September 3, 2020

Stroke Week: it can happen to anyone

Anne Rodda has worked at Northern Health for 18 years and has been a stroke nurse for over a decade. In her career, she has seen how a stroke can affect so many people, from children to older patients.

“Twenty per cent of strokes happen to people under 55 years of age, and even children can have stroke, with the Stroke Foundation recently releasing guidelines on how to care for children with stroke,” she said.

Anne explained one of the biggest concerns in Victoria, when it comes to stroke patients, is that people are not coming to hospital, and waiting, even though they are experiencing signs of stroke.

“Some of the signs people shouldn’t be ignoring are FASTFace, Arm, Speech, Time. These include change in facial expressions on one side, weakness in one side of the body, change in their speech. We have treatments if people get into hospital quickly, so that is why they need to come straight away,” she said.

Stroke occurs as a result of a problem with the blood vessels, which can break or bleed. Blood pressure can have a significant impact on this and Anne always encourages people to monitor and know their numbers.

“Make sure you recognise the FAST symptoms and do something immediately, even if the symptoms are very mild, like your hand not working. Sometimes, patients are feeling well while having a stroke. Preventing stroke is about a healthy lifestyle – we all know we should keep on eye on our diet and exercise regularly. It can happen to anyone, men and women. All the risk factors make a difference,” she explained.

Caring for patients after stroke takes a multidisciplinary effort across the organisation, as care extends beyond the hospital, to recovery and patient support.

“Stroke unit care is the main point of care, where patients get seen by people who are trained and are experts in managing a stroke, and the multidisciplinary team is the core of that. Patient recovery depends on how big the stroke is and where it is. Some people can be back to normal in a few days, while others have a long term disability. Out of all people that survive a stroke, a third of them will have a long term disability,” Anne said.

“The main message we have for the community is that people need to come to hospital and get the treatment they need, as soon as possible,” she said.

National Stroke Week runs from 31 August – 6 September, with great resources and information available from The Stroke Foundation.