After losing her father to multiple strokes, Gloria Hunniford was terrified that history would repeat itself when her husband suffered a stroke.
The husband of 83-year-old Loose Women panelist Stephen Way suffered two strokes.
In 2012, the TV host was about to head off to film Loose Women when Stephen “limped into the bedroom” from the garden.
“He said his arm and leg felt a little bit like cotton wool and he couldn’t control it,” she recalls.
In an exclusive interview with The Sun, Gloria has opened up about how scared she was and how she doesn’t think Stephen would still be here if it weren’t for the speedy NHS benefit she received.
Through tears, she said, “I just want to thank the ER and the special stroke unit that they have there for all their care and attention because they saved his life.”
TV legend Gloria praises the stroke unit at Pembury Hospital and says she would have nominated it for the Who Cares Wins award a decade ago if the awards had existed.
She urges you to nominate your healthcare heroes before July 31, when the form closes, so that outstanding medics and support staff can be shortlisted.
To submit an entry, the medical event must have occurred within the last year.
The people selected by the jury will be invited to a glamorous award ceremony with numerous celebrities in September.
Stephen, who married Gloria in 1998, suffered his first stroke in 2012, which she feared losing him forever.
While many people may have been waiting for symptoms to improve or worsen, Gloria immediately called her GP.
race to the hospital
She knew acting quickly would make all the difference because she had watched her father, Charles Hunniford, suffer eight strokes before he died in 1979.
The GP told her to get Stephen to the hospital as soon as possible and they jumped into the car that had been waiting to take her to the studio and drove to Pembury Hospital near Tunbridge Wells.
When they were taken to the special stroke unit, Gloria recalls getting frustrated when a doctor kept asking her, “How long has it been since the stroke?”
She explains: “I just really wanted someone to do something, give them pills, do anything!
“All I thought was, ‘Stop asking me how long it’s been, I can’t think!'”
But the reason for the question was extremely relevant and, Gloria believes, was the reason Stephen remains fit and healthy today.
Because he was taken straight to the hospital, Stephen was able to receive an anticoagulant injection, which patients can only be given in the first three hours after a stroke.
She says: “Because the ER was very efficient and quick, Stephen was able to get this injection.
“The scary thing is that the doctor told us the chances of the injection being life-threatening were slim and that Stephen had to give his consent.
“He was in a confused state with the nurse who was monitoring his counts and she just looked at me and said ‘He must have it’ because the count kept going up.
“So he said to me, ‘What do you think? What would you do?’ and I said, “I think I’d take it because it would give me a better chance,” and so he got it.
“And thank God it saved his life.”
Wonderful care from nurses
After the injection, Stephen was transferred to a ward at Pembury Hospital, where he stayed “almost a week”.
Gloria says: “He was looked after wonderfully there.
“What was quite extraordinary is that when he was first lying on the bed, one arm was useless and the leg started to be useless.
“But at the end of the week in the hospital, under supervision and on various blood thinning pills, apart from obviously being a little weak and stunned by the experience, he never looked back!”
Hospital staff quickly got Stephen walking again, and within 36 hours he was beginning to use his legs normally.
“They were just so good in the hospital,” says Gloria. “They have been so diligent, so caring and so constructive, so much so that I wrote to the administrator and told them their caring was life-saving and life-changing.”
Over the years Stephen has received more wonderful NHS care due to a previous heart attack and a broken back after a bad fall.
She says, “Strokes sometimes change people’s personalities depending on how severe they are, and in the case of my father, it changed his personality a little bit.” He became much more impatient.
“But strangely enough, that wasn’t the case with Steven!”
And Gloria is now even more grateful for the way Pembury treated Stephen, having recently witnessed a friend less well after suffering a stroke.
“The doctor said to them, ‘Oh, just take it easy tonight. “We’ll check again in the morning, but in the morning it was too late,” she says.
“They couldn’t administer the anticoagulant injection and that’s why this particular gentleman can’t walk properly.
“He’s on a walker or in a wheelchair.
“That’s why I and Stephen are so grateful that he was looked after so well at Pembury.
“I just want to thank the ER and stroke department there for all their care and attention because they saved his life.”