“One morning, I went to unpack the dishwasher and the plates kept slipping out of my hands, smashing onto the kitchen floor,” Maryanne recalls.
Maryanne had no idea she was having a major stroke. Luckily, she made it to hospital in time, where she had a blood clot removed from her brain. The doctors said if she’d gone in 30 or even 15 minutes later, she would have ended up dead or with a severe disability.
“My family were absolutely horrified. It was just out of the blue. You know, you’re fine one day and suddenly you’re in the hospital. It was a big shock,” Maryanne says.
This Christmas, will you donate to spare families like Maryanne’s from the heartache of stroke?
Every 19 minutes in Australia, someone like Maryanne will have a stroke. One third of those strokes – usually the most severe – are caused by atrial fibrillation (AF), just as Maryanne’s was.
AF is an irregular heartbeat that causes blood to pool in the heart abnormally. It is largely preventable but can go undetected, until it’s too late. AF can lead to blood clots that break off, get carried into a brain artery and block it, causing a devastating stroke.
AF is more common than people think, yet many people have never heard of it. Anyone over 45 has a one in three risk of developing it. And the risk of having an AF-related stroke is much higher if you are older than 65.
Help protect people like Maryanne
Professor Ben Freedman and our team at the Heart Research Institute are working on a promising way to prevent AF-related strokes by trialling a large-scale screening program for AF. This would mean more people are diagnosed early, receive the treatment they need, and have a better chance of avoiding stroke.
The trial involves setting up self-screening stations in several GP practices. These are sit-at tables with ECG (electrocardiogram) recording technology built in, where patients can get screened for AF while waiting to see a doctor.
Our team aims to change clinical practice to include routine screening for AF, protocols for medication, and education for patients. A mass screening trial is the only way we can get the evidence for rolling out this life-saving scheme across Australia (and potentially around the world), reaching as many people as possible who have AF but don’t know it.
Even though Maryanne’s life changed forever, and she can no longer be as active, she considers herself one of the lucky ones.
Will you donate to help families like Maryanne’s be together at Christmas time?
Our team expects to develop the techniques and pathways for widescale screening of AF within the next five years, and show they work to prevent thousands of strokes and deaths related to AF.
But we need your help to fund the cardiac nurses, staff, and equipment we need to trial a large-scale screening program for AF.