Contrary to popular belief, a stroke does not occur in the heart. It is actually an attack of the brain in which the blood flow to a region in the brain is interrupted. This causes the cells of the brain to be deprived of oxygen, resulting in damage to the brain. The areas of the body controlled by the affected brain region will lose blood supply and stop working. The extent of brain damage and the brain area in which the stroke occurs determines how the stroke affects a person.
Stroke has become a public health issue in Singapore. It is the fourth leading cause of death in Singapore with 24 people suffering from stroke in one day. Stroke does not merely affect the elderly. It can occur to anyone at any time. In fact, one in 10 stroke patients in Singapore is below 50 years of age. Stroke is clearly more prevalent than we realised.
As the nation moves towards a greying population, it is projected that one in 230 Singaporeans will have a stroke in their lifetime by 2030. Recent statistics also show that the number of stroke cases rose by 36% from 2005 to 2015. Timely treatment has found to significantly increase the chances of survival after stroke onset. Therefore, raising public awareness of stroke needs to be the foremost consideration in ensuring better stroke outcomes.
World Stroke Day
To mark the annual World Stroke Day on 29 October 2018, two of Singapore’s most active stroke networks ─ Stroke Support Station (S3) and Singapore National Stroke Association (SNSA), together with the Ministry of Health’s Stroke Services Improvement (SSI) organised a two-day event at Toa Payoh HDB Hub Atrium on 20 and 21 October 2018. Guest-of-Honour, Prof. Au Wing Lok, Deputy Medical Director of National Neuroscience Institute, graced the event.
(From left to right) Mr Amos Wee, President, SNSA, Guest-of-Honour, Prof. Au Wing Lok, Deputy Medical Director, NNI, and Dr Wong Chiang Yin, CEO, S3 were each presented with a Certificate for Singapore Book of Records.
The focus of this year’s event was to rally for community support through public outreach and educational efforts on stroke, in a bid to help survivors regain courage and confidence, re-integrate into society and improve their quality of life after stroke.
To this end, 80 members of the public, including board members and volunteers of the three networks, came together for The Chopsticks Challenge ─ to set an inaugural Singapore record for the “Largest Mass Transfer of Marbles Using Chopsticks”. Using chopsticks in their non-dominant hand, participants transferred marbles within five minutes from one bowl to another. This aimed to create understanding on how the everyday tasks, such as eating or drinking, we take for granted are hurdles faced by stroke survivors.
Members of public attempting The Chopsticks Challenge
Participants of the event were treated to activities such as free talks by medical professionals and therapists, story sharing by stroke survivors and caregivers and interactive games. Children also took part in a friendly colouring competition and showcased their artistic flair on colouring sheets designed to educate on stroke symptoms. In addition, members of the public had their blood pressure taken at complimentary blood pressure monitoring stations, manned by student volunteers from the NUS Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies. The students also interacted with the public and provided education on stroke risk, prevention and other stroke-related resources.
An elderly participant taking a blood pressure reading at the blood pressure monitoring station
Mr Amos Wee, President of SNSA, shared that education is the best route to prevention and creating awareness. Moreover, A/Prof Deidre Anne De Silva, Chair of the Stroke Services Improvement, hoped to generate public awareness of the importance of recognising stroke signs using the acronym F.A.S.T.:
- Face: Facial drooping – has the patient’s face fallen on one side? Can they smile?
- Arms: Arm weakness – can they raise both arms and keep them there?
- Speech: Speech difficulties – is their speech slurred?
- Time to call 995 if you see any single one of these signs of a stroke.
With better understanding of stroke and its symptoms, people will be able to effectively identify any possible evidence of stroke in the public or within their social circle.
Additionally, Dr Wong Chiang Yin, CEO of Stroke Support Station (S3), acknowledged the key role caregivers play in the road to recovery for stroke survivors. By addressing their physical, psychological and social needs, stroke patients can achieve re-integration back to the community in the fastest possible time.
Stroke Support Station (S3) is a ground enterprise started in 2015 by volunteers to address the unmet needs of stroke survivors and caregivers in their journey. This volunteer-led organisation hopes to be the primary reference organisation for stroke survivors, their caregivers, volunteers, professionals and the public by providing innovative programmes, support services, education and training. In particular, the Re-learn and Enjoy Active Living (R.E.A.L.) wellness programme aims to improve quality of life by incorporating a social-emotional support component, which helps rebuild confidence and independence. S3 fosters mental resilience in stroke survivors and their caregivers, resulting in social connectedness among stroke survivors, caregivers, family members and volunteers.
Established in 1996, Singapore National Stroke Association (SNSA) is Singapore’s support group for stroke survivors and caregivers, with guidance from doctors and other experienced healthcare professionals. Similar to S3, it aims to support stroke survivors and caregivers, raise and promote public awareness on stroke and to advocate for stroke survivors through various programmes and outreach activities.
Stroke Services improvement (SSI) is a team under the Ministry of Health set-up in February 2014 with the aim of leading the improvement and standardisation of stroke services in Singapore. The team has facilitated nation-wide strategies to improve stroke care since its inception. Its efforts include enhancing response and treatment time following a stroke attack, and engaging healthcare providers across the spectrum of the stroke recovery process. It also researches and tracks relevant data, and trains and educates stakeholders and the public around stroke in Singapore.
The awareness of stroke in Singapore is still small and clearly, a lot more remains to be done. Much remains to be done and public education is clearly needed. Through such initiatives, events and programmes, the public will be more aware of warning signs and risk factors. With continued efforts, there is hope to improve stroke outcomes and enhance the quality of life of survivors.
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Photo Credits: Pixabay, S3, SNSA and SSI.