There is no telling who can be caught in its grip because it is merciless in its attack. Today marks World Stroke Day. Now, the question is: what can be done to avert this paralyzing ailment?
Fifty-seven-year-old Damian Orji is a businessman. He daily goes about his normal duties of providing for his family.
However, one day, he had a routine blood pressure check and was found to have very high blood pressure. He was detained for six hours and doctors struggled to treat and reduce the blood pressure. After that, he was allowed to go home on medication. He took the drugs for months and then stopped. He apparently felt well and did not feel he needed the drugs
One morning, three months later, he suffered a stroke. He suddenly lost his speech and became paralyzed on the left side of the body. He was immediately rushed to hospital where he was diagnosed with acute stroke and immediate treatment commenced.
Today, he has regained his ability to speak and function on the weak side of the body. He has some minor problems such as pains in the arm and some speech impediment.
However, Orji said that achieving all these was no mean feat as the initial care cost over N3, 000,000.
According to him, he was lucky that his wife was around on the day the stroke happened. His children and wife usually live abroad but she was visiting at the time. They now live with him permanently in Nigeria. The shock that they could easily have lost him forever helped to make the decision. He is the main breadwinner and sole support of the family. It would have devastated the family to lose him to stroke.
The treatment continues and Orji is on regular blood pressure medications and physiotherapy.
“Brain attack!” is a term a neurosurgeon at Cedarcrest Hospital, Abuja, Dr Biodun Ogungbo, used to describe the acute presentation of stroke.
He said the concept of “brain attack” is very important to sensitize physicians and the public to the need for rapid mobilization and treatment of stroke patients.
He explained, “remember the symptoms of stroke are sudden weakness of an arm or a leg, difficulty with speech, problems with walking, sudden blindness in one eye, confusion and headache. The symptoms can be short lived, they can come and go: each episode lasting for minutes to hours or a day (Transient ischemic attack: TIA).
The neurosurgeon warned that these types of symptoms should not be ignored as they may herald a big stroke which could become permanent and devastating.
“Anyone with symptoms suggestive of stroke must get to a hospital immediately. This is important, as time wasted is brain lost. You waste time: you lose brain and you reduce the chances of a good recovery of function. Severe headaches, weakness of the face, an arm or leg and slurring of speech are important reasons to go directly to the hospital.”
For early treatment, Ogungbo said the type of stroke must first be clearly ascertained by an immediate brain scan. “This shows the part of brain affected and how much brain is potentially at risk. It also tells the doctors how best to salvage at risk brain. Stroke is best managed by stroke specialists working in special stroke units.”
According to the World Health Organisation, every six seconds, regardless of age or gender – someone somewhere will die from stroke.
This, says the health organisation, is more than a public health statistic. These are people, who at one time, were someone’s sister, brother, wife, husband, daughter, son, partner, mother, father… friend. They did exist and were loved. Behind the numbers are real lives.
Today, the 29th of October, Nigeria joins the rest of the world to call for urgent action to address the silent stroke epidemic by launching the “1 in 6” campaign.
The objective of the campaign is to put the fight against stroke front and center on the global health agenda. The “1 in 6” theme was selected by leaders of the World Stroke Organisation (WSO) to highlight the fact that in today’s world, one in six people worldwide will have a stroke in their lifetime. Everyone is at risk and the situation could worsen with complacency and inaction.
The “1 in 6” campaign celebrates the fact that not only can stroke be prevented, but that stroke survivors can fully recover and regain their quality of life with the appropriate long-term care and support. The two-year campaign aims to reduce the burden of stroke by acting on six easy challenges:
Know your personal risk factors: high blood pressure, diabetes, and high blood cholesterol.
Be physically active and exercise regularly.
Avoid obesity by keeping to a healthy diet.
Limit alcohol consumption.
Avoid cigarette smoke. If you smoke, seek help to stop now.
Learn to recognize the warning signs of a stroke and how to take action.
The WSO disclosed that stroke is the second leading cause of death for people above the age of 60, and the fifth leading cause in people aged 15 to 59.
According to the organisation, stroke also attacks children, including newborns.
The consultant neurosurgeon categorically stated that stroke in Nigeria is death in waiting.