J: OMG – A&E for a TIA! WTF?

So there I was happily cooking supper. Our son came into the kitchen to see if he could help and when I tried to talk to him some of the words came out squiffldy.

Clearly something was a bit wrong, though in all other respects I was fine. I rang my lovely aunt (a retired medical professional) who thought I might have a TIA (transient ischaemic attack – a mini stroke) and urged me to call A&E. A&E in Bath didn’t want to know and asked me to call 111. They asked questions then said they’d call an ambulance, which arrived within 15 minutes.

The ambulance crew came from Swindon (which is further but they’d been diverted from another nearby call). They did blood pressure and heart tests and said they’d take me to hospital. They kindly agreed to take me to Bath which is out of their patch but obviously better for me as they have my history. And I don’t care for Swindon. So off we went.

My speech had already been recovering and by the time we arrived in Bath at about 9:30pm it was back to normal. (Indeed I had happily spent some of the journey successfully fixing the paramedic’s Iphone for her). If I’d been on my own for another hour without the need to speak would I even have known about this episode?

I was triaged at Bath A&E very quickly. I was worried it would be crowded over the Bank Holiday but it seemed quiet. The nurse told me that actually they were stacking A&E patients in corridors as they could not get them into the wards and I heard another patient say she’d been waiting 2 hours in some pain for an ambulance. So I had been lucky. I was popped in a cubicle without delay.

A very nice doctor came along after an hour or so and did lots of tests – look at this eye, touch your nose, resist me trying to pull you leg, try to push me over etc. He then went off to see if I should have a CT head scan. I’d had one a few weeks before. This was agreed and after an hour I was taken off for that.

Bath run their CT scanner 24/7. I asked the operator who would review the scans (which is a skilful job) and she explained they were sent to an outside company who have an SLA to turn them round in an hour. Without me prompting she said she’d also send my last scan for comparison.

After another hour the verdict came back that the scan was fine. The doctor said that the TIA could even have been caused by the anti-clotting agent I have to inject daily for a month (Dateparin) which I find a bit confusing. But he wants me to continue with them and has prescribed me a daily dose of aspirin, which is a classic for heart treatment of course.

I was able to leave at 1:30am and got a taxi home. The bill was the most painful experience of the evening.

It seems that TIAs are not uncommon post-operatively. The hospital runs a daily TIA clinic and I will be summoned to one in the next few days to do more assessments and decide how to mitigate the chances of a recurrence.

In the meantime I can’t drive as that is contra-indicated for at least a month for obvious reasons. Fortunately we can walk to the shops and the train station and have plenty of lovely neighbours to help, so even though my wife can’t drive either at the moment (recovering from a detached retina) it won’t be a big problem. And I can always take the boat down the river for a big shop!

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