Ekeng’s New Song For Stroke Patients In Nigeria

April 26 06:57 2013 Print This Article

Gloria Ekeng, Director of Winnexcare Limited

By Kingsley Obom-Egbulem

Stroke, most times occur in form of an attack. But in some parts of Nigeria, that attack is believed to be spiritual-requiring ferocious prayers, application of anointing oil, holy water, burning of incense and candles obviously to ward off or cast out the demonic spirits responsible for this so called attack.

Gloria Ekeng who is Care Director, Winnexcare Limited is a strong believer in God. But she also feels stroke should (and can) be handled medically and the patient helped to live a normal post-attack life if attended to early.

“ We need to know exactly what has happened to the patient in order to render the kind of help that can reduce or eliminate disability and get the patient back to work in good time”, says Ekeng who is a Clinical Nurse Specialist for TIA/Stroke at Kings College Hospital, Denmark Hill, London .

Of course, stroke happens like an emergency and handling medical emergencies professionally and getting the best outcomes haven’t always been our way of life. That is the challenge most stroke patients have to live with (in addition to its physical, psychological and mental consequences) until we can strengthen our capacity to identify stroke early, diagnosed it appropriately and treat it promptly.

Even though one requires some diagnosis to confirm it, stroke is what happens when there is stoppage of blood flow to the brain-usually a sudden blockage or rupture of a blood vessel in the brain resulting in loss of consciousness, partial loss of movement, or loss of speech.
For many Nigerian stroke patients, the partial loss of movement or loss of speech becomes permanent and they are bedridden, incontinent or confined to a life in a wheel chair.

“Stroke related disability has reduced significantly in most parts of Europe and the UK especially and I feel we can achieve that feat in Nigeria if we know what to do and how to go about doing it. That is precisely why I’m here and I think we can all work together to make that needed change to improve and prolong the life of stroke patients in Nigeria”.

A UK accredited health and medical trainer, Gloria Ekeng is a neuroscientist and specialist in stroke care and management with several years of practice in the UK. She has a master’s degree in Advanced Neuroscience Practice and feels Nigeria can reduce if not end stroke-related mortality if our health institutions can establish stoke units and empower them with the right tools and capacity to deal with stroke cases promptly.

“Our stroke burden is alarming even though it’s not a public health or communicable disease I think it should be on our health emergency list given the fact that too many Nigerians are currently living with undiagnosed hypertension and diabetes-including people as young as 35 and 40. So what is the future of a country when its young people are potential stroke cases waiting to happen and those affected can’t get the right help?

That’s a disturbing questions begging for answer. And to understand the depth of Ekeng’s concern you need to listen to experiences of families of patients in their late 30s and early 40s-once active and busy executives who where family bread winners  now unable to bathe themselves and  use the rest room as result of stroke.

“I tell people that HIV is incurable for now, it is spreading very fast especially through causal and unprotected sex with an infected person but HIV doesn’t take away your senses and doesn’t confine you to the wheel chair. You can still write an exam, cook food, fly a plane, preach a sermon, go to the farm and do all the things you used to do with HIV but your life literally shuts down if you have a stroke and that’s why we need to do something so that people can quickly go back to work irrespective of stroke”.

Knowledge of what to do in this case and the skill to do it in good time are two critical factors Ekeng believe we need to address to help patients with stroke. There is also the need for collaboration between several specialists within health systems if stroke patients can live a better life after stroke.

“Doctors, clinicians, nurses, physiotherapists and even speech therapist must try to work together to reduce stroke-related deaths or disability. The powerful synergy between neuroscience and physiotherapy must be maximized to improve stroke management and care in Nigeria”, says Ekeng.

Another strong component of the capacity building plan for stroke response within our health system is for health professionals to try and prevent stroke from occurring in the first place. And for Ekeng, it begins with training doctors, nurses and even radiologist regarding early detection of Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) which in turn will help prevent and reduce disability resulting from full blown stroke.

Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) also known as mini-stroke is a sudden loss of function in one region of the brain. Symptoms may include double vision or temporary loss of vision, speech difficulties, vomiting, loss of sensation and movement on one side of the body, dizziness, unsteadiness, and loss of memory. Loss of consciousness is rare. Symptoms usually reach a peak within seconds and last for minutes or hours. If symptoms persist for more than 24 hours, it is considered a stroke. Recovery is complete, but TIAs tend to recur.

“It is easy to dismiss TIA as just one of those things, because of its subliminal and transient symptoms. And that is where the danger lies. Because even though TIA doesn’t cause permanent damage to the brain, it can be an early warning sign that a person is at risk for a more serious stroke which often happens when a TIA recur. So, we need to recognize TIAs, diagnose it properly and treat the patient.”

Since where to go to for help and sustained support-even when treatment has commenced can be a huge challenge, Ekeng says the existence of stroke support groups for patients and members of their families who will be caring for them is imperative.

“We need stroke support groups in Nigeria as a means of expanding the treatment and care continuum. I also believe it will sustain the quality of care, serve as resource pool for capacity building especially around social care and this will ultimately reduce stroke-related mortality.”

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