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Stroke Awareness Week

Stroke Awareness Week

"Strokes are the third highest cause of death in New Zealand each year, and the highest cause of ongoing disability," says Mark Vivian CEO of the Stroke Foundation.

This week is stroke awareness week and the Foundation believes it is important to highlight the incidence and impacts of strokes.

Strokes are caused by a blockage or rupture of an artery in the brain. The Stroke Foundation refers to a stroke as a brain attack. "If we think of a stroke as a brain attack we'll start to realise they are as serious as heart attacks," says Mark Vivian. "Its absolutely critical we promote the urgency of brain attacks if we're going to reduce their occurrence and realise their impacts."

As well as the high death rate from brain attacks, those who survive often have a greater level of ongoing disability than survivors of heart attacks. "Its important we take account of the role strokes play in ongoing disability in New Zealand," says Mr Vivian.

The Stroke Foundation is the national charity working to educate the public about ways to reduce the risk of strokes, improve health services in acute and rehabilitation medicine, and provide services for stroke survivors and caregivers in the community. This week is their annual awareness and appeal week.

A feature of the Foundation's work has been its emphasis on Life After Stroke. The most recent data suggests approximately 56,000 New Zealanders are living in the aftermath of at least one stroke. Strokes affect people's abilities to look after themselves, their employment and lifestyle, and their physical and mental capacities. "The Foundation is concerned to support people affected by strokes. This is the focus of our regional Field Officer service, which provides support and information for stroke survivors and caregivers throughout New Zealand," says Mr Vivian.

"The Stroke Foundation is pivotal in helping people who have had a stroke to get on with their lives back home. The Foundation's Field Officers help bridge the difficult time between leaving hospital and returning home. This transition is a stressful time for everyone," says Dr Carl Hanger, geriatrician at Christchurch's Princess Margaret Hospital.

"The impacts of stroke are completely underestimated," says Pete Carpenter, South Island Stroke Foundation Regional Councillor and a stroke survivor himself. "My family has had to change just about every part of our life after my stroke, and there aren't the supports available to people after hospital other than what the Stroke Foundation does," he says.

"Our continued work is dependant on public support. We get very little assistance from government for our regional services, and without donations and fundraising we could not provide a Field Officer service," says Mr Vivian. "This week is our awareness and national appeal week – I certainly hope New Zealander's support us".

The Foundation has set up a texting facility this year in addition to street collectors throughout the country. "People can text stroke to 469 to make a $3 donation, or phone our 0800 78 76 53 number, or donate to a street collector."


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