Posted by: ayrshirehealth | March 11, 2015

Plumbing and the meaning of life by @sparklystar55

Plumbers and sparks

In this particular blog I’m going to talk about the thing I am most passionate about in my professional life – plumbing.  PlumbingYes that’s right, pipes and how when they block, burst or simply have no flow then it can have a devastating effect on the person.

In the past when I have suggested to some of my cardiology colleagues that some are plumbers and others are sparky’s they get very upset.  Cardiology‘It can’t be that simplistic and besides nothing is more important than the heart.  If that doesn’t work then you have no life’.

True…. but the brain is a wonderful and at times mysteriously complex organ that defines and controls what life means to a person.

At the heart of stroke is the person.

I decided early in my registrar training that I wanted to spend additional time to become accredited in stroke medicine.  StrokeI was fortunate enough to work in two of the best stroke units in the world right here in Scotland.  Both units were pioneers in the use of ‘clot busting’ medicine to treat a person with a stroke.

Prior to the introduction of thrombolysis stroke was seen as part of the natural way of things for an older person, a life ending event if you will.  Certainly stroke remains the third cause of death in industrialised countries and is the most common cause of permanent disability. However it not only affects older people but young people of working age too.

Time bundleWe talk in stroke about how ‘time is brain’.  We know from studies that the quicker you can open up a blood vessel then less damage can occur.  As I explain to patients and relatives ‘we want to unblock that pipe so we use the equivalent of Mr Muscle (other brands are available) to do that’.

Here in Ayrshire and Arran we have been able to provide treatment for our patients since 2007.  The service has continued to evolve in that time but it is with great excitement and anticipation that we will, for the first time, be able to offer treatment locally 24/7 from April.

To do this we are embracing new technologies and using telemedicine or as one patient referred to it as ‘the doctor on the telly’.

Thrombolysis in stroke saves lives

We are collaborating with our neighbours in Lanarkshire.  Our shared expertise in the assessment and delivery of thrombolysis means both our patient populations will no longer have to travel to the Southern General in Glasgow overnight or on some weekends to have their treatment.  It will be done more quickly and within their local health board.

The initial research claimed that thrombolysis in stroke ‘saved lives’.  I would argue in the broadest sense that it does in fact do just that.  The difference from a person being unable to speak, feed themselves or move one side of their body usually meant a nursing home to see out the rest of their life.  Now it means they may have a mild weakness or perhaps speech difficulty but they are able to work with the therapists and return home.  They are able to live their life.

It is a real privilege to be able to do that for a person.

Stroke thrombolysis however is merely one facet across the whole spectrum of what we do in stroke.  Its positive affects are augmented by several other key things – looking after that person in our HASU’s (hyperacute stroke units) with nursing staff specialist in the care of stroke patients and having a dedicated multi disciplinary team who will start working with a person the day they come into our HASU’s.

Without this team supporting a stroke survivor and their families we are merely technicians with no heart.

I always like to add a quote in my blogs that best sums up what I feel about what I’ve written and I think this one from Teddy Roosevelt is great:

‘Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing’

He’s not wrong there…..

This week’s blog was written by @sparklystar55 (Dr Claire L Copeland), Consultant Physician in Care of the Elderly and Stroke Medicine, NHS Ayrshire & Arran

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