A STROKE survivor from North Berwick is welcoming NHS Lothian’s breakthrough pilot of lifesaving stroke procedures.

Robert Baldock, 55, has led a campaign alongside Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland (CHSS) for patients to have nationwide access to thrombectomies.

He was one of only 13 people to receive a thrombectomy – a highly specialised surgical procedure used to remove blood clots from arteries and veins – following a serious stroke in 2017.

The rare procedure is not suitable for every person who has a stroke but it can reduce disability and it was Robert’s only chance of survival.

Robert, who worked as a digital solutions designer before his stroke, said: “All I can remember of that morning is the ambulance crew trying to move 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 friend Sharon and others who were with me were told to prepare for the worst.

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

“Since my stroke, everything has changed but I survived, and I have learnt to appreciate and savour what I have.

“It’s fantastic to see the pilot service up and running in Lothian.

“We haven’t got the full national service we need yet but this is a big step that will be life-changing for every person that receives a thrombectomy through this service.”

In 2017, the treatment was withdrawn from Scottish hospitals due to capacity concerns.

In the same year, Robert, alongside Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland, set up the Bring Back Thrombectomies campaign, which has been supported by more than 4,000 people.

The campaign gained support from politicians, including ministers, with the Scottish Government committing to introducing a national thrombectomy service.

A major breakthrough came in November last year when NHS Tayside set up a pilot thrombectomy service in the north of Scotland.

A funded partnership with the Scottish Government has also enabled Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland to roll out a training programme across the country called STAT+.

The programme delivers training to nurses who might be involved in the delivery of a thrombectomy.

Health boards including Tayside and Lothian have received training so far.

Humza Yousaf MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care, said: “Despite the challenges of the pandemic, the Scottish Government remains committed to the rollout of a national thrombectomy service by 2023 and has already invested more than £17 million in making this happen.

“I am delighted we are taking another significant step towards this objective, with the launch of a pilot service in the east of Scotland.

“Although I’m glad to say the number of people dying from strokes in Scotland has fallen by more than a third over the last decade, we want to continue striving for better and that means ensuring people have access to the best possible treatments.”

Jane-Claire Judson, chief executive at Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland, said: “At least 600 people would benefit from a national service and, by having this treatment, stroke patients in Scotland will have the best possible chance of living without disability or dependency after stroke.

“It is thanks to inspirational campaigners like Robert that we are seeing progress towards a national thrombectomy service.

“We will continue to campaign together until everyone in Scotland has access to this life-changing stroke treatment.”