When Stroke Strikes: Stroke Emergency and What To Do

Don’t get caught in a health emergency situation like stroke and remain clueless. Arm yourself with knowledge and save a life.

Photo by Marcus Aurelius on Pexels

As the threat of the ongoing pandemic continues to rage, the public is also faced with another battle amid these challenging times: stroke.

From 2009 to 2019, stroke has been identified as the second leading cause of death and one of the top five leading causes of disability in the Philippines. 

According to the latest 2021 Philippine Statistics Authority report, cerebrovascular diseases – under which stroke falls – is the third leading cause of death in 2020. Statistics from the PSA underscore the large number of Filipinos grappling with the said condition.

Given the PSA report, it is important for every Filipino now more than ever to be equipped with basic knowledge about stroke, and how quickly responding to its symptoms can save a life or prevent certain disability.

Stroke or “brain attack” occurs when the blood supply to the brain is either blocked or reduced. Patients and their loved ones should watch out for the signs of stroke using the acronym 

“BE FAST” which stands for the following: 

B-Balance difficulty

E-Eye changes

F-Face drooping, crooked smile

A-Arm weakness or numbness

S-Slurred speech

T-Time to call an ambulance or go to the hospital

A crucial information that the public should know is that there is no first aid for stroke, and that medical response and treatment should be left in the capable hands of doctors and nurses.

In an interview on the weekly online talk show “Thank You, Doc,” Michelle Minas, a 44-year-old patient, recounted her experience.

Biglaan ‘yung nangyari sa akin. Normal ako paggising tapos may body weakness and bulol na magsalita. Kaya itinakbo ako agad sa ospital.  Akala ko mababa lang ang blood sugar. Baka gutom ako kaya naka-experience ako ng body weakness so nagulat ako na sabi sa ospital ay stroke daw,” Michelle shared.

She was rushed to De La Salle Hospital because of slurred speech and body weakness. In the hospital, the stroke team immediately sent her for CT scan as she was exhibiting stroke signs. She was given an rTPA (recombinant tissue plasminogen activator), the standard of care for treatment of acute ischemic stroke. Her speech returned to normal following treatment.

Dr. Johnny Loki, neurologist and president of Stroke Society of the Philippines (SSP), stressed the importance of immediate hospital examination and treatment during the same interview.

“Our advice and position from SSP, and even the WSO (World Stroke Organization), is to go to the nearest hospital para matingnan ka at malaman kung anong stroke ang meron ka,” Loki said.

Kasi sa bahay wala tayong magagawang remedyo agad e. Baka lalong lumala pa ‘yung stroke. Mas mainam na madala agad sa ospital at makita ng doctor sa emergency room. Kung may stroke, hindi ibig sabihin nun sa bahay ka na lang dahil natatakot ka sa COVID. Pagpasok mo sa ospital, most of them have protocols in place which we call pathways,” the doctor added.

Time is of the essence so the best recourse at the onset of stroke signs is to let the healthcare experts takeover and rush the patient to “thrombolysis capable hospitals for stroke” or what are known as “stroke-ready hospitals.” These are hospitals that have the additional capacity to care for stroke patients and access to 24/7 CT scan, the capacity to administer thrombolysis and a trained stroke team.

Stroke is a time-sensitive disease and for every minute it is left untreated, up to two million- brain cells die.

Stroke should be attended to within the golden period of 4.5 hours from the onset of symptoms. Outcomes are most optimal when patients receive treatment within 60 minutes following the onset of stroke symptoms. This window is known as the “Golden Hour”.

Immediate treatment of a stroke can minimize long-term effects of stroke and help reduce a person’s risk of death from stroke.6

Angels Initiative, a global healthcare initiative spearheaded by Boehringer Ingelheim and partner  organizations like Stroke Society of the Philippines, aims to increase the number of thrombolysis capable hospitals for stroke and optimize the quality of stroke treatment in the Philippines. It also launched the #StrokeDontStayAtHome campaign to educate the public and to encourage those who experience symptoms of stroke to seek emergency medical care at hospitals. For a complete list of thrombolysis capable hospitals for stroke, visit https://www.strokesocietyphilippines.org/.

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