But just 45 minutes later she was being rushed to University College Hospital for specialist treatment which may have transformed her life. The 35-year-old had suffered a stroke affecting the left side of her brain and needed urgent treatment.
“At first I didn’t panic at all because you get dead arms sometimes. I didn’t think it was anything out of the ordinary,” said Sally, of Edmonton. “But when I looked in the mirror I realised my face had dropped and when I tried to call for help I couldn’t speak. I was absolutely terrified at that point.”
After being driven to Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield, Sally was transferred immediately by ambulance to the UCH hyper acute stroke unit (HASU). Here she received emergency clot-busting treatment, also known as thrombolysis, which if delivered in the first crucial four and a half hours following a stroke dramatically improves outcomes for patients.
The UCLH HASU, which is celebrating its first anniversary this month, is a collaboration between hospitals across north central London and is run by the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery neurovascular service.
Although patients might have to travel slightly further for treatment, they receive the best care in the best setting.
In its first year, more than 200 patients were thrombolysed, a treatment which in some case certainly saves lives and in most others means an improved recovery. Sally returned to her job as a housing officer in just 31 days and is able to walk her dog Sam and play with her children Gary, 16, Ben, 13 and Ronnie, 4.
“I’m so lucky because it could have been so much worse. As soon as I was thrombolysed everything became so much more coherent – it was unreal, like the stroke had never happened.” Sally, who went to UCH on a Monday in April, was back home by the following Thursday.
In the north central London sector, a 999 call for a stroke patient in Barnet, Islington, Haringey, Enfield or Camden is followed by a blue-light ambulance dash to the HASU, a journey that may cover 12 miles but which is currently taking only 14 minutes on average according to London Ambulance Service figures.
UCH comprehensive stroke service director, Dr Nick Losseff, said: “The key question for stroke patients is simple. ’Is it worth my while making the journey from where I live to the HASU at UCH?’ And the answer is clearly ‘yes’. It could save your life and prevent major long-term disability.”
Simone Browning, HASU ward sister, said: “Our team of specialist thrombolysis nurses are key to making the hyper acute stroke pathway both smooth and safe. We help reassure patients and put them at ease during what is a worrying and stressful time.”