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TV star Martin Kemp pledges support for children’s brain injury charity

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A charity which provides residential and community care for children with neurological injuries and disabilities has secured the support of a celebrity who himself has overcome brain trauma in appealing for vital funds to sustain its work.

From its base in Tadworth, Surrey, The Children’s Trust has worked with 3,000 children and their families in the past two years, delivering specialist rehabilitation and tailored support as they rebuild their lives following injury or illness.

In support of its fundraising efforts, TV and music star Martin Kemp has committed his support, fronting a BBC Lifeline documentary to highlight the work of the charity.

Back in 1995, Martin was diagnosed with two brain tumours, which saw him undergo major surgery to remove them, leaving him with memory loss and dyslexia. He has spoken regularly since that time about the massive and lasting impact this had on himself and his family.

The Children’s Trust helps families across the UK who are affected by brain injury and neurodisability, but donations are vital to its work. Earlier this year, chief executive Dalton Leong told NR Times of the catastrophic effect the COVID-19 pandemic has had on its annual fundraising.

Explaining his reasons for becoming involved in the appeal, Martin says: “I hope lots of people tune in to see why The Children’s Trust need your help. It’s a subject close to my heart and I hope the money raised continues to help more children and families across the UK access the vital support they so desperately need.”

The documentary highlights the situations of three young people who have been supported by The Children’s Trust – 14-year-old Finn who attends The Children’s Trust School, seven-year-old Amelia who has been supported by the Brain Injury Community Service team and 13-year-old Brittney who received intensive rehabilitation following a car accident.

Brittney was seriously injured in April last year, when she was walking to school with her sister. She was airlifted to hospital after being hit by a car, and was left with a traumatic subarachnoid haemorrhage.

Brittney’s Mum, Patricia, says: “When Brittney woke up three days after her car accident, she was unable to stand, walk, talk or feed herself. However, after four months of intensive rehabilitation at The Children’s Trust, including speech and language therapy and having physiotherapy every day, she was able to relearn all the skills she lost.

“Brittney is now able to walk and talk and has even gone back to school. Her recovery has been amazing and I could not have done it without The Children’s Trust. They are lifesavers.”

Finn was only seven months old when he was diagnosed with a mitochondrial disease, and his parents were warned he probably would not live past his first birthday.

However, now a teenager, Finn and his family are supported by The Children’s Trust in dealing with the effects of his condition.

“Finn didn’t really sleep, he had a lot of his seizures at night and was on a lot of medication. Normal day to day tasks were a two or three person job,” recalls Keiran, Finn’s dad.

“Someone mentioned the residency offered by The Children’s Trust and that it could be suitable for Finn – within the first weeks it was obvious he absolutely loved it here, the people who work there love and care for him like he’s their own child.

“They have amazing facilities, and Finn just wouldn’t have those opportunities otherwise. I don’t think he’s stopped smiling since he came here.”

Seven-year-old Amelia has been suffering seizures for two years, which culminated in her having to stay in hospital for ten weeks last summer after a particularly severe episode. The Children’s Trust community team supports Amelia and her family.

Sophie, Amelia’s mum, says: “You never know what any day is going to be. Amelia can be really nice one minute, but the next she will attack you for no reason, although she doesn’t know she’s doing it.

“The Children’s Trust have helped us with all areas of our lives, both our home and school life. Amelia couldn’t read or write after she became ill, but now she is getting back to the level of her classmates.

“They’ve helped our family to get back into a normal routine to feel like normal family, and I really can’t imagine life without them.”

* For more information on the work of The Children’s Trust, or to donate to its fundraising appeal, visit www.thechildrenstrust.org.uk

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Smoking linked to stroke in new study 

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Guido Falcone, assistant professor of neurology at Yale School of Medicine, was the senior author of the study

Adults who smoke, or are genetically predisposed to smoking behaviours, are more likely to experience a subarachnoid haemorrhage (SAH), new research has revealed.

The study found that while smokers are at a higher risk of SAH, that rises to over 60 per cent among those with genetic variants that predispose them to smoking.

The research, published in Stroke, a journal of the American Stroke Association, establishes a link between smoking and the risk of SAH for the first time.

While it has been proven in other types of stroke, this is pioneering research in its link with SAH – a type of stroke that occurs when a blood vessel on the surface of the brain ruptures and bleeds into the space between the brain and the skull.

Results of the study show:

  • the relationship between smoking and SAH risk appeared to be linear, with those who smoked half a pack to 20 packs of cigarettes a year having a 27% increased risk;
  • heavier smokers, those who smoked more than 40 packs of cigarettes a year, were nearly three times more at risk for SAH than those who did not smoke; and,
  • people who were genetically predisposed to smoking behaviours were at a 63% greater risk for SAH.

Researchers also stated that while their findings suggest a more pronounced and harmful effect of smoking in women and adults with high blood pressure, they believe larger studies are needed to confirm these results.

“Previous studies have shown that smoking is associated with higher risks of SAH, yet it has been unclear if smoking or another confounding condition such as high blood pressure was a cause of the stroke,” says senior study author Guido Falcone, assistant professor of neurology at Yale School of Medicine.

“A definitive, causal relationship between smoking and the risk of SAH has not been previously established as it has been with other types of stroke.”

During the study, researchers analysed the genetic data of 408,609 people from the UK Biobank, aged 40 to 69 at time of recruitment (2006-2010).

Incidence of SAH was collected throughout the study, with a total of 904 SAHs occurring by the end of the study.

Researchers developed a genetic risk scoring system that included genetic markers associated with risk of smoking and tracked smoking behaviour data, which was collected at the time each participant was recruited.

“Our results provide justification for future studies to focus on evaluating whether information on genetic variants leading to smoking can be used to better identify people at high risk of having one of these types of brain haemorrhages,” said lead study author Julian N. Acosta, neurologist, postdoctoral research fellow at the Yale School of Medicine.

“These targeted populations might benefit from aggressive diagnostic interventions that could lead to early identification of the aneurysms that cause this serious type of bleeding stroke.”

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New campaign to reduce stroke risk launched on Stroke Prevention Day 

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Almost nine out of ten strokes are associated with modifiable risk factors

A 12-week campaign is being launched today – Stroke Prevention Day – to help raise awareness of how the risk of stroke can be reduced. 

The campaign encourages people to make one small positive change to their lifestyle to reduce the possibility of stroke, which is the fourth highest cause of death in the UK. 

According to the Stroke Association UK, 89 per cent – almost 9 in 10 – strokes are associated with modifiable risk factors in the Western countries, including lifestyle elements that can be changed to reduce risk, such as weight, diet and blood pressure. 

New research commissioned by the charity, which is leading the campaign, has also revealed: 

  •  Only 1 in 20 (6%) UK adults think they’re at high risk of a stroke, despite the fact that the global lifetime risk of stroke from the age of 25 years onward was approximately 25% among both men and women
  • Almost half (47%) of the country don’t know that high blood pressure is a top risk factor for stroke 
  • 3 in 4 people (73%) said that they have had no information about stroke reduction recently, which rises to over 4 in 5 (85%) of over-65s, who are most at risk of having a stroke.

Blood pressure is the biggest cause of stroke, with 55 per cent of stroke patients having hypertension when they experience their stroke. Further, around 1 in 4 adults from 55 years of age will develop AFib. 

“While these numbers are concerning, they also demonstrate that with increased awareness, we can all take simple steps to reduce our risk,” says Charlie Fox, sales director of OMRON Healthcare, who are supporting the Stroke Association campaign alongside Patients Know Best. 

“As an incredibly important risk factor for stroke, having a healthy heart should be a top priority and remain front of mind.”

AFib can be asymptomatic and may not be present during a medical appointment as episodes can be occasional, which means it is often left undiagnosed. 

But given its seriousness, those who may be at risk should routinely record electrocardiogram (ECG) measurements, according to current medical guidelines. 

Through doing so at home will enable patients to become more in control of their health, with OMRON being one of the companies developing the technology to support them in doing so. 

“The public wants and needs to be more in control of its health, which is why we create products and services that are suitable for use at home as part of our Going for Zero strokes pledge,” adds Fox. 

“OMRON Complete, for example, is an upcoming, clinically validated home blood pressure monitor with a built-in ECG which can help detect AFib which we’re excited to launch in the coming months. 

“It is our hope that through this awareness programme and by equipping the public with the tools it needs, we can make having an empowered and informed lifestyle the new normal.”

People with a Patients Know Best (PKB) Personal Health Record can also log readings to get a more complete picture of their health journey. This allows them to look back with ease and share readings with clinical teams and caregivers in a safe, secure and meaningful way.

Fox concludes: “Your blood pressure provides important health insights. Monitoring it regularly alongside your ECG readings empowers you with knowledge, helps you act sooner, and can even save your life”.

More information about the campaign and how you can make your one small change can be found here: www.stroke.org.uk/PreventionDay

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What are the IDDSI Levels and why do they matter?

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Wiltshire Farm Foods takes you through the importance of the IDDSI Levels

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Dysphagia, more commonly known as swallowing difficulties, can be prevalent amongst those in neuro rehabilitation. For those in recovery, understanding how their swallowing has been affected, what solutions are available and which nutritional, delicious and above all, safe, meals they should be eating, is of paramount importance.   

When someone starts to experience dysphagia, they are most commonly seen by a speech and language therapist (SLT) and a dietitian. Together, they will create a plan for the management of dysphagia. A speech and language therapist will explain in detail the importance of texture modified food and drinks and will work with you to carefully understand the right texture modification for you. 

What is IDDSI?

This is where IDDSI can help you understand your recommended texture modified diet in more detail.  IDDSI stands for International Dysphagia Diet Standardisation Initiative. This is a committee that have developed a framework of 8 levels which provide common terminology to describe food textures and the thickness of liquids for those living with dysphagia.

The purpose of IDDSI is to create standardised terminology and descriptors for texture modified foods and liquids that can be applied and understood globally – across all cultures and age spans.

Before the introduction of IDDSI, there were national descriptors in the UK which were formed by opinion rather than international standards. Having different terminology, categories and definitions in different countries caused some instances of food being of incorrect consistency. The IDDSI framework was fully adopted by food manufacturers and healthcare settings in the UK in March 2019.

The framework consists of levels for both drinks (liquids) and foods, some of which overlap as you can see in the image above. Here is a breakdown of each category in the IDDSI FOODS framework. 

Level 3 – Liquidised/Moderately Thick

  • Can be drunk from a cup
  • Does not retain its shape
  • Can be eaten with a spoon, not a fork
  • Smooth texture with no ‘bits’

Level 4 – Pureed/Extremely Thick

  • Usually eaten with a spoon (a fork is possible)
  • Does not flow easily
  • Does not require chewing
  • Retains its shape
  • No lumps
  • Not a sticky consistency

Level 5 – Minced

  • Can be eaten with either a fork or a spoon
  • Can be scooped and shaped
  • Small lumps are visible, but are easy to squash with tongue
  • Biting is not required
  • Minimal chewing required

Level 6 – Soft & Bite-Sized

  • Can be eaten with fork or spoon
  • Can be mashed/broken down with pressure
  • Chewing is required before swallowing

How can I check my meals are made to IDDSI standards?

You can check to see whether your food is compliant with the IDDSI Framework by watching these IDDSI Food Test videos.

To discover a Softer Foods range which is IDDSI compliant and created with your patients’ needs in mind, register here for the opportunity to try some complimentary meals from Wiltshire Farm Foods.

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