Sally* used to live in Melbourne and would visit her GP regularly for check-ups. For many years, Sally’s blood pressure was on the high side of normal. As both her parents also had high blood pressure, her GP made sure to always “keep an eye on it”.

In 2012, at the age of 47, Sally had a mini stroke, which her doctors called a TIA, or Transient Ischemic Attack^. “I remember having a general unwell feeling not long after leaving work. Nothing specific, I just didn’t feel well. I recall the feeling getting worse as I got closer to home and becoming agitated. I do remember having a tingling feeling down my left side and also in my mouth. My husband said at the time this happened I was trying to get out of the car, but I don’t remember this. When we got home I was still feeling very weird and remember feeling quite ‘blank’.”

Her husband drove her straight to the hospital where she was kept under observation and later discharged. The next day, Sally saw her GP who started her on cholesterol lowering medication. As her blood pressure was still on the higher side of normal, the GP also advised Sally to make some lifestyle changes and lose some weight, to try and reduce her blood pressure naturally. Sally admitted that she “was not very good at that.”

“I remember having a general unwell feeling…”

Unfortunately Sally’s regular GP moved and over the next couple of years Sally saw a few different doctors. In December 2018, her blood pressure had risen further. The GP she saw prescribed one month of a blood pressure lowering medication and told her to come back at the end of that month for review. However, this did not happen as Sally moved to Brisbane. She also stopped taking the blood pressure medication after her tablets finished.

“I remember having a tingling feeling down my left side and in my mouth.”

Finding a new GP in Brisbane was difficult. The first doctor Sally saw said her blood pressure was ‘a bit high’ but took no further action. The second doctor noted that her blood pressure was high and ordered a full blood test. Unfortunately GP face-to-face consults stopped soon after because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so Sally was unable to get her results. Sally managed to see another GP during the COVID-19 pandemic who, upon learning of Sally’s medical and family history, prescribed a blood pressure lowering medication for her. The medication made her feel very lethargic, so she stopped taking it – without consulting the GP. Sally is not currently taking anything for her blood pressure. Sally is considering getting a home blood pressure monitor as she knows how important it is to check her blood pressure. Sally has continued taking her cholesterol lowering drug and her cholesterol is well controlled. Life during the COVID-19 crisis has been rough on her family. Her husband lost his job and her son’s wedding was postponed. Fortunately, Sally continues to work and her job is not stressful. Sally knows she has a high risk of having a stroke or heart attack. She desperately wants a face-to-face consultation with a GP to check her blood pressure and get it under control.

“Unfortunately with COVID-19, this has not been possible. I was really happy with the (second) GP I saw and look forward to seeing her again when everything settles down.”

*Names changed. Stock photo shown.

^ Transient Ischaemic Attack: when the blood supply to your brain is blocked temporarily; same signs as a stroke but only for a short time.

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