Today, October 29, marks the World Day of Stroke (Stroke). Stroke is a disease that, according to the Portuguese Society of Stroke, is “the main cause of morbidity and potential years of life lost. The numbers are real and we can even mention that, for the moment, three Portuguese suffer a stroke, one of which does not survive and one will have disabling consequences ”. A disease with a mortality rate of around 10,000 people per year in Portugal.
Stroke is a disease often overlooked or identified as being of older people, however, it affects people of all ages and without warning.
In an interview with RC, Diana Wong Ramos, a stroke survivor and member of the Portugal stroke group, talks a little about what a stroke is, how one lives with this disease and tells us its story.
In 2011, at 34, Diana led a very busy life between work and family life, with two young children, and reveals that “she was not the healthiest person”. He says that “I had very little time for me to practice any sport, my diet was also very poor and to make matters worse, I smoked”. It was then that “without warning” he had a stroke, something I did not expect because “I thought that stroke was something that only happened to older people, I was wrong”. Diana was “with sequelae on my left side, that is, my sequelae are visible, in motor terms I have difficulty walking and my upper limb is not functional. Other than that, I try to make my life as normal and healthy as possible, because I don’t want it to happen again ”.
Stroke can always be repeated throughout life, so, he explains, one must “work on secondary prevention”, because “it is not because the person has already suffered a stroke that he will not suffer another, on the contrary, odds even increase. If we have a stroke something we were not doing well, so we have to review habits and review what our priorities are ”.
About what a stroke is and everything you have researched for the disease that says that there are warning signs “easy to perceive”. “These are the 3F’s: slurred speech or the absence of speech, the person is unable to speak; a drooping eye, a drooping mouth, the muscle in the face becomes strange; and the lack of strength in a limb, in the arm, in the leg, the person wants to raise his hand and can’t do it ”.
Whenever someone is in the presence of one of these signs or even of the three, they must “immediately call 112 because the stroke is a medical emergency, it has always been a medical emergency and it continues to be despite COVID”. He adds that “it is frightening to realize that during the pandemic there were fewer people accessing the Via Verde do AVC, not because they were not suffering a stroke, but because they were afraid of how they would be treated, if they were going to get COVID in hospitals and that cannot to happen”.
A stroke is a disease that is related to each person’s way of life. As this survivor explains, “what contributes to the increase in strokes is high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, a sedentary lifestyle, a diet low in fat and all that is possible to prevent”. If a person is suffering a stroke and is not immediately rescued, “the worst outcome: death or the sequelae are forever, that is, more neurons die and the more difficult it is for the person to recover from that failure of oxygenation of the brain that the stroke caused ”.
There are two types of strokes: ischemic, which happens due to clogging, and hemorrhagic, which is when an artery breaks. However, “the important thing is that people realize that it is possible to prevent it, we always have time to stop smoking, to lead a more active life, to practice some type of sport and to eat healthy and also to be alert to the signals”.
Portugal AVC launched a book with 21 testimonies from survivors, caregivers and family members. About this book he says that they are stories of people who “managed to be reborn”.
Diana Wong Ramos, a stroke survivor at the age of 34, guarantees that whoever survives is really “reborn”, because “they have to relearn everything”.
Regarding the current context of COVID-19, he states that “more than ever it makes a lot of sense to talk about it, because unfortunately due to the pandemic stroke survivors have been deprived of access to rehabilitation and when I say this, it is not just care of physiotherapy. A rehabilitation for a stroke survivor is physical therapy, occupational therapy, psychology service, nutrition service, speech therapy, etc. Only then does it make sense to talk about multidisciplinary rehabilitation. Unfortunately, in the context of the pandemic we are experiencing, we are assisting survivors not to have access to a rehabilitation service because the services are being closed to make way for SOS wards for COVID patients. I understand that we all need to be helped, but we cannot harm some in favor of others and stroke survivors do not deserve and cannot be left behind ”.
She reports that in Portugal AVC have received “many requests for help” because “the survivors’ relatives are completely lost and do not know what to do. Right now, rehabilitation is being put on the back burner and that cannot happen, because we do not have a miracle drug, our medicine is rehabilitation and it is not sold in pharmacies ”.