'Stroke affects every area of your life, and that of your family. Research is the only way to reduce deaths, improve recovery outcomes and quality of life.'
We want to help as many people as possible live the best lives they can. One of the key ways we do this is by funding research into more effective treatments, rehabilitation and after-stroke care.
Since her stroke in 2011, Ann Bamford has taken part in several of our projects and patient involvement groups and is as passionate about stroke research as we are. She works with researchers, including Dr Adrian Parry-Jones, to ensure that people affected by stroke are involved in developing projects with the potential to save and rebuild lives.
Ann first met Adrian after she had a haemorrhagic stroke (bleed in her brain). 'I was at the dentist and suddenly felt like my head had exploded,' remembers Ann. 'Dr Parry-Jones was one of the amazing team who treated me in hospital. I felt very safe in his care. He helped me understand what was happening to me.'
Around 1 in 10 strokes are caused by a haemorrhage. Unfortunately, because this type of stroke is less common and more severe than those caused by a blockage (ischaemic stroke), research into its treatment has fallen behind that of ischaemic stroke.
Recognising this significant gap in our research knowledge, we fund researchers like Adrian to investigate new emergency treatments for haemorrhagic stroke.
'After any injury, you get inflammation - it's the body's way of trying to contain the injury,' says Adrian. 'But when this happens in the brain after a stroke, it makes things worse. However, studies show that blocking inflammation can improve recovery.
'We wanted to test to see if anti-inflammatory drugs could reduce swelling and inflammation in the brains of haemorrhagic stroke patients. But just as we were beginning clinical trials, the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic stopped our work.'
The pandemic has hit stroke research hard. A severe drop in charitable income has halved our research budget. This combined with social distancing and researchers returning to frontline NHS work has meant that almost three-quarters of the stroke research projects we fund have had to pause.
'Stroke Association funding is critical to my work,' says Adrian. 'The pandemic has held us back. This is frustrating as every delay means more lives are being destroyed and lost.'
Ann agrees. 'The charity's support for research is vital, and has been a constant in my life since my stroke. I wasn't able to return to my job, but helping Stroke Association researchers gave me confidence and purpose.
'I know I'm lucky to be alive. But I cannot begin to describe the long, hard slog of trying to rebuild your life following stroke.
'I still struggle with cognitive impairments. I can't always think and speak in a logical way. I bump into things because I don't see them. And my feet don't go where I think they're going to go, even after all this time.
'Treatment and care for all types of strokes has changed greatly since 2011 because of stroke research. But this has been put on the back-burner during the pandemic. It must come back to the forefront because any prospect of improving recoveries would have a massive impact on the lives of future patients and their families.'
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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.