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Stroke Week recognises FAST heroes

Friday, 30 August 2019

Each month, Barwon Health treats between 50 – 60 people who have suffered stroke, one of Australia’s biggest killers and a leading cause of acquired disability. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Stroke is treatable and beatable – this is the message of National Stroke Week (2 – 8 September), which aims to raise awareness of stroke and the Stroke Foundation in Australia. This year’s theme is F.A.S.T (Face, Arms, Speech, Time) heroes, recognising the people who spotted the signs of stroke and called an ambulance straight away, potentially saving a life.

For Ocean Grove mother-of-two Gemma Wearmouth, the importance of recognising the signs of stroke may have saved her life. In May, the 33-year-old arrived home from work and was talking to her husband outside her car when she felt an onset of vertigo as her vision blurred. Her husband and quick-thinking neighbour called an ambulance and within minutes, she was on her way to University Hospital Geelong’s Emergency Department. An MRI scan the next day confirmed Gemma had a stroke.

“It was very frightening,” Gemma said of her ordeal, “I was unsure of what was happening at first and then just remember I couldn’t touch my nose.

“I was extremely lucky that my neighbour and my husband knew the signs and the F.A.S.T. test. It can happen to anybody at any time – everyone needs to be aware of those signs.”

Tests during her subsequent week-long stay in hospital could not reveal a cause of Gemma’s stroke, which she puts down to “just a little unfortunate setback in life” and fortunately, she should make a full recovery. Gemma is now undergoing four days a week of home-based rehabilitation and is on track to return to her job as a swimming instructor early next year.

To help raise awareness of the ripple effect stroke has, Gemma and her friends are organising ‘Clothes for a Cause’ in Ocean Grove on 7 September, where people can upcycle their unwanted clothing, with all money raised being donated to the Stroke Foundation.

With a specialised Neurosciences Ward at University Hospital Geelong, Barwon Health also offers the only co-located neurological rehabilitation in Victoria, meaning patients like Gemma don’t have to travel to Melbourne for vital support and rehabilitation. A dedicated acute stroke unit comprising nursing, allied health and medical staff has been operating since 2000 and provides stroke specific support in-line with the clinical guidelines for stroke management.

Throughout Stroke Week, an information booth will be set up at the University Hospital Geelong cafeteria for visitors and staff, while staff on the Neurosciences Ward will hold a stroke prevention morning tea and, working in with the heroes theme, have a superhero dress-up day.

Gemma Wearmouth Stroke 4MB 2

Pictured: Ocean Grove's Gemma Wearmouth urges people to recgnosie the signs of stroke.

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