My ten-year-old saved my life

By June Shannon Stroke News   |   14th Dec 2021

Liam* had a stroke last year at the age of 47,  and if it wasn’t for his ten-year-old son, he may not have survived.

“He sounded like all of his teeth were missing so I went into my mam and said my dad had a kind of slurred speech….my man ran over and asked him to smile and half of his face was drooping down and then asked him to squeeze both of her hands, one arm was a lot weaker, we knew it was time to call the ambulance….because of that we saved my dad’s life that day. Hopefully you know the FAST ad so you could save someone’s life as well.” Fionn (aged 10).

Liam recalled that he was sitting watching television in October last year and when he got up to go to bed he couldn’t stand up and suddenly  found himself on the floor.

It was about 10pm, his wife *Jane had already gone to bed as both Liam and Jane were suffering with COVID-19 infection and Jane felt very unwell.

All of a sudden Jane said she heard her son calling saying that something was not right with his dad. “He told me it sounded like all his teeth had fallen out and that he was slurring his words,” she recalled.

She added that only for their 10 year old, the family  “probably would have had a different outcome.”

" I remembered the FAST advert ….I told the ambulance caller he is 47 and he has had a stroke,”

Jane

Jane asked Liam to smile and to squeeze her hands and when his face was dropped on one side and he seemed to have less strength in his left arm, she immediately knew he had had a stroke and called an ambulance.

“When I came down I looked at him and I said to myself there is something not quite right. I remembered the F.A.S.T advert ….I told the ambulance caller he is 47 and he has had a stroke,” Jane said.

“I knew instinctively and it was just because of those [FAST] ads, I had seen them so much over the years I knew what to do, she added.

Unfortunately, Jane’s instincts proved correct and when the ambulance arrived the paramedics confirmed that her husband had suffered a stroke.

Liam was taken to Tallaght University Hospital where he as assessed via video link and the decision was made to transfer him to Beaumont Hospital for a thrombectomy.

Thrombectomy is a radiologically guided interventional procedure where doctors use specialist equipment to mechanically remove a clot that is causing a stroke from the brain. Crucially unlike thrombolysis which is only effective up to four and a half hours post stroke, thrombectomy has been shown to be effective up to 24 hours.

In what was a very unusual but unfortunately necessary experience in these Covid times Liam explained how he was speaking with the consultant via video link on one device, and his wife was listening in on another phone, as she was isolating at home and couldn’t be with him.

Following the thrombectomy in Beaumont Liam was transferred back to Tallaght Hospital where he was to remain for three weeks.

" I was very lucky that the thrombectomy was performed so quickly, and the staff in both hospitals were brilliant,"

Liam

“I was very lucky that everything was in place… after a few hours I was back in an ambulance and back in Tallaght Hospital…I was very lucky that the thrombectomy was performed so quickly, and the staff in both hospitals were brilliant, he said.

Having a serious stroke is an extremely difficult experience at the best of times but for Liam and his family it was particularly difficult in the middle of the COVID pandemic. Jane herself was very ill from COVID and remained unwell for some time. She said it was the support of the local community particularly neighbours,  the GAA club, and Liam’s work colleagues that kept them going during those difficult times.

“It was tough and I was getting sicker and sicker… I didn’t want to kind of make any big deal out of how bad I was feeling because I felt that if I had to go into the hospital, where would the kids go?” Jane said.

It was discovered that Liam had a hole in his heart and earlier this year he underwent a procedure to have it corrected. He also had a loop recorder fitted that continuously monitors his heart which he said gave him “great peace of mind.”

Following the operation Liam attended a programme of Cardiac Rehabilitation which he found incredibly helpful in his recovery and he would highly recommend to anyone recovering from a heart event or stroke.

Now back at work fulltime Liam paid huge credit to all the staff at Tallaght Hospital who cared for him after his stroke.

Jane she has been struck by how some people treated her husband after his stroke “I think you only realize the preconceived ideas that people have about somebody who’s had a stroke. …they don’t see the person anymore. They see the stroke… I’ve noticed that some people have changed the way they would deal with Liam a little bit, which is unfair,” she said.

Liam said he was sharing his story to raise awareness of the F.A.S.T. message and because he was incredibly grateful for all the help and support he received.

“To have the thrombectomy done so quickly when I look back on it,  it was the main reason that things are still going so well,” he said.

Jane said the reason that her husband was still alive and well today was thanks to their 10- year old son and the fact that she remembered the F.A.S.T campaign message. She also wanted to raise awareness about the importance of knowing the F.A.S.T signs and how this knowledge can quite literally save a life.

“We were only lucky because of that F.A.S.T ad because if I didn’t know anything about that I could have said to Liam, “look, see how you feel in half an hour”…. I just think it’s very important in life to give back and if we can save just one family [by sharing our story ] that would be great,” she said.

*names have been changed

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FAST FAST signs stroke thrombectomy

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