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Deadly stroke

The 29th of October marks International Stroke Day – a day meant to raise awareness about the causes of strokes.

a5d09d391dcc.jpgSamuel Runqu is a 49 year-old father of five kids who lives in Sandton, Johannesburg.   On a wintry day in July, this year, he suffered what doctors called a ‘€˜mild stroke’€™.

‘€œI didn’€™t realise I was having a stroke. I started sweating a lot, losing balance, and, then, I collapsed’€, says Samuel Runqu.

He was then quickly taken to Morningside Hospital’€™s emergency care, where, after a couple of tests it was found that his blood pressure was very high and was the cause of his light stroke.

After the stroke, Runqu was unable to do anything for himself. He needed the assistance of his wife to do even the most basic of things such as brushing one’€™s teeth.

‘€œMy mind was sort of forgetting things, I could not catch up quickly and my tongue was stiff.     I could not walk for two months. I was weak, dizzy and I had no balance.   I was very scared. I was worried and scared. I thought it was the end of me. l couldn’€™t do anything’€, says Runqu.

Runqu is slowly recovering. He is now able to walk, although he is limping. He says his brain is still not at its best, as he tends to forget a lot of things.   But physiotherapy and a healthy eating plan are helping him a lot.    

‘€œThey’€™ve now put me on diet… eating less’€¦ I’€™m a big man, so I’€™m trying to get my body down and my stomach down’€, he says.

Dr.   Andre Mochan, a specialist neurologist working at  Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital, explains what a stroke is.

‘€œA stroke is a sudden brain-attack. What happens with the stroke is a sudden neurological problem which can manifest in different ways, for example, paralysis on the one side of the body, loss of speech’€¦ that sort of thing’€, says Dr. Mochan.

He says a stroke often gives a warning before occurring. He advised patients to rush to a doctor when they experience these warning signs.

‘€œSometimes, there are warning episodes where there is a transient event.

Let’€™s say, for example, weakness or paralysis on one side of the body, which resolves in a few minutes to hours, then it, returns and goes away again. There can be such warning symptoms’€, says Dr. Mochan.  

Dr. Mochan says stroke is mostly a lifestyle-induced condition. He says adopting a healthy lifestyle can reduce stroke risk factors. The risk factors in the case of Samuel Runqu, were that he was over-weight and he ate a whole lot of foods that were high in fat and sugar content.

‘€œThe risk factors for a stroke are the same as a heart-attack and they include high blood pressure, sugar diabetes and high cholesterol’€, he says.

He says stroke is most common in the elderly.

‘€œIt’€™s typically a disease of the elderly. The risk increases naturally in the population over 50 years [of age].   Stroke is the second or third cause for deaths. So, it’€™s a big global health problem and even in a country like South Africa, where we’€™re dealing with AIDS and TB, there is a certain age population where stroke remains a common and frequent disorder’€, says Dr. Mochan.

For a lucky few like Samuel, they can recover from a mild stroke episode with minor degrees of disability, but others are not so lucky.

‘€œYou can fully recover from a stroke, you can die from a stroke and you can be left with varying degrees of disability from a stroke’€, concludes Dr. Mochan.

About the author

Siphosethu Stuurman