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This section contains media releases released a little while ago. Please note that due to the long time when some of these were released images have been removed and some links might no longer work.

September 9, 2013

Stroke Awareness Week Runs This Week - Every minute counts

Stroke Awareness Week runs from 9 - 15 Sept - learn to recognise the symptoms of a stroke - you never know when the skills you’ve learnt will come in useful to help family, friends or someone in the community.

Gwen Murphy and grandchildren
Pictured above: Gwen Murphy and her grandchildren

A little bit of knowledge can go a long way as West Coast grandmother Gwen Murphy found out just before Christmas last year.

“Years ago, when my daughter was 15, her friend’s mother suffered a stroke in front of her,” Gwen says. “As a result of that, this girl got all her friends together and showed them what to look out for. So when suddenly I started to stutter during a normal conversation, my daughter knew straight away what was wrong. Even though it was years later, she remembered what she had learnt as a teenager.”

Gwen had suffered a stroke and needed urgent medical attention. The ambulance was called and she was taken to the Emergency Department. After the clinical assessment and CT scan of her brain confirmed the diagnosis of a stroke, Gwen immediately began receiving lifesaving treatment known as thrombolysis.

Head of Department General Medicine, Dr Barbara Weckler says responding quickly to a stroke can make a significant difference to a better outcome for the patient.

“There is a window of just 4.5 hours to start thrombolysis if you have had a stroke. The longer you leave it, the greater the brain damage that occurs and it’s irreversible.”

Dr Weckler says thrombolysis can be offered as standard practice to stroke patients but only if it is administered in time and the patient meets all corresponding criteria.

“Thrombolysis uses drugs to dissolve the clot causing the stroke. While there are some patients that do not qualify and there are risks associated with the treatment, in suitable patients it increases the chance of saving brain tissue.”

Dr Weckler says thrombolysis has been used for over a decade to treat acute heart attacks caused by myocardial infarction, and it is best practice to offer it in a similar way to suitable stroke patients. “A clot obstructs blood flow to the heart or the brain.The longer the brain cells or heart muscles are deprived of blood flow, the greater the damage that can occur.”

When Gwen was admitted to ED she had a loss of vision in her left eye, could not move the left side of her face, her left arm or leg nor talk. Following treatment she has improved significantly and, while she has a bit of weakness in her left hand, has regained full mobility of her face, arms and legs and is able to see with her left eye again.

Part of Gwen’s recovery involved working with the Allied Health team at Grey Base Hospital as part of her rehabilitation.

“I had to learn to read again and it was hard, but I just got stuck into all my exercises and did it. I’m now doing tai chi and gym and, of course have my beautiful grandchildren to play with.”

She is also passing on the message that speed matters when it comes to a stroke.
“Thank goodness my daughter knew what she did. Everybody needs to learn to recognise the symptoms and to act quickly. Otherwise, you risk being left with a serious disability.”

Recognising the FAST symptoms of a stroke and taking appropriate action can have life saving consequences.

FACE - Smile, is one side drooping?
ARMS - Raise both arms - is one side weak?
SPEECH - Speak - unable to talk or words all jumbled and slurred?
TIME - Act fast and call 111 - time lost may mean brain lost.

Fast Stroke Acronym


For further information contact:

Amy Milne
Media Advisor
Canterbury and West Coast District Health Boards
T: 03 364 4122 or ext: 62122
M: 027 502 7523
F: 03 364 4101
or ext: 62101
Level 2, The Princess Margaret Hospital, Christchurch

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