start to do some voluntary work just to start with to see exactly what I can and can’t do.
 
And also I’m not sort of, my hours are not set if I do voluntary work because that’s where I’m finding it so difficult. And that’s where I was finding it difficult at work because I would go into work absolutely exhausted. And then I’d have to be at a meeting at eleven o’clock and that would be until two o’clock and I couldn’t just get up and think, say what, “I’m really, really tired and I’m not taking this on board and I need to go home now.” You know, because you just don’t do that do you? [chuckles]
 
Yeah, so doing the voluntary stuff might give you a little bit of a different set up…
 
Yeah.
 
..and scenario to be able to do that kind of more flexible...
 
Yeah, because if I go in and after a couple of hours I feel really … as long as I explain the situation before I go and just after a couple of hours say, “Look, I’m really tired now, you know, I’ll try and come in again tomorrow.”

 

 

Yvonne was given a ‘stroke pack’ when she left hospital which she found reassuring

Yvonne was given a ‘stroke pack’ when she left hospital which she found reassuring

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They gave me a stroke folder …
 
Right.
 
… which was kind of full of, you know, what to do and how, when to seek medical help and things like that. Which I’ve read cover to cover more than once.
 
And do you find it useful?
 
It is useful, yes.

 

 

Yvonne was given a folder of information when she was at the hospital. She found it reassuring to...

Yvonne was given a folder of information when she was at the hospital. She found it reassuring to...

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They gave me a stroke folder which was kind of full of, you know, what to do and how, when to seek medical help and things like that. Which I’ve read cover to cover more than once.
 
And do you find it useful?
 
It is useful, yes. Yes.
 
And reassuring? Or…
 
It’s reassuring that you’re not the only person in that position because it’s kind of got, you know, just little pictures of people, younger than yourself who’ve also suffered with it and it’s kind of like, “Oh right, actually well maybe I’m not as old, you know, as, as I feel sometimes now that this has happened to me.”
 
You know, people in their 20s and 30s saying, you know, and describing the symptoms and actually people have ignored them and I think, “Well, actually maybe I wasn’t so stupid as I think I was in ignoring them.”
 
Do you think it’s a common thing that people do ignore those kinds of symptoms?
 
I think they do, yes.

 

 

Yvonne said during the episode she wasn’t able to think clearly enough to realise she needed to...

Yvonne said during the episode she wasn’t able to think clearly enough to realise she needed to...

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I, you know, there was no mirrors, I wasn’t looking at anything and I, and I was just, and I guess my brain wasn’t really working properly. I was, kind of not following through on things, you know.
 
Thinking, “Yeah, I do feel really strange but, hey I’ll be OK in a minute.” You know, it’s that sort of that sort of feeling.

 

 

Yvonne didn’t seek help because she had started taking new medication for another health problem...

Yvonne didn’t seek help because she had started taking new medication for another health problem...

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I came home and I said to my husband, “You know, I, I felt really strange today.” And told him what had happened. And he said, “Are you sure you’re OK?” And I said, “Yeah, I think so, I think it must be the medication.”
 
Felt awful the next day. But again went to work. Came back. And I was sitting here in the evening and all of a sudden I got the sensation of pins and needles in my left arm and my left leg. Passed over in a couple of minutes so I thought, “Oh, it, it’s definitely the medication and I’m now getting used to it.” Had a doctor’s appointment on the Monday so I thought I won’t bother the doctor, I’ll just mention it, you know, when I go in on Monday.

 

 

Yvonne was referred to a TIA clinic but did not know what TIA meant and so delayed her...

Yvonne was referred to a TIA clinic but did not know what TIA meant and so delayed her...

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Had a doctor’s appointment on the Monday so I thought I won’t bother the doctor, I’ll just mention it, you know, when I go in on Monday.
 
Mentioned it to her eventually [laughs] and she said, “Ohh, I think I need to refer you to the TIA clinic.” I said, “Yeah, OK fine.” Not knowing what TIA clinic meant and kind of not asking really. And I came home. It was about half past seven in the evening as it was a late appointment. Came home. Phone rings at nine o’clock the next morning to say, “Can you come in tomorrow?” I got, “Sorry? What’s, you know, what’s the rush?” And eventually I said, “No, I’m on annual leave at the moment my first day back at work tomorrow, so can I come in on Thursday?” And they said, “Oh, OK.”

 

 

Yvonne almost collapsed when she arrived at work, but carried on working for the rest of the day....

Yvonne almost collapsed when she arrived at work, but carried on working for the rest of the day....

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I was driving to work, and I noticed that my vision had gone funny. It was getting very fuzzy around the edges. But… I have suffered from migraines in the past so I just thought maybe that was what was starting. Then my left leg went numb. My left arm went numb. Fortunately I was driving an automatic so it didn’t really matter, I didn’t have any gears to change or anything. I was starting to get a bit worried by that stage and then I felt as if my mouth had dropped. I managed to get into the police station car park. Sort of abandoned the car really, it wasn’t really parked. Kind of fell out of it thinking, “What the hell’s wrong with me?” You know, I’m just, I blamed it on the medication, because the doctor had just changed my blood pressure medication and I thought, “Oh I’m obviously reacting badly to it.” I managed to get to the back door of the police station and there’s quite a high step and I couldn’t get over it. And I remember thinking how stupid I was and how stupid I must look. And the typical thing of looking round and thinking, “Is there anybody watching me?” Eventually a colleague came a long and opened the door for me. I went through the back door and I thought, “I don’t think I can manage the stairs.” And actually stood against the wall thinking, “Well, if I’m standing against the wall if I collapse then I will just slump down the wall rather than, than pitch forward.”
 
Eventually thought, “I’ve got to get upstairs, I need to get to my office. I need to sit down.” I went upstairs in the lift. Got to the floor, went through the doors. Walked through the report writing room. And all my colleagues turned round and said, “You look awful. Why are you here?” And I said, “Oh, I’ll be fine. Don’t worry, I’m OK. Don’t worry about me. “ And I went into my office and actually worked for the rest of the day feeling awful. Having to go back over things, I couldn’t remember things. People were asking me to do things and I was thinking, “What did that person just ask me to do?” And I felt dreadful, because it’s just not me.
 
So, I came home and I said to my husband, “You know, I felt really strange today.” And told him what had happened. And he said, “Are you sure you’re OK?” And I said, “Yeah, I think so, I think it must be the medication.”
 
Felt awful the next day. But again went to work. Came back. And I was sitting here in the evening and all of a sudden I got the sensation of pins and needles in my left arm and my left leg. Passed over in a couple of minutes so I thought, “Oh, it’s definitely the medication and I’m now getting used to it.”
 
Had a doctor’s appointment on the Monday so I thought I won’t bother the doctor, I’ll just mention it, you know, when I go in on Monday.
 
Mentioned it to her eventually [laughs] and she said, “Ohh, I think I need to refer you to the TIA clinic.” I said, “Yeah, OK fine.” Not knowing what TIA clinic meant and kind of not asking really. And I came home. It was about half past seven in the evening as it was a late appointment. Came home. Phone rings at nine o’clock the next morning to say, “Can you come in tomorrow?” I got, “Sorry? What’s, you know, what’s the rush?” And eventually I said, “No, I’m on annual leave at the moment my first day back at work tomorrow, so can I come in on Thursday?” And they said, “Oh, OK.”

 

 

Yvonne’s GP referred her to a TIA clinic, but as she’d never heard the term before she didn’t...

Yvonne’s GP referred her to a TIA clinic, but as she’d never heard the term before she didn’t...

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Had a doctor’s appointment on the Monday so I thought I won’t bother the doctor, I’ll just mention it, you know, when I go in on Monday.
 
Mentioned it to her eventually [laughs] and she said, “Ohh, I think I need to refer you to the TIA clinic.” I said, “Yeah, OK fine.” Not knowing what TIA clinic meant and kind of not asking really. And I came home. It was about half past seven in the evening as it was a late appointment. Came home. Phone rings at nine o’clock the next morning to say, “Can you come in tomorrow?” I got, “Sorry? What’s, you know, what’s the rush?” And eventually I said, “No, I’m on annual leave at the moment my first day back at work tomorrow, so can I come in on Thursday?” And they said, “Oh, OK.”
 
So I went in on Thursday, spoke to the specialist who at the hospital who was very good, very reassuring and said, “No, I don’t think it I think, don’t think you’ve had a stroke, I think you’ve had an episode.” And that’s the first time I’d kind of heard the word stroke, which was a bit of a shock.

 

 

Yvonne was able to access a rehabilitation centre through her workplace which allowed her to do...

Yvonne was able to access a rehabilitation centre through her workplace which allowed her to do...

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It’s really scary actually. As I say, I’ve always been sort of super fit. I’ve got my own gym at home, you know. Was always going in there four or five times a week. Haven’t been able to touch it. I used to go swimming three or four times a week. And that’s all gone now. You know, I’ve, I’m scared to exercise I guess, unless there’s somebody else there.
 
I actually went into rehab, rehabilitation centre and I could exercise because I knew there were medics on hand so that if anything happened, you know, and, and people were watching me all the time and would come up to me and say, “I think you’ve done enough now.” “Step off.”
 
So it’s a bit reassuring to have somebody else …
 
Absolutely.
 
… overseeing what you’re doing. And that, how, how did you get to go to that rehab centre then? I mean, …
 
I’m a police officer and it’s, it’s a police charity so …
 
Oh, right. So, I mean, were you offered any, anything from, in, along those lines by your doctors?
 
No.
 
No.
 
No, nothing at all. I mean, basically I went to see the TIA nurse and she just said, “You, you need to lose a little bit of weight.” And I smoke an odd cigarette and she said, “You need to knock that on the head. And I'm, I’ll phone you in a couple of months.” And I actually haven’t had that phone call so …

 

 

Having experienced a TIA Yvonne finds it difficult to decide when she should be mentioning a...

Having experienced a TIA Yvonne finds it difficult to decide when she should be mentioning a...

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I mean like when I get the numbness when, when I’m sitting in awkward positions, I get up and move around. And if it doesn’t go off, then I would suggest that I would probably think, you know, maybe I need to be calling an ambulance now.
 
But you still, it sounds like you’d fear, you’d find it quite difficult to call an ambulance for a very minor symptom…
 
Hmhm.
 
What you would consider to be a minor symptom?
 
Yes.
 
Is that the root of it really?
 
Yes.
 
Yeah.
 
Yeah.
 
But do you think that, I mean do you, do you, do you think that the ambulance people would be cross with you for calling them out if it wasn’t a…?
 
Not at all [laughs].
 
No, not really?
 
I mean, I’ve worked with them loads, you know. Obviously in my job and…
 
I guess when we’re feeling like that we’re not very rational sometimes are we?
 
No, we’re not. No. And I think my job hasn’t helped me in that respect because I know sometimes when I’ve gone to jobs I’ve thought, “Oh for goodness sake why have you called us, you know, this is just not a police matter.” And then, you know, and I think I know they feel like that sometimes and I think … .
 
Yeah, I suppose it’s a similar sort of service, isn’t it, in that respect? Yeah.
 
Yes, yes. So.

 

 

Yvonne felt the consultant was insensitive when he gave her the diagnosis and showed her an area...

Yvonne felt the consultant was insensitive when he gave her the diagnosis and showed her an area...

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Can you just say a little bit more about that? You know, about, about how it actually made you feel when he was talking to you?
 
It felt as if he was almost dismissive as if it was a very minor thing and, you know, kind of, “I don’t know why you’re really bothering us with it.” It felt, and I said to my husband afterwards, I said, “That’s actually quite a major thing in my life now, you know, going with everything else that’s happened over the last, you know, 18 months,” I said, “and to tell me as if he telling me as if I had a, a cold…” I mean, obviously he comes across it all the time and he comes across far more serious cases, and I understand that, but I just feel that he could have been a little bit more subtle in the way that he told me.
 
Just to actually point at a picture of my brain and say, “Well, there’s your brain damage and that’s how we know that you’ve had a stroke.” You know, you mention brain damage and people think, “Oh my God, you know, what, what brain damage?” You know, because brain damage to you means somebody who can’t, you know, perform certain functions of things. And, you know, just to actually say, well actually it’s, it will repair itself, there wasn’t any of that, you know.

 

 

Yvonne’s husband has cancer and so they support each other through difficult times. At first he...

Yvonne’s husband has cancer and so they support each other through difficult times. At first he...

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He wrapped me in cotton wool and then he put bubble wrap round. When I first, you know, when it first happened, I, he wouldn’t allow me to do any housework. If I got up to make a cup of tea, “I’ll go and make the tea. I’ll do this, and I’ll do that.” And eventually I had to sit him down and say, “Stop. You can’t do this. I’ve got to do some things for myself.” Or I got sneaky and started doing things while he was out at work. You know, like getting the hoover out and thinking, “I’ve still got to live.” You know, I can’t just sit there, [husband]. Oh sorry, and do nothing, you know.

 

 

Yvonne had to cut down on exercise and be more careful. She found it hard but has found ways...

Yvonne had to cut down on exercise and be more careful. She found it hard but has found ways...

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The only thing I found difficult is not being able to exercise. So. But I’ve had to try and find other ways of getting around that. So I will go for a walk for twenty minutes.
 
So you are still exercising but it’s different?
 
Yeah.
 
Yeah.
 
It’s different sometimes.
 
It’s interesting you say that because a lot of people that I speak to sort of say, “It’s really hard to have to do exercise, you know, because I haven’t really done much in my life before.”
 
Yeah.
 
And you’re saying it’s really hard not to exercise [laughs].
 
It is. [laughs] It is. But I’ve just had to find different things to do. You know. I want to go.
 
Just not to over exert.
 
Yeah. Yeah. So.
 
Work out what your boundaries are I suppose or limits.
 
Yeah. I mean, I’ve got an exercise bike out, outside so I said to my husband, “I think in a few weeks I’m going to start getting on that and just having, you know, put the resistance really low and just kind of build it maybe.”
 
Because I suppose, I mean, the exercise thing actually it makes you feel good in other ways doesn’t it?
 
Absolutely.
 
So for you to have to cut back on it must be difficult.
 
Yeah.
 
Yeah.
 
Yeah. It’s been horrendous to be honest with you.

 

 

Yvonne experienced symptoms whilst driving to work but thought it was an adverse reaction to some...

Yvonne experienced symptoms whilst driving to work but thought it was an adverse reaction to some...

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I was driving to work, and I noticed that my vision had gone funny. It was getting very fuzzy around the edges. But I have suffered from migraines in the past so I just thought maybe that was what was starting. Then my left leg went numb. My left arm went numb. Fortunately I was driving an automatic so it didn’t really matter, I didn’t have any gears to change or anything. I was starting to get a bit worried by that stage and then I felt as if my mouth had dropped. I managed to get into the police station car park. Sort of abandoned the car really, it wasn’t really parked. Kind of fell out of it thinking, “What the hell’s wrong with me?” You know, I’m just, I blamed it on the medication, because the doctor had just changed my blood pressure medication and I thought, “Oh I’m obviously reacting badly to it.” I managed to get to the back door of the police station and there’s quite a high step and I couldn’t get over it. And I remember thinking how stupid I was and how stupid I must look. And the typical thing of looking round and thinking, “Is there anybody watching me?” Eventually a colleague came a long and opened the door for me. I went through the back door and I thought, “I don’t think I can manage the stairs.” And actually stood against the wall thinking, “Well, if I’m standing against the wall if I collapse then I will just slump down the wall rather than, than pitch forward.”
 
Eventually thought, “I’ve got to get upstairs, I need to get to my office. I need to sit down.” I went upstairs in the lift. Got to the floor, went through the doors. Walked through the report writing room. And all my colleagues turned round and said, “You look awful. Why are you here?” And I said, “Oh, I’ll be fine. Don’t worry, I’m OK. Don’t worry about me. “ And I went into my office and actually worked for the rest of the day feeling awful. Having to go back over things, I couldn’t remember things. People were asking me to do things and I was thinking, “What did that person just ask me to do?” And I felt dreadful, because it’s just not me.
 
So, I came home and I said to my husband, “You know, I felt really strange today.” And told him what had happened. And he said, “Are you sure you’re OK?” And I said, “Yeah, I think so, I think it must be the medication.”
 
Felt awful the next day. But again went to work. Came back. And I was sitting here in the evening and all of a sudden I got the sensation of pins and needles in my left arm and my left leg. Passed over in a couple of minutes so I thought, “Oh, it’s definitely the medication and I’m now getting used to it.”

 

 

Yvonne carried on working until her doctor got the results of her scan and told her she shouldn’t...

Yvonne carried on working until her doctor got the results of her scan and told her she shouldn’t...

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I carried on going to work. Absolutely exhausted. Just, I would come home in the evening and just slump on the settee. My husband would say, “Would you like to come to the pub for a drink?” “No, I’m too tired.”
 
Housework went, I just didn’t bother with it. I would do it on the weekend which then meant that I was tired on the weekend. And I was just like a zombie.
 
Were you working?
 
I was working, yes. I was working eight hours a day. And, although my boss was very good and kept saying, “Don’t come in for eight hours if you’re too tired.” Unfortunately I’m not the sort of person who can walk away from a job. If I start one I’ve got to finish it. So, I carried on working. And then my doctor obviously got the result of the scan and phoned me up and said, “What are you doing? Why are you at work? Aren’t you tired?” I said, “I’m absolutely exhausted.” I said, “I don’t know how I’m keeping going to be honest with you because I’m so tired.” And she said, “Well, I suggest you go home now.” And she signed me off sick there and then. And I went and told my boss and he was very good, you know, just said, “Off you go. Do you want me to get somebody to drive you home, I don’t think you should be driving.

 

 

Yvonne was diagnosed with a TIA six weeks after it happened and so was never officially told not...

Yvonne was diagnosed with a TIA six weeks after it happened and so was never officially told not...

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Because I wasn’t diagnosed until six weeks after the stroke, apparently if you have a stroke then you hadn’t ought to drive for the four weeks and you should tell DVLA in that four weeks. But of course that has all ready gone past by the time I was diagnosed. My husband’s actually stopped me from driving because I, I did a couple of stupid things while I was behind the wheel. And he stopped me from driving.
 
But there’s nothing official that has said that you have, you can’t drive?
 
No, no.
 
I mean, how do you feel about that whole area because it‘s, it’s quite a sort of grey area isn’t it?
 
I think I’m … it’s quite scary. I mean, the fact that I had it whilst I was behind the wheel. And I felt quite out of control which obviously when you’re behind the wheel is not a good thing to be. So, you know, I think maybe you, you shouldn’t drive, until you feel within yourself actually confident that you would recognise the early signs. Stop immediately, etc etc.
 
But as you said it’s quite difficult to recognise, isn’t it?
 
Exactly. Yeah.
 
So, I mean, do you think it should be left how it is sort of up to the individual or do you think there should be some more…
 
Yeah, I think there should be something more…
 
..guidelines around that?
 
..definitive because four weeks is, you know, as I say I wasn’t diagnosed until after the four weeks was up. So kind of, should I have told DVLA?
 
I have not told DVLA? You know, it’s really quite difficult. And nobody, there’s nobody there to actually say, “Well, yeah, maybe should tell them.” You know, maybe we should have something like if you’ve had a stroke, you should tell DVLA within six months of you actually having that stroke. Or three months or whatever.
 
Because I guess going back to driving as well it’s a difficult decision to make whether or not you feel … I mean, you may feel you can or you know, just what the risks are.
Well I, I mean a couple of short journey so over the last couple of weeks and felt totally unconfident. I curbed the car, which is something I don’t do normally. And so I’ve said to my husband, “Maybe I’m not quite ready for it yet.”

 

 

Yvonne was driving to work when her vision became distorted and her legs started to feel numb

Yvonne was driving to work when her vision became distorted and her legs started to feel numb

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I was driving to work, and I noticed that my vision had gone funny. It was getting very fuzzy around the edges. But I have suffered from migraines in the past so I just thought maybe that was what was starting. Then my left leg went numb. My left arm went numb. Fortunately I was driving an automatic so it didn’t really matter, I didn’t have any gears to change or anything. I was starting to get a bit worried by that stage and then I felt as if my mouth had dropped. I managed to get into the police station car park. Sort of abandoned the car really, it wasn’t really parked. Kind of fell out of it thinking, “What the hell’s wrong with me?”
 
You said you were driving when you first felt something going on, and you, and you did say fortunately it was an automatic car. I mean, what would think might have been the case, you know, what do you think might have happened if it hadn’t been an automatic?
 
I did …
 
Do you think you would have been able to carry on driving?
 
I, no I wouldn’t ….
 
Have an accident or something?
 
… have been able to carry on. No, I would have had to stop the car somehow. Which would have been very difficult because obviously my left leg I couldn’t lift it so I wouldn’t have been able to, you know, put it on any of the pedals. And also my left arm, I couldn’t lift, so I wouldn’t have been able to pull on the handbrake or anything. And also it’s, it was very heavy traffic. You know, we’re talking about half past seven in the morning going into [local town] so …

 

 

Yvonne doesn’t think there is enough public information about TIAs and minor strokes, and that...

Yvonne doesn’t think there is enough public information about TIAs and minor strokes, and that...

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I don’t, yeah, I don’t think enough’s known about it. I mean, obviously you see all the stroke adverts on the television and it’s not quite like that even though it’s a stroke it’s, it’s not as severe as a stroke, if that makes sense.
 
And I didn’t know there was, such a thing as a mini-stroke or, I just thought a stroke was a stroke. And the fact I guessed that I could function so quickly was, well it can’t have been a stroke then.
 
So you would associate stroke with some kind of disability?
 
Yes.
 
And not think that something that you had is similar to that?
 
I think people need to be more aware that is such a thing as a minor stroke and a TIA and the symptoms are not as severe. But if you know somebody and they are looking any way not their normal self or, you know, maybe reacting differently, not speaking properly kind of, stuff like that. It should raise alarm bells and maybe you should be thinking, “Well maybe I ought to call an ambulance.”
 

 

 

Yvonne’s husband has cancer and so they support each other through difficult times. At first he...

Yvonne’s husband has cancer and so they support each other through difficult times. At first he...

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He wrapped me in cotton wool and then he put bubble wrap round. When I first, you know, when it first happened, I, he wouldn’t allow me to do any housework. If I got up to make a cup of tea, “I’ll go and make the tea. I’ll do this, and I’ll do that.” And eventually I had to sit him down and say, “Stop. You can’t do this. I’ve got to do some things for myself.” Or I got sneaky and started doing things while he was out at work. You know, like getting the hoover out and thinking, “I’ve still got to live.”
 
You know, I can’t just sit there, [husband] Oh sorry, and do nothing, you know.
 
 
I was just thinking about you, you know, you said your husband’s been, is ill as well at the moment and you’re obviously having to support him …?
 
Hmhm.
 
… as well, how, how does that work, with the two of you having to sort prop each other up in certain ways? Is that difficult?
 
It is difficult, yes because obviously he has down days, I have down days and we, we kind of try to dress it up so that we don’t’ put stress on the other one. And sometimes I think we get extra stress because you know we try and not stress the other person.
 
You know my husband had bad day yesterday and then I spent the whole day saying , “Are you ok, is there anything I can do for you?”. And if I’m having a bad day at the same time, I tend to think more on, “I just won’t say anything.”
 
And then maybe in a couple of days’ time, it will make my day even worse because I’ve, I’ve kind of built up to having a bad day.
 
So it puts a bit of stress on the relationship in some ways?
 
It does, yes.
 
Yeah. Understandably. Yeah.
 
But, I mean, we’ve been together for 27 years so.
 
So you’ve got a lot of strong foundation?
 
.. we’ve got used to each other. Yes [laughs].

 

 

Yvonne found that it could be difficult talking to friends about what had happened to her and how...

Yvonne found that it could be difficult talking to friends about what had happened to her and how...

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When I say to people, “Oh, I’ve had a stroke.” “Oh my God, you can move.” And, “You’ve recovered really well.”
 
Do you think there’s an age association as well that people tend to associate it with older people?
 
Yes, I do. Yes, definitely. You know, because a lot of people have said to me, “Oh you, but, you know, you’re, you’re really young to have stroke.” And I thought, “Well, you know, children have strokes.”
 
It’s just one of those things, you know. If your body decides you’re going to have one then you’re going to have one.
 
I suppose what, one of the things that it makes me think about, you know, when you were talking about your own sort of self-identity is that you have to kind of then build that into your story about yourself, if you like, about how you talk to your, about yourself to other people?
 
Yeah.
 
And deal with their responses?
 
Absolutely.
 
Is that, do you find that quite difficult?
 
It is quite difficult and sometimes you just don’t bother telling people. And, you know, people that you don’t’ know very well will say, “How are you?” and you, you tend to think, “I'm fine thank you.” “Yeah, everything going well?” “Yeah, fine thank you.” I don’t, I don’t, I don’t really want to bother telling people, “Well actually, no, I’ve been quite, you know, quite poorly really.” [laughs].
 
Do you find sometimes, I mean, quite often people ask you how you are but they’re not really …
 
They’re not really interested.
 
.. wanting to hear the details [laughs]?
 
No, exactly, yeah, so yeah, all my good friends and that, you know, have been quite shocked. And, I mean, my husband was telling one of his friends and she turned round, when he said, “Oh, Yvonne’s had a mini-stroke,” she was, “Oh right, OK, whatever.” And then the next time he spoke to her, she said, “Well what did it consist of?” And, and he told her and she said, “Oh I didn’t realise you got symptoms like that.”
 
“I thought it was just kind of like a headache.”
 
So, I mean, do you think that there’s a need for more general awareness?
 
I think there is.

 

 

Yvonne was told she had a small area of brain damage ‘as if it were a very minor thing’

Yvonne was told she had a small area of brain damage ‘as if it were a very minor thing’

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It felt as if he was almost dismissive as if it was a very minor thing and, you know, kind of, “I don’t know why you’re really bothering us with it.” It felt, and I said to my husband afterwards, I said, “That’s actually quite a major thing in my life now, you know, going with everything else that’s happened over the last, you know, 18 months,” I said, “and to tell me as if he telling me as if I had a, a cold…” I mean, obviously he comes across it all the time and he comes across far more serious cases, and I understand that, but I just feel that he could have been a little bit more subtle in the way that he told me.
 
Just to actually point at a picture of my brain and say, “Well, there’s your brain damage and that’s how we know that you’ve had a stroke.” You know, you mention brain damage and people think, “Oh my God, you know, what, what brain damage?” You know, because brain damage to you means somebody who can’t, you know, perform certain functions of things. And, you know, just to actually say, well actually it’s, it will repair itself, there wasn’t any of that, you know.

 

 

Yvonne says call an ambulance if you see somebody experiencing symptoms that you aren’t sure about

Yvonne says call an ambulance if you see somebody experiencing symptoms that you aren’t sure about

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I think people need to be more aware that is such a thing as a minor stroke and a TIA and the symptoms are not as severe. But if you know somebody and they are looking any way not their normal self or, you know, maybe reacting differently, not speaking properly kind of, stuff like that. It should raise alarm bells and maybe you should be thinking, “Well maybe I ought to call an ambulance.”

 

 

Yvonne found antidepressants helped her to come to terms with the changes in her life

Yvonne found antidepressants helped her to come to terms with the changes in her life

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I’ve had to take, start taking antidepressants.
 
Oh right.
 
Because I wasn’t coming to terms with it, to be fair.
 
Yeah. And do you feel that’s kind of helping or is it something that you want to resist?
 
Certainly, yeah, it seems to be. My, my mood seems to be more even now. I’m, I was in a deep trough bit basically.
 
Saying … I mean, in fact it, it’s changed me because when I, when it first happened to me I kept saying, “Why me? I’m really fit. I’ve never hurt anybody in my life, why me?” And now I say, “Well, why not me, why should it be somebody else.”

 

 

Yvonne found it difficult to come to terms with but realised she needed to pull herself out of it...

Yvonne found it difficult to come to terms with but realised she needed to pull herself out of it...

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Anyway, came home and, I mean, it’s had a massive impact because I think for the first few weeks you’re scared it’s going to happen again and you’re scared to go anywhere. I was scared to drive. I was, I was scared to go anywhere on my own. You know, unless my husband was there. When my husband went to work I was, sit here thinking, “Oh I, I’d better not do anything.” And then I thought, “Well, this is ridiculous, you know. You’ve got to get on with the rest of your life. I was still suffering a lot of tiredness. I’m still not back at work. But, hey, at least I’m alive.

 

 

A few weeks after her TIA Yvonne still had moments when she seemed tired, confused or not quite...

A few weeks after her TIA Yvonne still had moments when she seemed tired, confused or not quite...

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I mean, you know, a, a couple of weeks after it happened I was coming out of a charity shop I’d just been to, to take some stuff in and my husband said, “Oh I’ll wait for you outside” because I was chatting to the woman in there. And I came outside and all of a sudden my husband almost shook me. And I said, “Oh, oh what’s the matter?” And he said, “You looked horrible. Your face was blank, you didn’t actually know where you were. And you were just about to step into the road.”
 
And how, I mean, was this all around about the same time?
 
Yes.
 
So it was over, over the course a few, a couple of weeks then …
 
Yeah.
 
..that it was still kind of feeling a bit weird?
 
Hm, hm.
 
And how long did it take for you to, I know you were feeling tired after that …
 
Hm.
 
… but how long did it take for those kinds of sort of confused moments …
 
Probably three or four weeks.
 
… to go away. Really?
 
Yeah.

 

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