A BRAVE dad has praised his loving wife and the medical team which rushed to his aid after he had a stroke aged just 25.
Simon Bird, a strapping 6ft 4ins Hartlepool rugby-playing prop forward, couldn’t talk and suffered pins and needles down his right side during a terrifying ordeal last November.
He had to pull his car into a Portrack lay-by on his way to work, and rang his wife Sarah, 25, to pick him up.
But quick-thinking Sarah realised the situation was deadly serious. Instead of driving straight out to him, she first alerted paramedics.
They rushed him straight to the University Hospital of North Tees.
For the next three hours, attack after attack followed as medics stabilised his condition by giving him aspirin to thin his blood.
He was kept in overnight and spent the next six weeks on sick leave from his job as a call centre worker for Santander in Stockton.
But in a remarkable turnaround, Simon, now 26, has battled back to full fitness - and has even returned to playing rugby for his beloved Hartlepool Old Boys. Now, he’s been nominated in the special achievement category of the Hartlepool Mail Sports Awards.
As he reflected on the nightmare, he admitted: “You hear stories of people who have strokes in the night and by the time people get to them, it is too late.
“It is quite possible that my wife and those doctors saved me. And even if I hadn’t died, I might not have walked again if they hadn’t spotted the signs when they did.”
The story began at 7am on Monday, November 26, last year when Simon fed his son Charles, who celebrates his first birthday today.
“I couldn’t stand up afterwards,” said Simon of Nesbit Hall Farm near Castle Eden. “But I thought it was just pins and needles.”
The symptoms eased and he set off for work. He stopped to put petrol in his car but the pins and needles returned.
“I went to use the chip and pin device and dropped my card on the floor. I couldn’t pick it up,” said Simon who admitted: “It was scary.”
Again, the pins and needles went and he set off for work. But minutes later, he was in serious trouble. He added: “I got to Portrack and it happened again. I phoned Sarah but my speech was slurring. I have no idea how long I was there for but at this point, things were really bad.”
Sarah told the Mail: “It was awful. He didn’t answer at first and when he finally did, I couldn’t understand what he was saying.
“I rang the paramedics and gave them directions. Then I tried to ring Simon back to keep him company.”
Sarah set off herself for the scene. She arrived in time to see the man she loved being stretchered into an ambulance.
By 9.15am, Simon was in hospital and by lunchtime, the vital treatment was paying dividends. The attacks stopped.
Weeks of tests - including MRI scans - followed with experts fearing Simon may have suffered a Transient Ischemic Attack (also known as a mini stroke) or even a migraine condition.
Eventually, they confirmed Simon had suffered a stroke - although the cause remains a mystery.
But Simon used it as a warning sign to change his lifestyle. He’s become fitter. His cholesterol levels have plummeted and his weight has gone from more than 19 stones to 17.5 stones.
He has already returned to second XV rugby with Old Boys and hopes to break back into the first team. And in another twist, he married the woman who helped him pull through.
Now, he could be on the verge of another fantastically happy moment.
He said: “It would be fantastic to win an award” and Sarah admitted: “It would be really nice. It has been a busy year with a baby, a stroke and a marriage.”
Doc’s best wishes
THE doctor who treated a 25-year-old stroke victim has sent his best wishes to the young dad.
Dr Ijaz Anwar was the consultant physician at the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust who looked after Simon as he fought back from the nightmare of a crippling health scare.
Now, Simon is a fighting fit man once more. He is also in the running in the special achievement category of the Hartlepool Mail Sports Awards.
Today, Dr Anwar said: “I’m delighted to hear he has been nominated and wish him well, both in the awards and for the future.”
He said: “It is unusual but not unique to have a stroke so early in life. Modern stroke care is all about getting to the right team as quickly as possible so the appropriate tests can be done, diagnosis made and treatment begun as soon as possible.”
Dr Anwar added: “In Simon’s case his wife did absolutely the right thing by calling an ambulance paramedic and getting him into hospital quickly.
“I wish him well for the awards and the future”
Know FAST signs
MAKE sure you know the signs.
That was the message today from experts at the Stroke Association after 25-year-old Simon Bird became a victim himself.
The swift response of everyone who dealt with Simon that day meant he pulled through with no long-term effects.
Peter Moore, the regional head of operations for the Stroke Association in the North East, said; “We’re for life after stroke and we know that these adverts save lives.
“Last year alone, the NHS in England saw a 24 percent increase in stroke related 999 calls two months after the adverts finished running.
“We welcome the Government’s commitment to broadcasting these lifesaving public health messages. We originally funded the research to develop the FAST message and we’re delighted with the impact and progress the campaign has made.”
HOW TO SPOT SIGNS
People should look for:
Facial weakness - can the person smile? Has their mouth or eye drooped?
Arm weakness - can the person raise both arms?
Speech problems - can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?
Time to call 999.
There are 5,500 strokes per year in the North East.
There are 58,883 people living with a stroke in the area.
One in five strokes are fatal.
Stroke causes about seven per cent of deaths in men and ten per cent in women.
Strokes happen at a rate of more than one every five minutes.
In 2010, stroke was the fourth largest cause of death in the UK after cancer, heart disease and respiratory disease, causing almost 50,000 deaths.
To talk to experts at the Stroke Association, contact 0303 3033 100.