THE SWIFT actions of a Rhondda ambulance crew helped save the life of a stroke victim.

It was the first time a new system for the emergency treatment of stroke victims had been used in Wales and it worked like clockwork, according to the doctor who helped set it up.

Nelson-based paramedics Katie McPheat and Derek Olsen quickly diagnosed 68-year-old Brian March at his home in Trebanog and rushed him to the Stroke Unit at the Royal Glamorgan.

There he was given a brain scan and specialist Dr Richard Dewar gave him a life-saving thrombolysis injection to break up the clot which had caused the stroke.

Katie said: "We were there soon after paramedic Neil Phelps in the Rapid Response Vehicle and Mr March was on the sofa in his living room.

"We took basic observations and did the tests for a stroke and he was complaining of slurred speech which is one of the signs and he also had a slight facial droop which is a possible indication of a stroke.

"He had never had a stroke before so it must have been quite frightening for him but we did further checks and got him onto the ambulance and told control to tell the stroke unit at Royal Glamorgan we were on our way in."

A relieved Brian March, who lives alone in Trebanog, Rhondda, said: "I felt pins and needles in the back of my head and then collapsed in the bathroom, but I knew I had to get to the phone somehow.

"I managed to drag myself to the phone and contacted my sister who rang 999 and I managed to wedge the door open.

"The ambulance was there in five minutes and I owe so much to the crew and to Dr Dewar for saving my life.

"I've still got a weakness in my arm but I couldn't move it at all when it happened so I'm over the moon to have got where I am.

"It's all thanks to Dr Dewar, the ambulance crew and that hospital staff."

Katie, from Merthyr, a paramedic for five years, added: "It's great to get feedback like this so that we know we have made a difference.

"Dr Dewar was excellent and because the whole process was speeded up it gave Mr March a much better chance.

"Stroke is the third most common cause of death after heart attacks and cancer so it's important that this new system worked so well."

Dr Dewar said: "Thrombolysis is used by paramedics to bust the clots which cause heart attacks but you can't do that with a stroke until the patient has had a brain scan.

"That's because strokes can also be caused by bleeding in the brain which could be aggravated by the use of a thrombolysis drug.

"We have been working on setting up this emergency care pathway with the Welsh Ambulance Service so that there is swift assessment of the patient.

"It's crucial then that the crew give advance warning to the hospital and that's what happened here, we were ready for them and able to give the right treatment."

Ken Smith, Welsh Ambulance Service Clinical Support Officer for South East Region, said: "We have been working with Dr Dewar for some time on setting up this emergency care pathway for stroke victims and in the first week after introducing it we have a perfect example of how it should work.

"This is a pilot for the rest of Wales and this was the very first time it had been used so it's very pleasing that it went so well and that's down to everyone concerned, the crew, control and Dr Dewar and the hospital staff.

"The crew quickly realised they were dealing with a stroke, they rang it in to control and stabilised the patient and control informed the receiving hospital, the Royal Glamorgan, that they were on their way.

"That meant that when they arrived everything was ready for them and the patient could be scanned and successfully thrombolysed and the clot in his brain was broken up.

"It was a good outcome and an excellent example of NHS partners working together."