Emily is a stroke survivor and she wants to be an example of resilience and grace, unwavering faith and a reminder that a positive mind is more powerful than any drug.
She is the President of My Sisters Keeper and the CEO of Migrant and Refugee Support Services. She is currently a PHD student and her research topic is on women with disabilities in developing countries, with Kenya as the case study.
Three years ago in her thirties, Emily was a healthy, career woman who was working as a Human Resource Strategist in the Healthcare Sector, a mother of two young children, and a wife. This was until Stroke left her on life support and paralysed the entire right side of her body, rendering her unable to walk, talk, read, and write and memory loss to an extent she couldn’t remember her own children. Doctors told her that she may never walk, read, write or talk again, and most of her hearing was lost. It was through sheer determination and unwavering faith that she was able to endure rehabilitation for a whole year and begin a new chapter in her life. Teaching anyone that can listen that stroke is the highest cause of disability in adults.
Now a symbol of hope and advocate for Stroke awareness and Disability, Emily has become a beacon of light to many. An inspirational speaker, she has received numerous awards from her community including Young Leader of the Year at the Celebration of African Australians-2014 for making a difference and has been added in the Australian Women Honour roll. The Honour Roll pays tribute to Australian women who have made a significant impact in the community, women who are role models and leaders.
Further to her work and volunteer roles, Emily has received accolades from the renowned Peter Goers of ABC Radio, SBS TV and Hon Zoe Bettison Minister (Multicultural SA) MP, Hon. Christopher Payne, (Federal Minister for Education) Senator Bob Day, Mayor Gary Johansson, and other community leaders, applauding her ongoing efforts to raise Stroke awareness, disability and inclusion and bring hope to Stroke survivors and their loved ones.
Experience in diaspora:
It is very difficult to compare the experiences of persons with disabilities between Kenya and Australia because honestly it doesn’t matter which country you get your stroke at Families find themselves in difficulty after a member of the family has a stroke. I consider myself a stroke survivor but my family are stroke victims too. My husband became my carer giver and we had 8 month old son who needed him too and our daughter was 7yrs old it and no family.
I have been fortunate and have been able to return to work and studies but I have had to battle all the way. 3yrs on I have paralysis on my right side, still live with sensory impairments (Invisible disability, or hidden disability, are defined as disabilities that are not immediately apparent. Some people with visual, sensory or auditory disabilities, who do not wear glasses or hearing aids, or discreet hearing aids, may not be obviously disabled. )
These are complication’s they could not be rehabilitated but I thank God every day for this far he has brought me. In Australia we get all the services that you need on the road to recovery but for Kenya I understand we do not get the help stroke victim needs, services are so variable and there is not enough speech and language therapy and physiotherapy. I get this from a friend whose mum had the stroke twice and was discharged home both times with no rehabilitation follow up and it killed her. After my stroke I had to learn to do everything again, including, swallowing and to learn to talk. Walk, read, write, cook, shower, this took a year of 5 day intense rehabilitation seeing 5 different therapist a day.
To optimise outcomes for people with stroke, all models of rehabilitation services should include the Following elements:
➢ Effective links with acute stroke service providers. Specialised interdisciplinary stroke (or neurorehabilitation) team with access to staff education and professional development specific to stroke. Co-located stroke beds within a geographically defined unit.
➢ Standardised and early assessment for neurorehabilitation. Written rehabilitation goal setting processes.
➢ Routine use of evidence-based guidelines to inform evidence-based therapy.
➢ Best practice and evidence-based intensity of therapy for goal related activity.3
➢ Systems for transfer of care, follow-up and re-entry. Support for the person with stroke and carer (e.g. carer training, provision of information/education, provision of care plan) to maximise community participation and long-term recovery.
➢ Systems that support quality improvement, i.e. Regular (at least every two years) review of local audit data by the stroke team to prioritise and drive stroke care improvement.
I don’t think I can compare Kenya and Australia because Australia has one of the best healthcare systems in the world but Kenya can borrow a few ideas I think if every county can invest in a rehabilitation unit that can coordinate CBR that will save many lives from long term disabilities or death and the cost will not be much.
Myths /fact on stroke
Myth: Strokes only happens to older people.
Fact: Strokes can happen in young people, including infants, even. Nearly a quarter of strokes occur in people younger than 65. Regardless of age, the warning signs of strokes are the same. It’s often the reaction that’s different, though. Young people are more likely to ignore the symptoms, because they think a stroke can’t happen at their age.
Myth: Strokes are typically difficult to recognize.
Fact: Three-quarters of the time, even a lay- person can diagnose a stroke very easily. The test to use is called the Face, Arm, Speech, Time test, or FAST. If a person is experiencing facial droop, if his or her arm or leg goes weak, if he or she has slurred or garbled speech, get that person to the emergency room as quickly as possible. The sooner you get to the emergency room, the sooner the person is going to get better I am proof of that.
Myth: Women are protected from strokes.
Fact: Women actually suffer strokes and die from more frequently than men, Men tend to get heart disease at an earlier age and pass away from their heart disease, while women live longer, And because they live longer, they’re more exposed to strokes.
Myth: You can treat a stroke at home by taking aspirin.
Fact: While taking an aspirin can be helpful when it comes to having a heart attack, which is not the case with a stroke. In fact, if you are experiencing a bleeding (called hemorrhagic) stroke, aspirin could potentially make the situation worse. The priority with a stroke is to get to the ER
Myth: There’s nothing you can do to prevent a stroke.
Fact: There’s a lot you can do to prevent a stroke, managing your blood pressure, diabetes, taking cholesterol medications and seeking medical attention for any heart conditions or irregularities are all important and effective steps. Maintaining an appropriate weight and eating a heart-healthy diet also make a difference. You can significantly reduce your risk of having a stroke, as long as you are an active participant in your health care.
Myth: A stroke is a type of heart attack or a type of seizure.
Fact: A stroke is a disease of the blood vessels of the brain that leads to brain damage, sometimes it’s a clog, other times it’s a rupture in a blood vessel, and it can present with seizures. And while stroke and heart disease are closely related, they’re not one in the same. Strokes revolve around the brain. It’s an attack of the brain.
Myth: There are warning signs to a stroke.
Fact: You can have a stroke with no warning signs and no symptoms, other than the stroke itself. The reason they call it a stroke is because it happens so suddenly. It happens over seconds to minutes, While some people experience transient ischemic attack (TIA)—often referred to as a “mini stroke”—others are caught completely off-guard like myself. Don’t assume that just because you haven’t had any warning that this couldn’t be a stroke.