A MAN whose life was dramatically changed following a stroke has called on a treatment to be made available across the country.

Robert Baldock suffered a stroke last March and was one of just 13 people across Scotland who received a thrombectomy last year.

The 53-year-old, from Dirleton, told the Courier his family were told to “prepare for the worst” after his diagnosis 18 months ago.

Thrombectomy is a highly specialised procedure which involves physically removing the clot that caused the stroke and opening up the blocked artery, and is most effective if done in the first few hours after a stroke. 

The procedure can help prevent significant disability from a severe stroke.

Robert said: “My only option was a thrombectomy. 

“Thankfully, I was able to have the thrombectomy that saved my life. For me, there was no other alternative.

 “I am shocked to hear that I was one of only 13 people who received a thrombectomy in Scotland in 2017 when 600 people that year could have been eligible for the same treatment that I had.

“Recovery has been slow and I have been left with severe communication difficulties. I spent 10 weeks in hospital and a further five months in rehabilitation.

“Looking back, my scariest moment was waiting to find out if I was going to be able to receive a lifesaving thrombectomy and the stark possibility of not surviving if not.

“I now live with acute dysphasia – I know what I want to say but have difficulty at times finding the words – and severe verbal dyspraxia – when the words are there but I have difficulty motor planning to create the appropriate sounds.

“All of this makes communicating really difficult. Often it’s easier for me to draw or write a reply.

“Stroke fatigue has also impacted hugely on my life and those around me have had to appreciate this and allow me time to rest.”

On the day he suffered a stroke, Robert had been in Edinburgh meeting friends and visiting galleries.

Later that evening, the former digital solutions designer began to experience a headache.

He said the pain got worse until by 9pm he felt he had “no control over my body”.

He added: “I couldn’t move my arm or cry out.

“I went to hospital, had tests which came back negative and it was presumed I had suffered a TIA [transient ischaemic attack, often referred to as a mini stroke as the effects only last up to 24 hours].

“I was sent home and told to call the hospital on Monday to arrange a scan. I didn’t get the chance.

“At 10.30am on Sunday morning I suffered and survived a serious ischaemic stroke.

“All I can remember of that morning is the ambulance crew trying to manoeuvre me down the narrow stairs of the cottage with great difficulty. I couldn’t move or speak.

“A scan revealed a large clot had caused my stroke.

“Normally you would have a clot-busting drug to dissolve the clot and restore blood flow to the brain. However, I was told this treatment wasn’t going to be effective for me.

“My family and friends who were with me were told to prepare for the worst. Things didn’t look good at all.”

Now, Robert has teamed up with Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland’s (CHSS) call to give stroke patients across Scotland access to thrombectomy.

Earlier this week, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed it would be next spring before any plan for a thrombectomy service in Scotland was forthcoming.

According to CHSS, the delay in action means that hundreds more stroke patients run the risk of becoming more disabled by their stroke this year.

Jane-Claire Judson, chief executive at CHSS, added: “The 600 people who will miss out on thrombectomy this year and could be left severely disabled after their stroke won’t find comfort in a plan being produced for spring 2019. We all want to see action now.

“Every second counts when it comes to stroke and the Scottish Government must meet this urgent need. They need to resource this service as soon as possible; we want to see a deadline by which thrombectomy will be available in Scotland along with a plan for what patients can do in the meantime.

“Stroke patients in Scotland deserve access to the best treatment.”

Robert added: “CHSS has helped to keep me connected in both group settings and with one-to-one speech and language support, providing me with a dedicated stroke nurse who visits monthly.

“With their support I have been finding out about and buying the communication apps which allow me to express myself.

“One thing I do want other people to know about me and my condition is that my speech and language impairment does not mean I have other intellectual impairments – help me spread the word!

“Just give me the chance and allow me to come back to a point later if I’m having difficulty.

“I would tell others who are in a similar situation to me to take one day at a time.”

Iain Gray, MSP for East Lothian, was “shocked” by the number of thrombectomy procedures that were carried out last year.

He said: “The fact that hundreds of stroke patients who could potentially benefit from the procedure are missing out is deeply concerning.

“We know that swift action is essential for treating those who have a stroke and they should have the best possible care to help their recovery.

“I have already sought to raise this issue with the Scottish Government and will continue to pursue it until stroke patients get the access to thrombectomy they need.”

A Scottish Government spokesman stressed they were “committed” to ensuring people who had had a stroke had access to “the best possible care as quickly as possible”.

He said: “Deaths from stroke have fallen 38 per cent between 2006 and 2015 and our Stroke Improvement Plan affirms stroke as a clinical priority for NHS Scotland.

“We believe that thrombectomy can significantly improve outcomes and quality of life for people who have had an ischaemic stroke by avoiding or reducing the level of disability.

“That is why work is under way to develop a national planning framework for the provision of thrombectomy for Scotland.

“The local provision of thrombectomy services at NHS Lothian is currently being reviewed to improve governance arrangements and we are monitoring progress.”

To back the petition, go to chss.org.uk/thrombectomy