At only 17, Letlhogonolo Modise suffered a stroke. Born with abnormal blood vessels, Modise was predisposed to stroke. Her recovery was a lonely journey, and now at 27, Modise wants to create a community in which stroke survivors can support each other.
“After suffering a stroke, I had no one to help me through. There were no support groups dedicated to helping stroke survivors to cope. Basically, I did not join any support group until I was about six years into my recovery,” she tells Health-e News.
Last year, Modise founded the Letlhogonolo Modise Foundation, a non-profit organisation dedicated to offering support to all stroke survivors. The foundation supports eight stroke survivors, offering them various forms of support including counselling. The foundation creates a community where stroke survivors have an opportunity to share their daily experiences amongst themselves while they regain their independence.
“Currently we are based in Gauteng but trying to look for funds to expand to other provinces, especially in rural areas were there is no support at all for stroke survivors,” says Modise, who is also studying marketing.
Drawing on her own experience
Stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted or reduced. With oxygen or nutrients cut off, brain cells begin to die in minutes. Modise was in Grade 12 when she was diagnosed with stroke, completely changing her life. Even as a teenager, she had to change friends and the lifestyle she was used to.
“Life after stroke was tough. After I was discharged from the hospital, I thought life was going to be the same but to my surprise everything had changed. I ended up distancing myself from friends as they were asking me to do things we used to do like going out. I grew tired of explaining to them why I couldn’t do certain things and I just stopped talking to them,” she recalls.
Stroke is the second leading cause of death and the third leading cause of disability around the world, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Globally 70% of strokes and 87% of stroke-related deaths and disability occur in low- and middle-income countries.
According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa, some people who survive a stroke will recover fully but many
people will be left with lasting disabilities. Strokes not only affect the survivor’s ability to live a normal life but can also have devastating consequences for their loved ones.
Modise emphasises the importance of family support to help stroke survivors reclaim their lives. This is also why she has created a foundation—for survivors who are not as fortunate.
“I was fortunate to be on my mom’s medical aid as I also received treatment from a private hospital,” she says. “My family was there from the first day and they even had individual duties assigned to themselves to help me.”
The common signs and symptoms of a stroke include sudden weakness or numbness in the face, arm or leg; a sudden loss of speech or vision, sudden confusion or dizziness, severe and unusual headache;, a loss of balance and trouble with walking. Before she had a stroke, Modise says she experienced a severe headache for several days.
World Stroke Day is marked on 29 October 2020, but Modise feels that not enough is done to make people aware of the importance of the day.
“Most people do not even know what stroke is and what causes it and some of the people who are dying as a result of stroke is often caused by lack of knowledge,” she says. “Something needs to be done to help raise awareness regarding stroke and our government is not doing enough. Have you even seen our government raising awareness for world stroke day?” – Health-e News