Till stroke did us part… the heart-wrenching impact of stroke on families
“We met him on the kitchen floor with his face drooping and his right side paralysed. He could hardly utter a word. At that moment, I knew my world had come to an end.”
These were the words of Afia Ampomaa, a widow as she chronicled the ordeal of her late husband who suffered stroke 19 years ago.
On that fateful August night in 2003, she recalls how she had to quickly call her neighbours and church elders to assist in taking her husband to the hospital because their children were very young and naïve.
After series of tests, he was diagnosed with stroke.
From that point, her strong father figure and husband was reduced to a dependent burden who had to be catered for like a child and kept under close watch.
According to her, he could barely walk or speak coherently; he had an unsteady gait and had lost power in his right arm. Virtually his right part was “paralysed.”
Apparently, she said it had been accumulated uncontrolled blood pressure and stress that he never checked orknew of until the unforeseen circumstance when the disease struck suddenly.
Life became unbearable from there as her hero had been reduced to nothing.The civil engineer who worked so hard and looked out for his children could now neither go to work nor be with his kids as he always pleased.
Her strong-hearted husband could no longer speak or act the way he used to. He could not control his emotions or bowels.
Ms Ampomaa said they began moving from one hospital to the other for consultations, treatments and physiotherapy.
For the faith factor, she had to move out of the house with her husband to a prayer camp for deliverance while they still visited the hospital.
Unfortunately, it was already late or maybe fate had already decided her husband’s life, as all efforts seemed futile. Just when signs of recovery began showing, he kicked the bucket on the evening of August 4, 2004.
What is stroke?
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a stroke, sometimes called a brain attack, occurs when something blocks blood supply to a part of the brain or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. In either case, parts of the brain gets damaged or die.
High Blood Pressure (HBP) has been found to be the principal cause of strokeand it is said to be the primary cause of increased risk of stroke among people with diabetes.
Other causes are high cholesterol, physical inactivity, tobacco smoking, end-stage kidney disease, irregular heartbeat, genetic disposition, stress and depression.
In addition,research and science has found that stroke may affect one’s ability to move, speak, eat, think and remember, control one’s bowel and bladder, control their emotions as well as other vital body functions.It can cause lasting brain damage, long-term disability, or even death.
Types of strokes include ischemic, hemorrhagic and Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA). The Brain Injury Association of Americasays Ischemic stroke is the most common type of strokes (87 per cent)that happendue to lack of blood flowwhile hemorrhagic stroke occurs because of bleeding. Both cause parts of the brain to stop functioning properly.
Meanwhile a TIA, sometimes called a “mini-stroke” is different from the major types of stroke because it is where blood flow to the brain is blocked for only a short time—usually not more than five minutes.
Symptoms of stroke include numbness, confusion, trouble seeing, walking, understanding, severe headache and dizziness.
The CDC says that in 2020, six deaths from cardiovascular disease was due to stroke and that someone in the United States (US) had a stroke in every 40 seconds. It also said that in every 3.5 minutes, someone dies of stroke while stroke-related costs in the US came to nearly $53 billion between 2017 and 2018. The amount included cost of health care services, medicines to treat stroke, and missed days of work.
The CDC indicated that every year, more than 795,000 people in the US have a stroke. About 610,000 of these are first or new strokes and about 185,000 strokes—nearly one in four—are in people who have had a previous stroke. About 87 per cent of all strokes are ischemic strokes, in which blood flow to the brain is blocked.
The World Stroke Organisationsays thatover 110 million people in the world have experienced stroke. It underscores that stroke has already reached epidemic proportions, as globally one in four adults over the age of 25 will have a stroke in their lifetime. It also states that 12.2 million people worldwide will have their first stroke this year and 6.5 million will die as a result.
The World Stroke Organisation further said the incidence of stroke increases significantly with age, however over 60 per cent of strokes happen to people under the age of 70 and 16per cent happen to those under the age of 50.
According to the latest World Health Organisation (WHO) data published in 2018, stroke deaths in Ghana reached 16,960 or 8.47 per cent of total deaths. The age-adjusted death rate for Ghana is 145.19 per 100,000 of population that ranks Ghana ninth (9th)in the world.
A medical officer, DrJonathan Oppong, explained stroke as the dysfunction that occurs when blood flow to certain portions of the brain is inhibited.
According to him, once a portion of the brain has lost blood flow and is beginning to show signs of the loss of blood flow, sometimes it can be revived with physiotherapy.
“But once that portion of the brain is dead again because blood flow is unable to get there, it can’t be revived.So what is left is with physiotherapy to strengthen the portions of the body with exercise moving them up and down,” he added.
Dr Oppong said the treatment of stroke, which includes acute and prolonged treatments could last from weeks to months even to years, adding, “Treatment can go from medical treatment to surgical treatment and to rehabilitative treatment and all these have various time frames or length.”
“The disease is preventable, cure is tricky because once a portion of the brain is dead you can’t bring that portion of the brain back but you can prevent it from happening.”
Dr Oppong said stroke could be prevented by life style modifications and a conscientious effort for regular checkups as well as having adequate knowledge of the risk factors.
“Liaise with your doctor or healthcare provider to bring your condition under control, eat a good diet, exercise frequently and be generally conscientious about your health and control risk factors,” he added.
Dr Oppong used the opportunity to advise persons who stigmatise others with stroke to desist from the act“because you don’t know when it will happen.”
“Stigmatising another person means stigmatising yourself because it could happen to you or any other person. So what we should rather do is to encourage others who are victims of stroke.”
BY ABIGAIL ARTHUR