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Paul’s story: taking part in stroke research

Paul Sparrowhawk, 44, took part in the Thames Valley Young Stroke Study (TV-YSS) after suffering a stroke.

He said: “I’ve always considered myself quite fit and healthy for my age. I’ve always kept to a healthy weight, ate well and kept myself active with things like exercise and lots of walking.”

Paul, from Swindon, Wiltshire, the owner of a small building business, he always kept himself healthy and active to meet the demands of his job.

“I never felt I was in danger of having a stroke. I’ve never had any issues with my blood pressure or cholesterol. Even when I was in hospital after the stroke and they tested me for these health concerns, I didn’t have them then and I still don’t.”

Paul was admitted to the Great Western Hospital, Swindon in December 2021 where he was invited to take part in TV-YSS, a study delivered by Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

About 10-15% of all strokes occur in patients aged under 55 years and these are increasing.

“I was in hospital after my stroke, getting ready to be discharged and I was asked if I would be interested in participating.

“Straight away I said yes, it was a no brainer for me. Even my doctors were shocked I had experienced a stroke given my test results.

“I didn’t see it as something I would do to benefit myself. I had already had a stroke and nothing could change that. But, if in some small way I could help research to potentially be able to prevent strokes happening in people like myself in the future, I wanted to do it.”

TV-YSS is an observational study supported by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), aiming to explore explanations for the increase in strokes in those aged under 55.

The study, recruiting patients aged 18-55, has a focus on determining the contribution of treatable vascular risk factors.

Participants undergo non-invasive tests in Oxford and are given a heart rate and blood pressure monitor to take home.

Paul said: “From the moment I left the hospital the research team were very attentive and checked I felt well enough to take part. Once I got to the research site the team was fantastic. Always professional, friendly and easy to get along with.

“Having a stroke so suddenly left me petrified when I came out of hospital. I was constantly worried when I might have another one. However, once I got home from Oxford I received follow-up calls from the team which helped massively. The team is very knowledgeable in their field and I felt I could ask any questions I had.

“The heart rate and blood pressure monitors put my mind at ease, more so than I feel I would have with usual care alone.

“My message to anyone approached about taking part is please do it. It doesn’t take up too much time and really gives you something to focus on once you come out of hospital. If a study like this had happened ten years ago maybe that would have helped to prevent myself or someone else from experiencing a stroke at this age.”

Anyone can get involved in health research. Search for studies seeking volunteers at