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Stroke victims in the Highlands have been hit badly by lockdown


By Gregor White

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Susan Fraser.
Susan Fraser.

A stroke victim from Inverness has spoken about how the coronavirus lockdown has impacted on her ongoing health battle.

Susan Fraser suffered a massive stroke four years ago which rendered her unable to walk, talk or hear.

She continues to have significant mobility issues and before lockdown was imposed, had been expecting an operation on her foot to help her walk more independently.

She was also in line for a procedure to reduce spasticity in her wrist.

Both appointments were cancelled, however, as a result of the pandemic which also saw her unable to go to the gym as a means of keeping up her strength and mobilising her joints.

Responding to a Stroke Association Scotland survey on the impact of lockdown, she told researchers: “Lockdown has been really difficult.

“I am still learning to walk, and my gym has closed, so I can’t do any exercise or even go for a walk round the block.

“My sister used to take me to the hairdresser once a week, but we can’t do that any more.

“That’s a big thing for me.”

The association is calling for action from government and local health systems to stem a rising tide of demand on services.

Director Andrea Cail said: “Strokes didn’t stop happening because of the pandemic, but some treatments became unavailable, making lockdown even tougher for those living with the debilitating effects of stroke.

“We want to see a new ‘progressive stroke service’ defined and implemented as soon as possible.

“To get the right treatment and care makes the difference between spending days in hospital or months; the right rehabilitation makes the difference between being independent or needing support for the rest of your life.

“This report uncovers a lack of access to treatment across the whole pathway from acute treatment through to rehabilitation and long-term support.

“We are urging the Scottish Government to act now on the commitments outlined in their work plans.We want to see a new ‘progressive stroke service’ defined and implemented as soon as possible. To get the right treatment and care makes the difference between spending days in hospital or months; the right rehabilitation makes the difference between being independent or needing support for the rest of your life.”

More than two thirds of people who responded to the survey reported feeling more anxious or depressed during the pandemic, and 72 per cent said they were worried more about what the future holds.

Professor Rustam Salman, president of the British Association of Stroke Physicians and professor of clinical neurology at the Edinburgh University, said: “During the pandemic there were significant changes to the way stroke services run.

“Covid-19 impacted everything from the types of treatment available and the urgency in which they can be delivered, to delivering the life-restoring rehabilitation therapies.

“The reduction in both the quantity and quality of rehabilitation available for stroke survivors will make recovery harder, wasting a stroke survivor’s potential and in some may cause another stroke, which could end up being fatal.”

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