Our current appeal is to raise £1.5m to expand the stroke service at The National Hospital.

Stroke is the fourth largest cause of death in the UK. The people who do survive may be brain damaged or disabled in some other way. Immediate and specialist care can make a huge difference, though, because it reduces the damage caused by cutting off the blood supply to the brain.

The Hyperacute Stroke Service at The National Hospital manages patients in the first 72 hours after a stroke, providing them as soon as possible with medication to remove blood clots. This medication works very well for many patients, but not for some people who have large clots blocking major arteries – and these strokes are often the most serious.

However, the new ‘thrombectomy’ treatment is proving very effective at treating these strokes, through physically removing the top of the blocked blood vessels. Thrombectomy requires highly skilled neuroradiologists, specialised equipment and neurosurgical and critical care backup close at hand. In addition, explains neuroradiology consultant Dr Peter Cowley: “It has to be done as quickly as possible to get the maximum benefits. Time really is of the essence.”

The procedure is already available to a small number of patients at Queen Square – some of whom have been able to return to normal life within days, despite strokes which would usually have caused a long hospital stay and long-term damage.  We want to raise £1.5m to expand the service – increasing its capacity by 800 per cent, providing thrombectomies for at least 400 patients a year. Please help more stroke patients by donating today.

Here, we grab a five minute Q&A with Dr Cowley, Interventional Neuroradiology Lead at The National Hospital:

How did you decide to specialise in your field?
I did my first degree in physics. Then it took me a little while to decide that I really wanted to do medicine, and when I finished I eventually settled on interventional neuroradiology, which combines different interests of mine. I’ve always been fascinated and drawn to the fact that you’re dealing with scans and patients, which means a great balance of clinical contact, patient contact and intellectual challenges.

Is there one thing you’d like the general public to know about stroke?
It’s very important that we realise that stroke is an acute medical emergency, and you need to get someone to a stroke unit as quickly as possible.

Is there one thing you’d like fellow-professionals to know about stroke?
From a colleague’s point of view, I think it’s important to know that in the past few years we’ve made vast steps forward in seeing stroke as a sub-specialist area. It’s no longer part of general medicine, and those specialist resources are there to be consulted.

If you weren’t doing this job, what’s your fantasy alternative?
Sailing slowly around the world.