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Kiwis Urged To Call 111 Immediately If Having Stroke Symptoms

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Kiwis Urged To Call 111 Immediately If Having Stroke Symptoms

Nigel Ingham believes calling 111 when he had stroke symptoms would have saved him months of intense rehabilitation.

He is supporting the Stroke Awareness Week message for people to go to hospital straight away if they have symptoms of stroke. Those symptoms may include one side of your face drooping, one side of the body being weak, having difficulty speaking or speech being jumbled or slurred.

Twelve years ago, Nigel then 32, noticed a slight limp when out socialising on Saturday night.

"It wasn't muscular, I had no pain," he says. "It was like my leg just wasn't working properly."

Over the next few days things got worse. Nigel noticed the right side of his body wasn't responding properly - but he put it down to being tired after a weekend of partying.

"Monday came and I went to my job as an apprentice builder. When I almost fell off the roof, I knew something was wrong.

"By the time I got home I had an excruciating headache and couldn't walk properly. I rang mum who took me to my GP. He took one look at me and sent me to hospital and a stroke was diagnosed.

"I now know I should have gone straight to hospital. With every minute more damage was being inflicted on my brain - adding months, even years, to my recovery."

Alan Barber, Professor of Neurology at Auckland University, says Nigel's story is not uncommon.

"The sooner you get to hospital, the more chance there is of breaking down the clot that has gone to your brain and caused a stroke.

"I see people who have waited to see if they would 'come right' or made an appointment to see their GP. They should have dialled 111 immediately, because when you have a stroke you are losing more brain cells every minute."

He says the 'clot-busting' treatment - tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) - must be started within four and a half hours of the onset of a stroke, or it won't work because the damage will have been done.

"If people get to hospital in time, tPA treatment may make a huge difference to how disabled they are by their stroke. Put simply, time is brain."

Dr Cathy Stinear, a senior lecturer at Auckland University's School of Medicine, and expert in stroke rehabilitation starts to work with people a few days after they have had a stroke.

"How quickly you got to hospital is often critical to how quickly and how much you recover.

"Having treatment to break up a clot can make a huge difference to your ability to live independently and have the life you want, post-stroke."

She says the issue with strokes is that, unlike heart attacks, they don't usually hurt.

"You feel a bit odd and things may not work properly, but you are not in pain. So often people wait a few hours to see if things get better, when what they should be doing is dialling 111.

"If you've had a stroke, you need to be somewhere safe, under medical supervision. There is nothing to be lost and everything to be gained by getting to hospital quickly if you show any stroke symptoms."

Stroke Awareness Week runs from 6 to 12 September. Its message is for people to act FAST if they have any stroke symptoms.

The FAST acronym stands for:

* Face - has it drooped?

* Arm - is one arm weaker?

* Speech - is it slurred, jumbled?

* Time - time to act fast.

If you have any of these symptoms, call 111 immediately.

For more information, or to talk to Professor Alan Barber or Dr Cathy Stinear, contact Liz Price on 04 527 3290, 0276 957 744.

Background

Stroke facts and figures

* A stroke is a sudden interruption of blood flow to the brain, causing brain cell damage. Basically, it is a brain attack.

* Stroke is the third largest killer in New Zealand after heart disease and cancer.

* Each year, about 2000 people die from stroke

* Disabilities from stroke make it one of the highest consumers of hospital beds, services and community support in this country.

* There are an estimated 45,000 stroke survivors in New Zealand, many of whom have disability and need significant daily support.

Recognising stroke symptoms

* Delayed recognition of a stroke means delayed medical intervention - which can have tragic consequences, including further damage to the brain or death.

* In 2007 and 2010, the Stroke Foundation commissioned Colmar Brunton to assess the general public's ability to recognise the signs of stroke and to act appropriately if a stroke is suspected.

* The results from both surveys showed that at least one third of New Zealanders were unable to recognise even one sign of stroke.

* Furthermore, only about 12 percent of respondents could recognise three correct signs of stroke.

Act FAST

The FAST acronym was developed by stroke researchers in the United States as an effective way for people to recognise three key stroke symptoms and to act fast if a stroke is suspected. Subsequent evaluation of the FAST message by researchers in the US found it sufficient to pick up 88.9 percent of strokes and TIAs (mini strokes).

Other international evaluations of FAST have found that it is an effective mnemonic for increasing and retaining knowledge of the key signs of stroke and the importance of acting fast.

For more information on stroke see www.stroke.org.nz

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