‘Don’t write off a funny turn...it could be a mini-stroke’

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A Stickney man recovering from a type of stroke is urging people not to risk their lives by dismissing the early signs of the condition as a ‘funny turn’.

Bob Simmonds suffered a mini-stroke – but was completely unaware of what had happened until days later when he received a correct diagnosis at Pilgrim Hospital.

His condition struck him unawares while he was shopping in Boston with wife Gill.

“I just started to feel unsteady on my feet and then had double vision, so when we got home I went straight to bed,” explained Bob, 67.

Bob’s GP visited him at home the next day and diagnosed an inner ear problem. But when there was no improvement over the weekend the doctor came out again. Following a consultation with a colleague at Pilgrim, Bob was sent to A&E. After four days in the stroke unit and a number of scans it was confirmed he had suffered a mini-stroke.

“I took a fair bit of convincing that’s what it was,” said Bob. “They initially said it could be a brain tumour which terrified my wife as both our fathers died of brain tumours. Thankfully it wasn’t that.”

The scan revealed Bob had suffered a blockage in the small part of the brain at the back of his neck. Despite being left with pain in one leg, double vision and trouble remembering some words and names, Bob says he has made a ‘remarkable recovery’.

He is now urging others to be aware of symptoms of a mini-stroke – known as a transient ischaemic attack (TIA).

“Mine were not the usual stroke symptoms. If you start to get a wobbly gait and funny vision it’s a warning sign and you must get it further investigated straight away,” he said.

A recent report from the Stroke Association shows more than a third of people suffering a TIA dismissed it as just a ‘funny turn’ - and only one in five called for an ambulance.

Simon Cook, regional head of operations for the Stroke Association, East Midlands, said: “The greatest risk of having a major stroke is in the first few days after a mini-stroke. However, for many people it doesn’t feel like an emergency as the symptoms are brief or mild. Too many mini-stroke patients delay calling 999 when their symptoms start and instead choose to book a GP appointment.”

He added: “There’s nothing small about mini-stroke. It’s a medical emergency. When the symptoms start, you should call 999 and say you may be having a stroke. Urgently investigating and treating people who have a minor stroke could reduce their risk of having another stroke by 80 per cent. Even though the symptoms may disappear, there might be damage to the brain, so you need to see a specialist.”

The symptoms of a stroke or mini-stroke usually come on suddenly. Other symptoms, sometimes associated with TIA, can include weakness or numbness on one side of the body, loss of vision or blurred vision in one or both eyes, memory loss, confusion or a sudden fall.

l For details visit www.stroke.org.uk/factsheet/transient-ischaemic-attack