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Case study: Giving meaning to the experience of having a stroke - Andrew's Story

Dr Andrew Thompson was a successful GP working with the homeless when a stroke changed his life, but taking part in clinical research has given him back his purpose.

After his stroke, which happened at home in the kitchen in May 2016, he got involved in a number of clinical trials almost immediately, having been approached by the Clinical Research Network West Midlands’ Senior Research Facilitator Rachel Evans while he was in Sandwell General Hospital.

He says: ‘It gave me something to focus on and was a positive in a negative situation. As a GP, and as an Honorary Senior Lecturer at the University of Wolverhampton, I had been involved in carrying out research in the past, so I was aware of the benefits it can bring to patients and the wider NHS.

‘The experience has been positive and I have always got in mind that in being treated for my stroke, I am the recipient of the accumulated knowledge of colleagues.

‘It’s the same response as when you are asked if you will be examined by a medical student - why not? If people don’t sign up to participate, then medicine wouldn’t be able to move forward.’

The studies he has taken part in include a drug trial, a speech and language trial and a cognitive capacity trial. He was consented into the first one just a month after his stroke, whilst on the rehabilitation ward.

‘I had no previous history of stroke but I was working a 90 hour week with substance misusers, as well as carrying out my duties as Assistant Coroner for the Black Country, and I am sure that fatigue and stress contributed to my condition.

‘Taking part in research gives positive meaning to the experience of illness and I am now living independently again and am getting more involved in community life. I have always been active in the Trades Union movement and am still able to play my part.

‘I would encourage others to ask about taking part in relevant research - it was part of my treatment anyway and some parts are really fun and interesting, which stops you from dwelling on your condition.  The researchers were exceptionally helpful and flexible and if you are fortunate, the study can make a big difference to your recovery.

‘Sometimes it can be hard to stay positive after such a life changing event, but knowing you are helping to improve treatments for future patients gives you a whole new perspective.’