A stroke survivor is asking people not to ignore ‘feeling unwell’ after she spent three days in intensive care fighting to recover from a stroke she didn’t realise she was having.
Mandy Rylance, 60, was taken ill in September 2020 at Buzz Bingo in Barnsley where she has worked for 39 years. She said: “On the day, I’d been at work since 8am. At 11.20am I went to check my emails and my son rang me, then at 11.50am I started to think ‘I don’t feel too good.’
“I didn’t have a headache or anything but I just got on the floor and touched my face and it didn’t feel right. One of the staff found me and phoned an ambulance. I became aware that I couldn’t talk properly. I just kept thinking ‘I don’t feel very well. If I stay on the floor for ten minutes I’ll feel better.’
“I was telling the staff to go back to work and not to worry, I would be alright. Like a lot of people, I thought it would just go away. I was not even aware I was having a stroke. If I’d been at home I would have just laid on the bed and would never have got out of it again.”
Mandy, who helps manage a team of 35 staff at work and is also a first-aider, was blue-lighted to Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield and spent three days in intensive care where she was given intravenous blood clot treatment.
She was then transferred to a specialist stroke ward where she stayed for 12 days. She said:
“I couldn’t use my left arm and lost some sight in one eye. When you’ve had a stroke, everything’s strange. It feels like you’ve been abducted by aliens.”
When she returned home to Royston in Barnsley she was cared for by South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust’s award-nominated Integrated Community Stroke Rehabilitation Service. Mandy, who has a son and is grandma to a five-year-old, said:
“The team never missed a day with me and helped me through exercises to build up strength in my arm and leg. I’ve got a walking stick now and although I drop things all the time, I’ve managed to do a phased return to work and am now back full-time which is great as I love my job.”
Mandy is now also a member of the South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Integrated Stroke Delivery Network’s Stroke Survivor and Carer Panel. She said:
“I want to spread the word that I didn’t expect stroke to be like what happened to me. The symptoms are not always as dramatic as you might sometimes see them on TV – for example in the ‘Act F.A.S.T.’ adverts based on Face, Arms, Speech, Time.
“People in Barnsley don’t come to hospital as quickly as they should when they’re having a stroke. It might be something about being ‘tough’ which is a Barnsley tradition. But stroke is treatable and the sooner you receive treatment, the better the outcome. Don’t put off seeking medical care.”
Data shows the average time from onset of stroke symptoms to first medical presentation for Barnsley patients is approximately 15 hours which compares with a national and a regional average of 3.5 hours.
Barnsley Emergency Medicine Consultant James Griffiths said:
“We know that the people of Barnsley are stoic and sometimes don’t want to bother anyone but it is vitally important that, if they notice symptoms of a stroke – facial droop, arm or leg weakness or speech difficulty – they must dial 999 ASAP.
“This will give them the best chance of receiving the best possible care, which might involve being admitted to a Hyper Acute Stroke Unit in Doncaster or Wakefield. As with most conditions, getting the right patient to the right specialist at the right time is crucial in ensuring we get the best possible outcomes for Barnsley stroke patients.”
Stroke strikes every five minutes in the UK – and can change lives in an instant. Yet the pandemic saw a significant fall in stroke admissions and 1,413 excess deaths from stroke between 21 March 2020 and 22 January 2021.
Mandy’s story is available to watch on the South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Integrated Stroke Delivery Network website – https://sybics.co.uk/stroke