On 22 June 2013, George Mabasa, at 39-years old, experienced his stroke by being unable to move his leg, sweating profusely, and then unable to move his arm. Denial played a big part in the delaying of medical treatment due to lack of recognition of stroke symptoms. A diagnosis of stroke often comes as a shock since the majority of people think “that will never happen to me”. Only by the following morning, George finally relented and asked his wife to take him to the hospital where it was confirmed that he had suffered a stroke.
“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I felt so embarrassed and disappointed at myself for two reasons; one, because I should have known better about lifestyle diseases as I work in the wellness industry, and secondly, that I didn’t act in time on the Saturday night to get help, solely because I didn’t know what was happening to me.”
Although stroke is a complex medical issue, there are ways to significantly reduce its impact. Prof. Pamela Naidoo, CEO of the HSFSA states that “Recognising the signs of a stroke early, treating it as a medical emergency and having access to the best professional care, can substantially improve outcomes. These are key priorities that the HSFSA would like to highlight on World Stroke Day”. The key messages of the HSFSA and the World Stroke Organisation are embodied in the triple A’s: Awareness, Access and Action.
Knowing how to recognise the signs of stroke, is a key first step in treating stroke. A useful acronym to remember and to share widely with family and friends, is FAST:
Face: Is one side drooping?
Arms: Raise both arms. Is one side weak?
Speech: Is the person able to speak? Are words jumbled or slurred?
Time: If even one of these signs are present, act quickly and call emergency services.
By asking these simple questions and being able to identify whether you, a friend or bystander is having a stroke, could save a life and improve chances of rehabilitation. The sooner a stroke is recognised and care is sought, the higher the chances of survival and recovery.
Having access to emergency medical care, medication and treatment when suffering a stroke, greatly increases the chances of a good outcome. Taking the suspected stroke victim to a hospital immediately ensures that treatment can start early.
General treatment of a stroke patient includes careful management of hydration, nutrition and swallowing problems, as well as measures to prevent pneumonia and blood clots forming in the veins of the legs. High blood pressure and blood sugar levels may require treatment. After the acute phase of stroke treatment, the focus of management shifts to rehabilitation and preventing another stroke from occurring.
For stroke to be treatable, action is needed by government, healthcare professionals, individuals and survivors in order to drive awareness and advocate for better access to stroke treatments.
Lifestyle changes: Knowing whether one is at risk for a stroke plays a key role in prevention – close monitoring of blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol can be a lifesaver and will highlight whether lifestyle changes are necessary. Lifestyle changes can greatly reduce the risk of another stroke in stroke survivors. Changes include:
Face the Facts, stroke is treatable. Lives can improve with better awareness, access and action – we hope we have made it a far less scary topic and trust this has empowered you.
The numbers to phone for the public emergency ambulance services, if you think someone is having a stroke are 10177 (Landline) and 112 (Cell). One phone call, can potentially save a life!
Download the HSFSA’s ‘My Stroke, A Practice Manual for Stroke Patients’ developed in conjunction with the University of Cape Town, here.