A retired businessman has shaved off his beard for the first time in nearly 50 years to raise money for the hospital unit that helped him recover after he was struck down by a stroke.
The last time Eddie Lloyd-Davies, 72, was clean shaven was in 1969 when man landed on the moon, the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was breaking box office records, and Harold Wilson was Prime Minister.
His son, Guto, 42, had never seen him without a beard until the bristles disappeared in aid of the Ward 14 Stroke Unit at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, in Bodelwyddan.
Eddie, who started a Rhyl-based commercial printing firm Gwasg Helygain in 1974 along with Linda, his wife of 52 years, says he wanted to do something to raise money for the Ward 14 after receiving wonderful care following his stroke.
Eddie is among the patients to have benefitted from a pioneering Early Supported Discharge (ESD) scheme piloted in north Denbighshire over the last two years, to get patients who are well enough back home faster after a stroke.
The scheme means once patients are well enough they are discharged home and rehabilitative treatment such as speech and language therapy and physiotherapy is carried on at home with staff visiting them.
Ysbyty Glan Clwyd is the best in Wales for performance in stroke care, and assessing and treating stroke patients quickly, based on Welsh Assembly Government targets.
Eddie, affectionately known as Eddie the Ink due his background in the printing trade, said: “I spent three days on Ward 14 and the care I received was exceptional.
“I was allowed home under an early discharge scheme.
“I then worked with an occupational therapist, physiotherapy technical instructor, speech therapist and dietician who visited me at home.
“It meant I wasn’t taking up a bed that was needed and it was far better for me being back in my own home environment. I really believe it helped me recover far more quickly than perhaps I might have done.”
He added: “Betsi Cadwaldr University Health Board comes in for a great deal of criticism but there is so much exceptional work that goes on, often overlooked.
“This is Wales’ top stroke unit when it comes to treating the condition. We should actually be celebrating the health board’s excellence.
“I would say anyone who doubts the care offered at Ysbysty Glan Clwyd should come and sit in Ward 14 and watch, listen and learn. There is real excellence here. The treatment I had was life-saving and, well, just amazing.”
Eddie suffered a rare form of stroke called a Gerstmann’s stroke which was caused by a bleed to the left frontal lobe of his brain.
He said: “It was quite strange, my legs and arms were ok and I could read but couldn’t write or work out numbers and I wasn’t really aware of what was going on.
“I was very confused but it wasn’t what I thought a stroke would be like. There was no pain.
“Linda found me asleep and gradually throughout the day and into the evening things got worse and I became more confused. Linda then called an ambulance and I was taken to A&E at 4am.
“It was a young doctor in A&E who spotted the symptoms and correctly diagnosed a stroke and I was quickly rushed, on a trolley, for scans.
“It was amazing treatment and I’m aware they tried to do things as quickly as they could to minimise any potential damage.”
Eddie says he couldn’t believe he was discharged after just three days from Ward 14 and allowed home.
He said: “My treatment continued at home which is, for me, a really brilliant way of doing things. A stroke means you lose your confidence and the work I did at home was all about regaining confidence.
“In my case I was also overweight and I’m working with a dietician now to lose weight and minimise the risk of a further stroke in the future.”
He added: “I decided I wanted to do something to support Ward 14 and came up with the idea of shaving my beard off.
“Our older daughter Sian can only just remember me without a beard, Guto, who is 42, has never seen me clean shaven and our grandson, Ossian, 16, who lives with us, will see a bit of a difference.
“I couldn’t give an arm or a leg but to thank the staff and the health board for their amazing care I decided to go with a sponsored beard shave and so far have raised more than £200.
“I did say I would shave my beard off when we got a government in Cardiff but somehow never got around to it. I’ll certainly miss my beard – although I wasn’t entirely sure what the hairdresser would find underneath it!”
Denise Mclaughlin, who has been hospital hairdresser at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd for 16 years shaved Eddie’s beard off, and says she was delighted to help.
Eddie’s wife, Linda, says her husband has had a beard for almost as long as she can remember.
She said: “We met at school in Holywell, Flintshire, and we were married when I was 17 and Eddie was 21. We’ve never looked back but it’s going to be a shock seeing him without a beard.
“Eddie had wonderful treatment on Ward 14 and after his early discharge from hospital the therapists who visited and worked with him became almost like family. He’s had amazing treatment and we will always be grateful.”
Ward 14 Nursing Sister, Janet Lloyd-Jones, who has worked on the 29-bed Unit for five years, says Eddie’s gesture in raising funds for the Unit by having his beard shaved off is fantastic.
She said: “We treat both acute stroke patients and are the first line of rehab. Eddie is doing really well and it’s fantastic seeing him so fit following his stroke.
“The Betsi Cadwaldr University Health Board targets stroke care and we are proud that, according to Welsh Assembly Government figures, we are the best in Wales when it comes to the treatment of strokes.
“Eddie was able to benefit from our Early Supported Discharge scheme which is only currently available in one small area of north Denbighshire although we would love to see the scheme expand.
“The Early Supported Discharge team assessed Eddie and decided what treatment he needed and would benefit from at home.
“Treating a patient at home in their own environment is better for the patient and definitely aids recovery.”
She added: “We are looking at developing a garden to provide our patients with an outside space to enjoy. The money Eddie raises through his sponsored shave will go towards realising that ambition.
“It’s a brilliant effort and we are really grateful to Eddie and Linda for their wonderful support.”
Shirley Heaven, an occupational therapist technical instructor and Julie Hirst, a physiotherapy technical instructor, both worked with Eddie at his home as part of the Early Supported Discharge scheme.
Shirley, who has worked with the hospital trust since 1995, said: “The Early Supported Discharge scheme started as a pilot scheme and was to run for just seven months.
“That has been extended twice so far and there is currently funding available so it can continue until December this year.
“The scheme frees up beds and the fact we go out and work with patients in their own homes is better for patients and is a big boost when it comes to recovery from stroke.”
She added: “It means we can help with activities patients would normally do in their daily lives.
“So far we have worked with 58 patients but that is in just a small area of north Denbighshire basically around Rhyl.
“It means occupational therapists, physiotherapists, speech and language therapists and a host of other hospital services are available but it may be patients may not need all the services. Treatment is tailored to patients’ individual needs.”
Julie Hirst added: “Eddie is such a lovely man and what he has done to raise funds for Ward 14 is amazing. He’s amazing and not a day went by that he didn’t tell us how grateful he was for the treatment he received.”
Denise Mclaughlin offers a hairdressing service for patients on all wards and can be contacted on 07941 288451 to book an appointment.
To make a donation in aid of Eddie’s beard shave for Ward 14, visit: www.justgiving.com/eddiesbigshave