“I was scared – very scared and didn’t know what was happening.”
Seventy-one-year-old Howard Grover always considered himself to be healthy, active and leading a life that promotes wellbeing.
A keen skier, the Lyminge resident and his wife Jennifer count Austria as a favourite destination because of its famous Alpine slopes.
And it was on a recent trip to that country that the retired salesman started experiencing problems that indicated that something was wrong.
“I was playing a board game with Jennifer, when I noticed that my vision was becoming fuzzy,” recalled Howard, “and I really couldn’t carry on playing.”
He added: “Jennifer and I were joking about it, and we thought there was nothing to worry about – she suggested that I pulled out of the game because I was losing!”
But the following day, when he was working on a computer, Howard experienced the same thing happening again. And this time, the symptoms were even more disturbing.
Looking back to the time, he said: “I covered up my left eye and realised that I couldn’t see anything out of my right eye – nothing at all. I was scared and knew that it was something serious.”
An appointment with an Austrian doctor led to a suggestion that Howard wasn’t expecting. The visual problems were pointing to something wrong in his arterial system.
Howard and Jennifer returned to Kent and swiftly made a GP appointment. He was then referred to East Kent Hospitals on Thursday 12 October, where he met stroke consultant, Dr David Hargroves.
Dr Hargroves said: “Following a detailed assessment, which included an MRI scan, we identified that Howard needed immediate treatment.
“It turned out that he had a blockage in his right-side carotid artery. The carotid arteries are major blood vessels in the neck that supply blood to the brain, neck, and face.
“This blockage led to Howard experiencing a ‘transient ischaemic attack’ (TIA) which is sometimes referred to as a ‘mini stroke’. This is caused by a temporary disruption in the blood supply to part of the brain, and in Howard’s case, caused his visual problems.”
Howard was given tablets that stabilised his condition and reduced the risk of a major stroke occurring, which had the potential to cause massive – and potentially irreversible – damage.
He went onto have the second imaging modality required before definitive intervention is attempted, on Sunday 15 October, seeing one of East Kent Hospitals’ consultant vascular surgeons, Mr Tom Rix on Monday 16 of October in his emergency outpatient clinic.
On Wednesday 18 October, Howard was operated on at the Kent and Canterbury Hospital by surgeon Mr Tom Rix. He underwent a procedure called a ‘carotid endarterectomy’ under general anaesthetic.
This is a surgical procedure used to unblock a carotid artery.
On Thursday, Howard was given the all-clear and discharged from hospital, free from the worry brought on by his condition.
“The speed with which I received treatment was amazing,” said Howard. “I cannot thank the staff enough for all that they’ve done.”
He added: “I was diagnosed by, treated and allowed home in little more than a week. The efficiency and effectiveness of the way I was treated is a great testament to East Kent Hospitals and the NHS.”
Dr Hargroves added: “Howard was experiencing symptoms that showed he had a blockage in one of his carotid arteries. If left untreated, this could have had devastating consequences.”
“Time was of the essence and why we have, for the last decade, worked closely with colleagues to have rapid access to comprehensive imaging through our excellent radiology department. This has enabled the team in east Kent to treat him so quickly. I’m so very pleased that Howard has made a swift and healthy recovery.”
East Kent Hospitals provides a comprehensive range of stroke services for prevention, hyper-acute treatment, rehabilitation and follow-up after discharge.
The Trust offers 24-hour a day thrombolysis service, in which any patient admitted with a suspected stroke will be assessed rapidly for their suitability for this treatment.
The Trust also holds a rapid access clinic, seven days a week for local residents who have suffered TIA. Same day MRI and CEMRA (Contrast Enhanced Magnetic Resonance Angiography) is offered as the investigation of choice for those patients suitable who are seen in the TIA clinics.
We have internal links to provide specialist treatment – this included the vascular team in Canterbury, and neurosurgery in London.
The service admits approximately 1,500 people with an acute stroke each year from the east Kent area.
Vascular surgery is a speciality of surgery focusing on diseases of the vascular system, or arteries and veins. The vascular surgeon is trained in the diagnosis and management of diseases affecting all parts of the vascular system except that of the heart and brain.
In early 2008, the Trust opened a brand new endovascular theatre at Kent and Canterbury Hospital. One of the first of its kind in the country, this facility makes it possible to combine advanced x-ray imaging with a fully equipped operating theatre.