What to do during a stroke emergency 

As the threat of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic continues to rage, the public is also faced with another battle amid these challenging times: Stroke.

From 2009 to 2019, stroke has been identified as the second leading cause of death and one of the top five leading causes of disability in the Philippines.

According to the latest 2021 Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) report, cerebrovascular diseases — under which stroke falls — is the third leading cause of death in 2020. Statistics from the PSA underscore the large number of Filipinos grappling with the said condition.

Recognizing the gravity of the situation, the Department of Health (DoH) developed and recently enacted the National Policy Framework on the Prevention, Control and Management of Acute Stroke in the Philippines, also known as Administrative Order


The AO aims to develop protocols for diagnosis, treatment, related care, support and establishment of referral pathways that are cost-effective and widely used. DoH intends to strengthen its health promotion and communication about stroke through this policy framework.

photograph courtesy of franciscanhealth.org

Given the PSA report and the DoH administrative order, it is important for every Filipino to be equipped with basic knowledge about stroke, and how quickly responding to its symptoms can save a life or prevent certain disability.

Stroke or “brain attack” occurs when the blood supply to the brain is either blocked or reduced. Patients and their loved ones should watch out for the signs of stroke using the acronym “BE FAST” which stands for “balance difficulty, eye changes, face drooping and crooked smile, arm weakness or numbness, slurred speech and time to call an ambulance or go to the hospital

A crucial information that the public should know is that there is no first aid for stroke, and that medical response and treatment should be left in the capable hands of doctors and nurses.

In an interview on the weekly online talk show, Thank You, Doc, Michelle Minas, a 44-year-old patient, recounted her experience.

“Biglaan ‘yung nangyari sa akin. Normal ako pag gising tapos may body weakness and bulol na magsalita. Kaya itinakbo ako agad sa ospital. Akala ko mababa lang ang blood sugar. Baka gutom ako kaya naka-experience ako ng body weakness so nagulat ako na sabi sa ospital ay stroke daw,” Michelle shared.

She was rushed to De La Salle Hospital because of slurred speech and body weakness. In the hospital, the stroke team immediately sent her for CT scan as she was exhibiting stroke signs. She was given an rTPA (recombinant tissue plasminogen activator), the standard of care for treatment of acute ischemic stroke. Her speech returned to normal following treatment.

Dr. Johnny Loki, neurologist and president of Stroke Society of the Philippines (SSP), stressed the importance of immediate hospital examination and treatment during the same interview.

“Our advice and position from SSP, and even the WSO (World Stroke Organization), is to go to the nearest hospital para matingnan ka at malaman kung anong stroke ang meron ka,” Loki said.

“Kasi sa bahay wala tayong magagawang remedyo agad e. Baka lalong lumala pa ‘yung stroke. Mas mainam na madala agad sa ospital at makita ng doctor sa emergency room. Kung may stroke, hindi ibig sabihin nun sa bahay ka na lang dahil natatakot ka sa Covid-19. Pagpasok mo sa ospital, most of them have protocols in place that we call pathways,” the doctor added.

Time is of the essence so the best recourse at the onset of stroke signs is to let the healthcare experts takeover and rush the patient to “thrombolysis capable hospitals for stroke” or what are known as “stroke-ready hospitals.” These are hospitals that have the additional capacity to care for stroke patients and access to 24/7 CT scan, the capacity to administer thrombolysis and a trained stroke team.

Angels Initiative, a global healthcare initiative spearheaded by Boehringer Ingelheim and partner organizations like Stroke Society of the Philippines, aims to increase the number of these kinds of hospitals and optimize the quality of stroke treatment in the Philippines. It also launched the #StrokeDontStayAtHome campaign to educate the public and to encourage those who experience symptoms of stroke to seek emergency medical care at hospitals.

Credit belongs to : www.tribune.net.ph

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