Young stroke survivor campaigns after being told a potentially life saving operation is no longer available on the NHS
PUBLISHED: 12:17 25 October 2018 | UPDATED: 17:59 01 November 2018
A 22 year old who suffered a stroke from a blocked blood vessel to the brain, is raising awareness of how an operation to reduce the risk of further strokes, is no longer funded by the NHS.
Shannon Christie has been told she can only have the operation to close a hole in her heart privately, at a cost of around £10,000.
Shannon wants to tell her story to urge the Government to re-think its funding policy, to offer PFO closure surgery on the NHS.
She has also set up a Go Fund Me to raise money she needs to have the procedure privately.
Shannon, who works at a school for children with autism, suffered a stroke in April and had to wait six months before being seen by a specialist at Papworth.
This week she was given the devastating news that she cannot have the operation she desperately wants despite her family having a history of heart conditions and strokes.
Shannon’s father Graham was left disabled from a stroke in 2010 and has since died of cancer in 2015.
Her mother Christine suffers from a heart condition known as arrhythmia which she has had surgery for.
Shannon, of Willingham, said: “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, that the NHS no longer funds the heart surgery I need to close the hole was absolutely devastating.
“Having this operation would massively reduce the risk of me having another stroke, but I’m now having to live my life in constant fear of having another stroke which, if this happens, could lead me to have further brain damage.
“Luckily I only had a small bit of damage with my first stroke which isn’t something any young adult wants to worry about every single day of their life.
“If I want the operation I will have to find roughly £10,000 to have my procedure, when there are still people accessing unnecessary surgery such as cosmetic surgery, funded on the NHS due to being unhappy with the way they look.
“Unfortunately like most people, I don’t have a spare £10,000 sitting around.
“I know I’m not the only one who is having to go through this as I have read of many young stroke sufferers who would benefit from PFO surgery.
“I want to help spread the awareness of the cuts that the government have made to the NHS and how it affects so many people like myself as I’m now having to live in constant fear.”
Her mother Christine said: “When Shannon had her stroke she lost the feeling in her right arm, face and leg, her face dropped on one side and she could not speak any words without them sounding like long slurring sounds.
“I called 999 and they told us to call 111 who told us they would call us back within an hour.
“An hour passed and Shannon knew something was not right so I drove her to A&E but whilst there we were told it was a migraine and were sent home.
“However, due to our family history of strokes, a specialist double checked her scans and confirmed she had in fact had a stroke and called her back in to the hospital.
“After 13 hours of waiting in A&E she was discharged again into an abyss with some medication and no information of what was next.
“Six months of anguish after her stroke and Shannon was excited to get her appointment for Papworth Heart Hospital but when we learnt that the surgery Shannon needs is not available on the NHS she burst into tears.
“The doctors are so apologetic but there is nothing they can do. The whole thing is a nightmare.”
Since the stroke Shannon struggles with exhaustion and after a day at work often needs to go straight to bed to cope with the next day.
She often suffers from weakness in her affected arm when she is exhausted.
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.”
• Shannon’s petition is here.