Media Release

Family Tracks Down Passer-by Who Identified Stroke Symptoms and Saved Daughter's Life

Posted: 26 October 2011

Picture of Helen Kelly and her father Shamus, photographed with the Telestroke serviceAs World Stroke Day approaches on 29 October, a young woman's family who were given the "absolutely terrifying news" that their daughter had suffered a stroke have tracked down the mystery member of the public who recognised the symptoms and came to her rescue.

Helen Kelly, a 23 year old recent graduate from the University of Bath who has returned to her family home in Rickmansworth, was out running along a canal towpath between her home town and Croxley Locks during a summer evening back in July, when she suddenly had to stop with severe head pain and dizziness.

Concerned for her state, several passers-by asked her if she needed some help, to which Helen - thinking it was nothing serious waved them on. However, one cyclist could see that Helen was in a grave situation. Having applied the FAST diagnosis tool of Face/Arms/Speech and Time, he immediately called paramedics knowing that the sooner thrombolytic drugs were administered, the more effective they would be.

Helen was taken to Watford General Hospital to be quickly assessed in Accident and Emergency. She was then cared for by the Stroke Unit, led by consultant Dr David Collas, for three weeks during which time the physiotherapy team got Helen back on her feet.

Since then, Helen's recovery has continued with regular exercises at home and further physiotherapy treatment at the Jackets Field Centre in Abbots Langley.

Her father Shamus, said: "Helen is a very active and athletic girl, so to receive a phone call telling me she has had a suspected stroke whilst out running was absolutely terrifying. It makes you realise just how massively reliant we can be on the public and emergency services, and how they are there just when you need them".

He added: "The Stroke Unit at Watford General, so close to where we live, has been an absolute Godsend with its tremendous level of care. We are hugely grateful to Dr Collas and his team for what they have done to support Helen and her recovery". Since then, Helen's family's thoughts have turned to the gentleman who found and helped her. Once Helen was taken into the ambulance, he had left the scene.

In the following weeks, Shamus made a concerted effort to find him even putting up posters along the same canal towpath and the surrounding area. After several visits to an address in Croxley Green, he finally managed to track down Darren Maunders, in what was an emotional expression of gratitude for stopping to help his daughter.

Dr Collas at Watford General said: "Once the tests on Helen had been completed, the only problem we found in her body was a very small hole in her heart. Most of us have this when we are born and these normally close for most of us. But it remains in 1 in 5 people, and when this is the case it is called a  'Patent Foramen Ovale' (PFO). This has the potential to cause stroke, which probably goes some way to explaining the cause of Helen's stroke".

He added: "World Stroke Day is an ideal opportunity to highlight stories like Helen's, and that strokes can even happen to people we would perceive to be the most unlikely. But by ensuring more of us are made aware of the FAST diagnosis tool, the more lives we can save and preserve".

Ends

For more information, please contact the Communications Team on 01923 436281.

*Further photographs may be available upon request, or alternatively through the Trust's Flickr channel: http://www.flickr.com/photos/westhertshospitalsnhstrust/

Notes to Editor:

For more information on World Stroke Day and the World Stroke Campaign, visit http://www.worldstrokecampaign.org/

For more information on Stroke Act FAST visit http://www.nhs.uk/actfast/Pages/stroke.aspx

  • F = FACE: Has their face fallen on one side? Can they smile?
  • A = ARMS: Can they raise both arms and keep them there?
  • S = SPEECH: Is their speech slurred?
  • T = TIME: Time to call 999 if you see any single one of these signs.

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