Wigan mum says stroke after Covid took away her son's independence

A mother from Wigan who says a stroke has taken away her son's independence is backing plans for a study about the long-term impact of Covid-19 on stroke survivors.

Michael Pitcher, who has Down's Syndrome, used to enjoy sports and crafts. But after having a stroke while in hospital being treated for coronavirus, he has lost his ability to walk.

Michael Pitcher lived a full, independent life. Now he needs almost constant care.

It follows widespread reports since the start of the pandemic of adults with the coronavirus also having strokes.

It is feared that the virus could be increasing the chance of blood clots forming in the brain and blocking blood flow.

There are concerns that it may cause more severe strokes in patients whom doctors are struggling to treat.

Michael Pitcher in hospital

Michael's stroke has made it difficult for him to communicate through sign language, as he can't move his left hand.

The 29 year old needed to be tube-fed and given oxygen while in hospital.

Doctors told me they suspect that Michael's stroke was caused by Covid-19. As well as his mobility, the stroke has also left him very emotional and he cries at the smallest thing.

Bev Beckett, Michael's mum

Stroke is a sudden brain attack which strikes every five minutes in the UK.

It is predicted that the number of stroke survivors aged 45 and over could rise to 1.4 million in 2025 and 2.1 million in 2035.


The number of stroke survivors living in the UK

Researchers will follow up to 4,000 stroke survivors, with and without Covid-19 from across 13 emergency stroke units.

The findings will help to understand how Covid-19 impacts stroke recovery and which treatments might best support survivors' recoveries.

This research is absolutely critical in understanding and treating stroke after Covid-19, to help reduce the devastating effects and ultimately improve lives. Covid-19 is here to stay, so it's vital we can prevent and treat strokes linked with the virus.

Dr Rubina Ahmed, Research Director
Shelley Wakefield Credit: The Stroke Association

Shelley Wakefield, 52, from Blackpool, had a stroke while recovering from Covid-19 earlier this year. While her physical symptoms such as walking have gradually improved, it is the cognitive and effects on Shelly’s mental health that she is most struggling with.

Research like this study is tremendously important, it’s the key to everything when it comes to stroke in my opinion.

Shelley Wakefield

Stroke is a leading cause of adult disability in the UK and the second biggest killer in the world.

Doctors say they are extremely concerned that they are seeing strokes happening in new ways.

While redeployed to stroke wards at the start of the pandemic, I would see patients admitted with unusual strokes who would then go on to have a positive Covid-19 test.

Dr Richard Perry, lead researcher, University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

The Stroke Association has had to halve its research budget after the pandemic shattered its fundraised income.

In February, the charity announced the world's largest study to confirm if Covid-19 increases the risk of stroke and by how much.

Together with the new research announced today, doctors hope the two studies will help them prevent and best treat Covid-19 strokes in the people who are most at risk.