We're at a turning point for stroke in Wales. The Welsh Government's Stroke Delivery Plan ends in 2021, so we're calling on them to develop a new national, strategic plan outlining their approach to stroke care for the future. This will help to ensure stroke remains a priority in Wales, so services for all those affected by stroke don't fall behind other parts of the UK.

We recently helped to lead an inquiry into stroke care in Wales and published a report with recommendations to the government for improving access to life-changing treatments, such as thrombectomy.

Thrombectomy is a new procedure that involves physically removing a blood clot from the brain. It can vastly improve the chances of a good recovery. However, hundreds of people miss out on treatment every year as the procedure isn't routinely available in Wales.

Stephen Attwood, 39, from Bridgend had to go to Bristol for a thrombectomy after his stroke in 2017. 'When I found out later that thrombectomy isn't available in Wales, it was a scary thought. I got lucky - my stroke was on a weekday morning. If it had happened on the weekend, in the middle of the night or a holiday period, I wouldn't've had the procedure and might never have been able to speak again.

'Thrombectomy should be available to everybody whether they're in England, Wales, Scotland or Ireland – it shouldn't be potluck. If there's a chance to get that clot out of your brain, it needs to happen, because in the long run, it'll save on NHS resources.'

Our report also highlights the need for improvements to long-term stroke care, including better physiological support for stroke survivors.

'The emotional side of stroke has had a big impact on me,' said Stephen. 'While I was in hospital, I couldn't tell people what had happened to me without crying uncontrollably. Getting upset all the time was very strange because I wasn't really an emotional person before, and I found it quite stressful.

'Then there were other strange things going on in my brain - the dreams, lack of sleep, anxiety and depression. And the worry I'd have another stroke.

'Unfortunately, I didn't get much support – apart from the stroke nurse in Bridgend, who kept in touch with me. She didn't have to, it's not her role – she did it out of care, which I think is amazing. I had a visit from the Stroke Association too, which was reassuring.

'But when you're by yourself, and you can't think straight because you're so tired, it's difficult not to feel alone – you feel like you're falling apart, even though physically you're ok.

'I'm doing better now. I still think about what happened to me every day, and the emotional effects are still there but I'm controlling them. But it would have been good to have had support – whether it was just talking or medication – because it did get quite difficult. To me, it's as important to look after the mental health side of things as the physical.'

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Stroke News magazine

This article is featured in the summer 2020 edition of our magazine, Stroke News. Subscribe to our future editions available in print, on audio CD, or via email.