If you act quickly, there is hope after a stroke
There are no guarantees in life, says a stroke survivor from Paarl, but, if you get help quickly, you have a fighting chance. As Western Cape Government Health enters Stroke Awareness Week (25 to 31 October) we urge residents to take precautions to prevent a stroke, to urgently get medical help if they experience symptoms and to work with healthcare workers in the journey to recovery.
“I bent down to help the neighbour close a gate, and felt a buzzing in my head,” says Mr Ludwick Layman (55). “I knew it was a stroke. We called the ambulance, but then decided to go to the hospital ourselves. Within 30 minutes I lost the use of my right arm and leg,” he says about his experience only six months ago.
Urgently go to your nearest hospital’s Emergency Centre, or call for an ambulance at 10177 if you experience signs that could indicate you are having a stroke:
- A sudden, severe headache or dizziness
- A loss of balance
- Difficulty speaking clearly
- Sudden weakness in an arm or leg
- Your face drooping on one side
- Blurry vision
According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa, someone has a stroke every ten hours. The sooner you get medical intervention, the better your chances of recovery, as a stroke can be disabling or even cost your life.
Anyone can have a stroke, but some factors make you more vulnerable to experiencing a stroke. Your risk of a stroke increase as you age, and your stroke risk is also greater if you experienced a stroke in the past. If someone in your family had a stroke, your risk for a stroke, is higher. If there is a family history of some forms of high cholesterol, blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythm or clotting disorders, you have a greater risk of a stroke. The Heart & Stroke Foundation also warns that if you experience high levels of stress, anxiety, or depression, you have an increased risk of heart diseases or strokes. However, there are ways you can reduce your risk of having a stroke! Make lifestyle changes:
- Eat as healthily as possible and get regular exercise. Regular exercise is not only good to help you maintain a healthy body weight, but also to help you cope with stress and anxiety.
- Always take your medication as prescribed.
- Reduce your intake of alcohol and put down your cigarette for good.
- Talk to a healthcare worker if you are concerned about your mental health. The Western Cape Department of Health has a range of healthcare workers who can support you. Visit your nearest clinic.
Dr Rushaan Gaffoor (a Clinical Manager for Western Cape Government Health in the Drakenstein) says patients hold important keys to their health and well-being: a patient who takes their medication as prescribed, who lives a healthy lifestyle and who visits healthcare facilities for appointments and follow-ups, position themselves to be as healthy as possible. When recovering, it is as important to follow healthcare workers’ guidance. “Empower yourselves by talking to your healthcare worker so that you understand conditions you may have, as well as medication you take. This is how you take responsibility for your health,” says Gaffoor.
After about two weeks in hospital, Ludwick went to a rehab facility where he had to relearn how to swallow, walk, wash, and dress himself. His short-term memory is not as sharp as it used to be. Besides adjusting to the impact of the stroke on his body, it has also been difficult for him to suddenly not go to work. He is, however, very grateful to his wife for not leaving his side, and patiently accompanying to the many check-ups.
“We serve a God of second chances. People don’t always give you a second chance, but God does!” says Ludwick. His wife echoes and says that even if the experts say that certain functions should return in a specific time if they were to be restored at all, they have a confident hope for positive change.
He is thankful for the treatment received at the Department’s facilities, and that of Enable Centre who recently did an outreach to patients like Ludwick, as identified by the Department. “I received good holistic care and personal attention. A couple of months after my stroke I even had the opportunity to visit a friend in rehab after she also had a stroke. I could encourage her. Things may seem impossible now, but you will again experience good times. There is hope.”