A stroke survivor from Clifton is backing a charity's call for better rehabilitation therapy after she felt 'lost in her own body' having not received any support for nine months.
Jo Cross was not given any therapy from the John Radcliffe Hospital after suffering a stroke in December, 2016, at the age of 34, which only made things worse both physically and mentally.
The Stroke Association says survivors’ recoveries are being put at risk due to a lack of rehabilitation therapy after they leave hospital and a former Horton General Hospital consultant physician described Ms Cross' case as 'appalling'.
She said: "A stroke is a cruel condition that seems to take everything within an instant, adequate support should be in place to not abandon or isolate stroke survivors.”
Ms Cross' stroke left her unable to walk unaided and with a communication difficulty called aphasia but for nine months, she had no post-stroke rehabilitation.
“I felt so alone in what can be a very lonely world as a young stroke survivor. I felt lost in my own body," she said.
“I hardly spoke for months due to the issues with my communication. I had to learn how to speak again and still find it hard.
"I felt very low but was very determined and motivated to try and walk again which kept me going.
"There was no rehabilitation to support me, so I felt as though I was just left to suffer in silence."
Ms Cross said her mother massaged her arm and leg - she would often fall and have to scoot around the house on her bottom.
"I felt trapped indoors and isolated from the community. Nobody should have to go through what I have – it’s so unfair," she said.
In August 2017, Ms Cross could go on any longer without support, and after appealing and constantly asking for help, she received eight weeks of rehabilitation as an inpatient at Oxford Centre for Enablement.
She has just finished outpatient physio with them, but is still under their consultation and attends physio at a nearby gym.
"I am learning to read, write and spell again thanks to the support from the Stroke Association," she said.
“I believe that the world has to change and accept strokes are happening.
"They are happening to younger people and the need for care and support as soon as you’ve had a stroke is vital."
NICE guidelines recommend at least 45 minutes, five days a week of each type of rehabilitation therapy needed by stroke survivors for as long as it is of benefit to them.
However, the Stroke Association has revealed that, on average, stroke survivors only receive around a third of that.
The finding comes from the latest Sentinel Stroke National Audit Programme (SSNAP) report for 2016 to 2017 on stroke patients discharged from hospital.
It shows that stroke survivors received what equates to just 16 minutes of physiotherapy, 16 minutes of occupational therapy and 12 minutes of speech and language therapy per day.
The charity is calling on health commissioners in England to prioritise meeting the recommended standards of rehabilitation therapy to ensure stroke survivors can make their best recovery and rebuild their lives.
Chief executive Juliet Bouverie said: “These findings clearly show that the amount of rehabilitation therapy stroke survivors receive once they return home from hospital is woefully inadequate, and jeopardises their recoveries.
“Almost two thirds of stroke survivors leave hospital with a disability. For those who have been robbed of the ability to carry out simple every-day tasks, access to rehabilitation therapy can be truly life-changing, for them and their families.
"We know that some stroke survivors have resorted to paying privately for therapy as they fear for their future. But, rehabilitation therapy is an absolute necessity for stroke recovery, it should not be a luxury only available to those who can afford it.”
Peter Fisher, who was a consultant physician at the Horton for 28 years and is a member of the Keep the Horton General campaign group, was disgusted by Ms Cross' case.
"Whilst all are agreed that patients with acute stroke should go initially to a tertiary centre, rehabilitation is also important and before the patient is discharged adequate rehab plans should be in place either in the patient's home (if suitable) or in some other setting," he said.
"For Banbury area patients any who are not suitable for home rehab, or for whom it is not yet set up, should be returned to the Horton where there was a good rehabilitation team. If this has been disbanded it should be re-formed without delay."
A spokesman for Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the JR, said it does not comment on individual cases but its stroke services are rated as 'A' by the SSNAP.
OUH head of therapy services Terry Cordrey said: “There is always room for improvement but these independent ratings indicate that stroke patients in Oxford can expect to receive a high standard of care and therapy.
“While patients are being treated on the hyper acute stroke unit, a variety of therapists work together with nurses and doctors to help patients regain as much independence as possible following a stroke.
"Therapy starts as soon as possible after a patient has suffered a stroke. The rehabilitation team supports and assists patients by identifying goals and by developing a rehabilitation plan to help them reach these goals.”