If I had not seen Professor Tony Rudd at Guys and St Thomas’ NHS Trust I may never have discovered the cause of the stroke I had out of the blue in 2010. It was he who insisted I should have a ‘bubble’ test to find out if I had a little known heart condition called a PFO (Patent Foramen Ovale) which may have inadvertently allowed a clot to pass through the hole to my brain.
His diagnosis was spot on so it does not surprise me that he is now not only National Clinical Director for Stroke in England but is being awarded a CBE for his services to stroke care. Well deserved I say. Without his diagnosis I would not have had the amazing operation to close the hole which I hope will protect me from a further stroke.
Nowadays, thanks to Rudd’s doggedness in improving stroke care for all of us Londoners, some 95 per cent of stroke patients in the capital are seen in one of eight hyper-acute stroke units (HASUs), where they are assessed using the latest imaging technology and given clotbusting drugs if needed. Survival rates are 54 per cent higher than elsewhere.
Now his job is to ensure the same quality of care across the country so that people get access to the very best acute stroke services, including treatment with thrombolysis [clot-busting drugs] where appropriate. Equally important is that patients are offered good rehabilitation and community care after discharge. ‘If you treat people in the community with an Early Support Discharge Team, outcomes are better and disability rates are lower’.
Rudd has been a real champion for the stroke survivor and urges anyone who has had a stroke never to lose hope. “For far too long, there has been a fallacious belief that if someone hasn’t recovered in three months, they are not going to recover at all. It’s nonsense. People carry on recovering for years afterwards. Certainly, with language, recovery starts off later and tends to go on longer,” he says.
He is also an advocate for ‘good’ stress. “A job that keeps you alert and stimulated is good stress. I would be far more likely to have a stroke from twiddling my thumbs and not having enough to do than I would do from buzzing around.” Long may he buzz around!