x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Couple in stroke awareness campaign

The couple, who live in Dubai, have been horrified how little people know about strokes.

DUBAI // Seven years ago, Cheryl Dolan's grandmother suffered a massive stroke. It paralysed her and turned a once-active woman into a helpless patient.

"It was very difficult to see someone so active like my grandmother suffer from her stroke, and then pass away after several lapses," Mrs Dolan, from India, said.

"But even towards the end, she was aware and would understand us, even if she could not communicate and we never lost hope."

Now Mrs Dolan and her Irish husband, John, have organised the UAE's first Stroke Awareness Day for this Friday.

The couple, who live in Dubai, have been horrified how little people know about strokes. "People don't know that a stroke can occur without one being aware if you don't know the symptoms to look for," said Mr Dolan.

Also, he said, they often do not realise the importance of getting a victim to a doctor quickly.

Dr Shabeer Nellikode, a specialist neurologist and the director of neurology at Lifeline Hospital in Abu Dhabi, said everyone should know how to spot the signs.

"A stroke is a medical emergency; you can't see the damage it causes to the brain but emergency treatment can make all the difference to your chances of making the best possible recovery," he said.

A good diet and exercise make a stroke less likely, so the couple have started their own brand of community awareness this past summer.

Four times a week, the Dolans and other residents of Jumeirah Lakes Towers head out for an hour's walk, no matter how hot the weather.

"We want to demonstrate how simple it is to be healthy," said Mr Dolan. "We hope other neighbourhoods around town will also organise their own walking groups and become more aware of their health."

On Friday, the Ministry of Health will send a specialist - a neurologist - to speak at Jumeirah Lakes Towers' Almas Conference Centre.

He will describe the different types of strokes and give emergency contact numbers.

He will also explain how to reduce the risks and how to care for a family member who has suffered a stroke.

Afterwards, there will be another walk around the neighbourhood.

Mrs Dolan said knowledge of the disease could mean the difference between life and death.

"We are all guilty of a sedentary lifestyle here in the UAE," she said. "All we have to do to avoid a lot of illness later in life is just walk a little bit."

hkhalaf@thenational.ae