Stroke response team strike a chord with piano teacher
06 December 2015
Liz Bagshaw is lucky to be alive after suffering a massive stroke while staying with her brother in Leigh-on-Sea. The massive blood clot in her brain, on any other day, would have probably killed her but thanks to a startling series of coincidences she is here to tell her story.
Normally Liz, 60, would have been alone at her home in a rural
village near Bristol. Just 24 hours prior to her stroke she was
driving her doctor son to Heathrow airport; then on Saturday 14
November as she was having breakfast with her brother, she started
to show the symptoms of a stroke.
She owes her life to him, that she is in no doubt of, and the
team of staff at Essex's only hyper acute stroke unit (HASU) at
Southend University Hospital. And even Andy Murray had his part to
play; Liz is a huge tennis fan and was using her brother's home as
a base so that she could go and watch Murray at the ATP World Tour
finals in London. He didn't make it through, but Liz did.
Instead she's been listening to his match from her hospital bed
as she recuperates after suffering a massive stroke in her
The blood clot measured an immense 2.5 cm, so large in fact that
the surgeon who extracted the clot had to break it into four pieces
to remove it a chunk at a time.
Liz hero-worshipped her older brother when she was little, there
is a six year difference between them, and she's back doing a
serious bit of it now as well. She said: "I wouldn't be here if it
wasn't for Jim, I really can't thank him enough. It's hard not to
think of how things could have ended up so very different If I'd
been at home alone or driving the car to or from the airport."
Both Liz and Jim's parents both died of strokes and it's been a
spectre that has long played on Liz's mind as she approached 60,
which as fate would have it she did the week before her stroke.
That also just so happened to be the age that her mum died. Jim
said: "She'd even said to me, I know I'm going to have a stroke at
60, just like mum. That day though I believe our mum was watching
It may have been unlucky that Liz's 'prophecy' came to pass but
it was certainly fantastically lucky that her fast-acting brother
and sister-in-law were there to call an ambulance.
Recalling what happened that morning, big brother Jim, said: "We
were just sat having breakfast and Liz's face started to drop a
little in front of me, I initially thought she was just tired but
when I took some dishes to the kitchen she fell down after trying
to get up. She had no strength in her legs and I knew it was a
stroke right away."
And Liz admits that if she had experienced the same symptoms if
she had been all alone then she wouldn't have even thought about
calling the ambulance.
Liz's initial recovery has been amazing, considering what the
outcome would have most likely been without getting her into
hospital in good time, or for the efforts of staff at Southend
Hospital using a procedure only used in a handful of hospitals
across the UK.
Her stroke consultant was the award-winning, Dr Devesh Sinha, he
said: "As a part of our new hyper acute stroke unit (HASU)
procedures the ambulance paramedics called the stroke doctor on
their mobile whilst she was en route to the ambulance. A team led
by a stroke consultant with medical and A&E doctors and nurses
were waiting for Liz when she arrived in hospital."
Liz had all her assessments and brain scan performed
within 13 minutes of her coming to Southend and had the
thrombectomy (an operation to remove the clot from her brain)
procedure within 60 minutes of decision."
Dr Sinha added: "Timing is everything in stroke, from the time
Liz's brother called the ambulance to the time it took for Liz's
operation it was like race to stop a ticking time bomb. Every
second counts, removing the blood clot early saves destruction of
more brain cells. With its removal we defused it and Liz is now
doing fantastically well."
The clot was removed by interventional neuroradiologist
Professor Iris Grunwald, internationally renowned in her field, by
utilising a minimally invasive technique which allowed the removal
of the clot directly from the brain.
Crucially for Liz and her family, Southend is the only hospital
in Essex to offer this procedure and although there is level 1A
(highest level) evidence for this treatment, - due to the
complexity and speed required - it is currently only offered in
very few centres around the world.
Devesh concluded: "The outcome is rewarding to everyone
involved, from Liz, her brother, the ambulance, A&E, the
medical team, the radiographer and anaesthetics. Our work prevents
people becoming disabled and dependent on health and social care,
it's fantastic seeing results like Liz where she is able to do most
of the things she was able to do before."
As Liz's brother points out, it's still very early days. There
is a long road of physio ahead and also assessing the impact the
stroke will have on Liz's life longterm.
Liz's son, who just so happens to be a doctor in Cairns,
Australia, didn't get to learn of his mum's condition until he
touched down the other side of the world. Liz said: "From what
we've told him about my operation he says that I've had world class
care, that's him not speaking as my son but speaking as a
Liz is a keen piano player and even teaches in her spare time so
hopefully she'll be able to use tinkling on the ivories as part of
her rehabilitation, that would certainly be music to her and her
She concluded: "Everyone at Southend's stroke unit has been
patient, kind and amazingly up-to-date in this area of medicine, I
just can't thank the dedicated staff enough."