There are 60 years between these two Queenslanders, but when they each had a stroke it was 60 minutes that mattered in their recovery

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There are 60 years between teen Shaun Lockhart and Colin Knot — but when they had strokes months apart, it was 60 minutes that made the difference in their recovery. 

Doctors call it the “golden hour”, when there’s the best chance to restore blood flow and save threatened tissue from a stroke. 

Fifteen-year-old Shaun was in Chinchilla, about 350 kilometres north-west of Brisbane, when the symptoms began. 

“He was paralysed down the right side, unable to communicate and could not understand us very well,” his mother Ellen Edwards said. 

a teenage boy smiling

Shaun has still not fully recovered, five months on from his stroke. (Supplied)

It was six hours before he was flown from a local hospital to the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, where he had a scan and went straight into surgery.

“It took them only 13 minutes from start to finish. And we later found out he had in fact had 10 to 12 mini-strokes in his life, but only two that were really noticeable,” Ms Edwards said. 

Five months on, Shaun’s thinking, speech and vision are still affected, his mother said. 

Before the stroke, he was a school champion runner, but it’s unlikely he will be able to return to that level of competition.

a man in a hospital gown, in a hospital room

Colin Knot, 75, was in surgery within an hour of arriving at hospital. (ABC News)

Colin Knot, 75, has fully recovered since his stroke just over a month ago. 

Mr Knot, who lives at Shailer Park, south of Brisbane, was diagnosed within the first 60 minutes of his stroke beginning. 

He was speaking to his wife when he stopped making sense. 

“She kept saying, ‘I don’t understand what you are saying’ and like most marriages, the wife doesn’t always understand what the husband’s saying anyway,” he said. 

“In my head, I knew what I was saying, but she panicked and called an ambulance.”

a composite of an older man getting a brain scan and a teen boy in a hospital bed

Shaun Lockhart had a stroke earlier this year at 15. Colin Knot had a stroke at 75, but has had a faster recovery.  (Supplied)

He was at Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital within half an hour and in surgery within an hour after that. 

“I am very lucky,” he said. 

‘There is a huge inequality in stroke care outcomes’

Shaun and Mr Knot are separated by a postcode lottery. 

People in rural areas who suffer a stroke, as Shaun did, only have a three per cent chance of being diagnosed within the first hour. 

It’s hoped a portable brain-scanner “helmet” could close that city-country divide. The scanners weigh less than 10 kilos — a hospital CT machine can weigh up to two tonnes. 

A brain scanning machine sits next to a backpack

EMVision’s Gen 2 brain scanner and backpack.(Supplied)

The lightweight scanner was developed by medical imaging company EM Vision using research by the University of Queensland. 

EM Vision’s Scott Kirkland said the technology would allow paramedics to run a scan and send the images to specialists, meaning patients could be diagnosed on the road. 

A radiographer looking at brain scans on a screen inside an ambulance

A radiographer looking at brain scans from inside an ambulance.(Supplied)

The scanners will be trialled in ambulances next year.

“It is a road and air ambulance model, a first responder model, designed to bring imaging to the patient no matter where they are,” Mr Kirkland said.

“We know there is a huge inequality in stroke care outcomes in rural and regional areas.

“As many live many kilometres away from major hospitals, this high-end CT imaging will open the door to earlier treatment and better outcomes.”

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The research was partly funded by the Australian Stroke Alliance. 

Co-chair Professor Stephen Davis, who is also the director of the Melbourne Brain Centre, said the scanners are potentially “game-changing”. 

“Stroke therapy has undergone a revolution in recent years, with very successful treatments to break up blood clots — what we call clot-busting treatment — if detected quickly,” he said. 

“We are reluctant to use words like breakthrough and game-changers, but I think the concepts are right and if these devices are clinically validated, and we think they are likely to be — the word game-changer will not be an exaggeration.”

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There are 60 years between these two Queenslanders, but when they each had a stroke it was 60 minutes that mattered in their recovery

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