TURNING POINT: Overcoming Stroke

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NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews/16 September) – 80-85% of stroke victims can be cured and spared from life-changing disabilities if attended to and treated immediately.

Stroke (cerebrovascular accident)  results in the paralysis in one side of the body, slurred speech, blurred vision and memory loss, among others, symptoms that  can be reversed  if the victim, specifically of ischemic  stroke, is administered with the emergency drug  Alteplase or Activator Plasminogen (t-PA)  during the first 3-4 hours of the occurrence of the incident.

There are two kinds of stroke: ischemic and hemorrhagic.

Ischemic strokes occur when the arteries to the brain become narrowed or blocked, causing severely reduced blood flow (ischemia). The most common ischemic strokes include: Thrombotic stroke. A thrombotic stroke occurs when a blood clot (thrombus) forms in one of the arteries that supply blood to the brain.

On the other hand, hemorrhagic stroke happens when a blood vessel inside the brain bursts and leaks blood into surrounding brain tissue (intracerebral hemorrhage).  A hemorrhagic stroke not only damages brain cells but also may lead to increased pressure on the brain or spasms in the blood vessels which could be fatal.

The onset of stroke often shows some of these telling signs:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.
  • Sudden confusion or disorientation.
  • Sudden trouble speaking.
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
  • Sudden trouble walking
  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause.

80-85% of strokes are ischemic and 80-85% of stroke victims are, therefore, curable.

Alteplase applies only to ischemic or blood clot stroke within 3-4 of its occurrence   In no case should   it be administered to a hemorrhagic stroke victim; it would worsen his condition. Thus, it is very important that when somebody shows a number or any of the manifestations of stroke described above, the person should be rushed to a hospital with imaging facilities (MRI or CT Scan)  to accurately determine whether he suffers from stroke and whether or not  it is ischemic or hemorrhagic. If, indded, it is stroke and it is ischemic, the person accompanying or responsible for the patient should see to it that the attending physician administers t-PA at once to the victim.

Alteplase  is available in  drugstores. Its cost, however, is quite prohibitive at around P80,000 per vial. To help stroke victims nationwide, the Department of Health (DOH)  has made the potent blood clot-bursting drug  available in 26 public hospital across the country since August 2016.  Patients who are stricken with a stroke may avail of the drug free in said hospitals listed below. They or their relatives just have to ask for the medication from their attending physicians:

  • East Avenue Medical Center
  • Philippine Heart Center
  • Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center
  • Quirino Memorial Medical Center
  • Las Piñas General Hospital and Satellite Trauma Center
  • Philippine General Hospital
  • Ilocos Training and Regional Medical Center
  • Mariano Marcos Memorial Medical Center
  • Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center
  • Cagayan Valley Medical Center
  • Southern Isabela General Hospital
  • Jose B. Lingad Memorial Regional Hospital
  • Paulino J. Garcia Memorial Research and Medical Center
  • Batangas Medical Center
  • Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital
  • Bicol Medical Center
  • Celestino Gallares Memorial Hospital
  • Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Regional Hospital
  • Western Visayas Medical Center
  • Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center
  • Zamboanga City Medical Center
  • Cotabato Regional And Medical Center
  • Northern Mindanao Medical Center
  • Mayor Hilarion A. Ramiro Sr. Regional and Tech Hospital
  • Southern Philippines Medical Center

Alteplase dissolves the clot quickly and thus resumes at once the flow of blood that transports oxygen in the artery and into the neurons or cells of the brain.

The cut in the supply of oxygen will damage or cause the death of the cells in the affected part of the brain. If the clot is in the right side of the brain, the motor skill of the victim is gravely affected, the left side of the body will have motion or mobility problem. Some victims may also experience blurred vision and slurred speech. The clot in the left side would adversely affect the victim’s memory and speech and also, but often slightly, the motor skill in the right side of the body.

If Alteplase is administered to the patient within the 3-4 hour window at the onset of the stroke, the patient has a great chance of recovery and a faster one.  He will be spared from what could be lifetime disabilities that would deprive him his independence.

But as has been said an ounce of prevention is better than a gram of cure. The best way to prevent stroke is to engage in a healthy lifestyle. This means avoiding high caloric and fatty foods; to exercise regularly; and not to smoke and drink alcohol excessively.

As we age, it is imperative to have regular medical check-up. Hypertensive and diabetic patients should take their medications religiously as well as maintain healthy lifestyle.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan, Ph.D., is retired professor and former chancellor of Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental, Philippines)

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