The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted many stroke survivors' recoveries. That's why long-term improvements to stroke treatment and care are more vital than ever.
With parliamentary elections in Scotland and Wales coming up, we're working with people affected by stroke in these parts of the UK in particular, to ensure politicians keep their commitments to prioritising stroke.
Four years ago, Brenna Collie was at home in Strichen, near Aberdeen. She was texting a friend, when her mobile phone slipped out of her hand. She went to pick it up and realised she couldn't.
She stood up, but didn't know how to walk. She tried to call for help but her speech was slurry. Brenna was 14. She was having a stroke.
'I knew something terrible was happening, but it felt like nobody apart from my parents believed I might be having a stroke,' says Brenna. 'They thought I was too young. I was petrified.'
Brenna was taken to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. After diagnosis and her initial treatment, she began therapy to help her to walk again and do day-to-day tasks, like getting dressed and tying her shoelaces.
'The physios were wonderful. I received a high quality of care throughout my recovery, and it made a huge difference to my life after stroke. Without that support, I wouldn't be where I am today.
'Can you imagine how much worse it's been with Covid-19 going on? Not being able to do that or see friends and family would have been a nightmare.'
Despite continuing to experience fatigue, pain and anxiety, Brenna did well at school, and in 2019, won the Scottish Portrait Award's Young Photographer award for a self-portrait depicting the night she had her stroke. She's now 18 and studying Primary Education in Edinburgh.
Brenna wants to make sure all stroke survivors get the right support, no matter where they live. She's working with us in the run-up to the Scottish elections, speaking with MSPs at a virtual event and promoting our Scottish election manifesto. Together, we're asking parliamentary candidates to pledge to continue the stroke improvement work that's happening nationally, so that more people can get the help they need to rebuild their lives.
We also need your support to keep stroke high up the political agenda in:
Northern Ireland - In 2020, we published a report outlining the actions we want decision-makers to take to improve stroke treatment and care. Our campaigners got involved by writing to their local politicians and signing an Open Letter to the Health Minister. As a result, the Health Minister publicly stated that he remains committed to stroke reform.
With your help, we'll continue to lobby the Northern Ireland Government to urgently progress reforms, including improvements to long-term support.
Wales - Welsh Parliament elections are scheduled for May 2021. With health and social care devolved to the Welsh Government, it's vital that we ensure stroke is on their agenda.
The current Welsh Government Stroke Delivery Plan expires in 2022, and we don't yet know what will replace it. A new stroke plan is critical to improve stroke services, so people can access the best possible treatments and support.
You can help us to highlight this issue with your local candidates, so all those elected to the next Senedd understand the importance of a new stroke plan.
Find out more
Hear more from Brenna and read our Scottish election manifesto. You can also support our work in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and our ongoing influencing in England by signing up to our Campaigns Network.
Stroke News magazine
This article is featured in the spring 2021 edition of our magazine, Stroke News. Subscribe to our future editions available in print, on audio CD, or via email.