A 22-year-old stroke victim has been left devastated after learning the NHS will not pay for a life-saving operation to stop her having another.
Shannon Christie, from Willingham in Cambridgeshire, was told she was ‘too young to have a stroke’ when she suffered one in April.
Doctors revealed it had been caused by a previously undiagnosed hole in her heart, called a patent foramen ovale.
Then the teaching assistant was given the bombshell news that the NHS no longer funds the operation needed to repair her heart.
Miss Christie, who is now desperately trying to raise £10,000 to undergo the surgery privately, said: ‘I live everyday in fear.
Shannon Christie, from Willingham in Cambridgeshire, was told she was ‘too young to have a stroke’ when she suffered one in April
‘Until I have this operation because there is a chance that I might have another stroke.
‘Having a stroke at 22 years old and finding out it was due to a hole in my heart was horrible.
‘But finding out whilst sitting in hospital, after having numerous tests and procedures, the NHS no longer funds the heart surgery I need to close the hole was absolutely devastating.
‘This is a matter that is happening every single day to thousands of people such as myself around the UK.’
Miss Christie claimed she could feel her right hand ‘going cold’ when she suffered her stroke earlier this year.
Her arm became ‘paralysed’, she claims, and described the sensation as being like ‘pins and needles’.
Doctors revealed it had been caused by a previously undiagnosed hole in her heart, called a patent foramen ovale
Then the teaching assistant was given the bombshell news that the NHS no longer funds the operation needed to repair her heart (pictured in hospital for stroke treatment)
Describing her ordeal as ‘terrifying’, she explained how the cold spread up to her face and rendered her unable to talk.
Her stroke initially went undiagnosed because paramedics insisted she was ‘too young’ to have suffered one.
Instead of waiting for an ambulance to rush her to hospital, she took herself to A&E at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.
However, medics ruled out a stroke once again and claimed her symptoms were likely down to a rare form of migraine.
Medics only confirmed she had suffered a stroke after specialists became aware of her family history and checked scans taken of her brain.
She added: ‘When I called the ambulance on 999, they said I was too young to be having a stroke and said they’d call back later on with someone to speak to.
‘An hour passed and I still hadn’t had a call back.
‘As I didn’t want to wait, I got someone to drive me straight to A&E where they then again said I was too young to be having a stroke.
‘They said I was just suffering with a hemiplegic migraine.’ This form of migraine can cause paralysis on one side of the body.
Miss Christie, who is now desperately trying to raise £10,000 to undergo the surgery privately, said: ‘I live everyday in fear’
Describing her ordeal as ‘terrifying’, she explained how the feeling of cold spread up to her face and rendered her unable to talk
She was discharged but while at home she got a call from doctors saying she had actually suffered a stroke and had a heart defect.
Despite being told she needed a procedure to close the hole in her heart to prevent further strokes, she was later informed it wouldn’t be offered on the NHS.
She was told she must stump up the cash herself to pay for the patent foramen ovale (PFO) surgery, which costs around £10,000.
Miss Christie, who works at a school for children with autism, is now urging the NHS to re-think its funding policy.
It is important to her, as her father Graham was left disabled from a stroke in 2010 at the age of 46, before he sadly died of cancer in 2016.
The NHS Commissioning Board – which was later renamed NHS England – made the announcement in 2013.
In its report, it said it would ‘not routinely fund Percutaneous Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO) Closure for the prevention of stroke’.
The body argued the evidence ‘is not yet of sufficient quality’ to say the operation is beneficial and of value to the NHS.
Miss Christie, who works at a school for children with autism, is now urging the NHS to re-think its funding policy
Miss Christie’s mother Christine said: ‘We know the effects and aftermath of a stroke having watched Shannon’s dad have a major stroke’ (pictured in hospital)
Patent foramen ovale occurs in about 25 percent of people – but many with the condition never know they have it, according to Mayo Clinic.
Miss Christie said she tries to ‘stay positive’ as she battles to help at-risk patients get access to PFO surgery by starting a petition.
She said: ‘I am hoping… the governments chief of health will see this and change the funding on this so that PFO closures are to be provided on the NHS once again.’
Miss Christie’s mother Christine said: ‘We know the effects and aftermath of a stroke having watched Shannon’s dad have a major stroke.
‘We know the emotional and financial costs after a major stroke and if an operation can reduce the risk of someone ending up like this then it is something that should be offered.
‘To watch my daughter worry about her future like this is unbearable.’
Sara Betsworth, head of stroke support at the Stroke Association said: ‘Many people think that strokes only happen to older people but it can happen to anyone, at any time, whatever their age.
‘In fact, one in four strokes in the UK happen to people of a working age.
‘We help tens of thousands of stroke survivors and their families through our range of services and free helpline.
‘But we can only do this through the generosity of the public and inspirational people like Shannon who are raising awareness.’
WHAT IS A STROKE?
There are two kinds of stroke:
1. ISCHEMIC STROKE
An ischemic stroke – which accounts for 80 percent of strokes – occurs when there is a blockage in a blood vessel that prevents blood from reaching part of the brain.
2. HEMORRHAGIC STROKE
The more rare, a hemorrhagic stroke, occurs when a blood vessel bursts, flooding part of the brain with too much blood while depriving other areas of adequate blood supply.
It can be the result of an AVM, or arteriovenous malformation (an abnormal cluster of blood vessels), in the brain.
Thirty percent of subarachnoid hemorrhage sufferers die before reaching the hospital. A further 25 percent die within 24 hours. And 40 percent of survivors die within a week.
Age, high blood pressure, smoking, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, diabetes, atrial fibrillation, family history, and history of a previous stroke or TIA are all risk factors for having a stroke.
SYMPTOMS OF A STROKE
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing or blurred vision in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause
Of the roughly three out of four people who survive a stroke, many will have life-long disabilities.
This includes difficulty walking, communicating, eating, and completing everyday tasks or chores.
Both are potentially fatal, and patients require surgery or a drug called tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) within three hours to save them.