Nigerians must know what to do when stroke happens

Stroke, most times occurs in form of an attack. But in some parts of Nigeria, that attack is believed to be spiritual-requiring ferocious prayers, application of anointing oil, holy water, burning of incense and candles obviously to ward off or cast out the demonic spirits responsible for this so called attack.

Gloria Ekeng, Care Director, Winnexcare Limited feels stroke should (and can) be handled medically and the patient helped to live a normal post-attack life if attended to early.

“We need to know exactly what has happened to the patient in order to render the kind of help that can reduce or eliminate disability and get the patient back to work in good time”, says Ekeng who is a Clinical Nurse Specialist for TIA/Stroke at Kings College Hospital, Denmark Hill, London.

A UK accredited health and medical trainer, Ekeng, a neuroscientist and specialist in stroke care and management with several years of practice in the UK, has a master’s degree in Advanced Neuroscience Practice.

She notes that stroke happens like an emergency and handling medical emergencies professionally and getting the best outcomes haven’t always been our way of life.

Even though some diagnosis is required to confirm it, stroke happens when there is stoppage of blood flow to the brain-usually a sudden blockage or rupture of a blood vessel in the brain resulting in loss of consciousness, partial loss of movement, or loss of speech.

For many Nigerian stroke patients, the partial loss of movement or loss of speech becomes permanent and they are bedridden, incontinent or confined to a life in a wheelchair. That is the challenge most stroke patients have to live with (in addition to its physical, psychological and mental consequences) until we can strengthen our capacity to identify stroke early, diagnosed it appropriately and treat it promptly.

“Stroke related disability has reduced significantly in most parts of Europe and the UK especially and I feel we can achieve that feat in Nigeria if we know what to do and how to go about doing it. That is precisely why I’m here and I think we can all work together to make that needed change to improve and prolong the life of stroke patients in Nigeria.

“Our stroke burden is alarming even though it’s not a public health or communicable disease I think it should be on our health emergency list given the fact that too many Nigerians are currently living with undiagnosed hypertension and diabetes-including people as young as 35 and 40. So what is the future of a country when its young people are potential stroke cases waiting to happen and those affected can’t get the right help?

“Your life literally shuts down if you have a stroke and that’s why we need to do something so that people can quickly go back to work irrespective of stroke”.

Knowledge of what to do in this case and the skill to do it in good time are two critical factors Ekeng believes is needed to address to help patients with stroke. There is also the need for collaboration between several specialists within health systems if stroke patients can live a better life after stroke.

Another strong component of the capacity building plan for stroke response within our health system is for health professionals to try and prevent stroke from occurring in the first place. It begins with training doctors, nurses and even radiologist regarding early detection of Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) which in turn will help prevent and reduce disability resulting from full blown stroke.

Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) also known as mini-stroke is a sudden loss of function in one region of the brain.

“We need stroke support groups in Nigeria as a means of expanding the treatment and care continuum. I also believe it will sustain the quality of care, serve as resource pool for capacity building especially around social care and this will ultimately reduce stroke-related mortality.”

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