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A stroke in the family

It was pure luck that I called at all. Normally I would telephone my Dad on his birthday. This year I was busy, so the day before would have to do.

As soon as he picked up, something seemed wrong. Was he drunk? It sounded like he was finding it hard to get the words out. But not just that - some of his words had the syllables transposed - and some were the wrong word altogether. I realised he was having a stroke.

I knew he needed an ambulance - now to convince my independent Dad, who lives alone, that I was right. "No, don't. Don't...get up." said my Dad. Another confused sentence. I hung up and called 999.

Living 150 miles away in London to his Bristol, I couldn't pop round and check on him. I got through to London, then Avon ambulance service, but they couldn't share anything with me. Hours later I finally reached my Dad, who was in the Bristol Royal Infirmary. Yes, he had had a stroke. With a team of people working on him, he couldn't tell me much more.

When I saw him in hospital the next day - he was better than we had expected. It had been a huge stroke, but he'd arrived in hospital not long after symptoms had started, giving him the best chance. He has had to re-master reading - and sometimes struggles for the right word. But his recovery has been impressive, and a huge relief.

Speaking to him shortly after the stroke, he told me he didn't know what was happening to him - all he knew was that he had a sore head, which he was planning to treat by going to bed. What made me call at exactly the right time, I don't know. But we both feel lucky that I recognised his strange speech was one of the symptoms of stroke. And that by acting Fast - and him receiving quick and appropriate treatment - he will be here to enjoy more birthdays in the future.

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