x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Specialist rehab wards key to recovery of stroke victims, doctors say

It was a shock to him and his family when Hamza Al Hashim had a stroke in March but, just two months after attending a specialist rehab centre, he's on his way home to continue his recovery there.

Hamza Al Hashim with daughter Yasmeen. His return home is a tribute to his rehabilitation work. Reem Mohammed / The National
Hamza Al Hashim with daughter Yasmeen. His return home is a tribute to his rehabilitation work. Reem Mohammed / The National

ABU DHABI // Specialist rehabilitation wards are being championed by doctors who are hailing the recovery of an elderly Emirati man during Stoke Awareness Month.

Two months after being hit by a brain injury, 78-year-old Hamza Al Hashim is preparing to return home from hospital to continue his recovery.

As a fit and healthy man who regularly exercised and ate a good diet, Mr Al Hashim was the last person his family thought could be vulnerable to the stroke he suffered in March, shortly after waking one morning.

“The day before, dad was having severe headaches on one side of his head,” said Mr Al Hashim’s son, Mohammed.

“He went to the hospital for a check-up, where the doctors said it was probably a migraine. He was given paracetamol and sent on his way.

“When he was driving back to Al Ain, he had to pull over in his car because of the headaches. I then picked him up and took him home. A day later, he woke up at 5am and fell down as he was losing the use of one side of his body.”

Mr Al Hashim’s speech was slow and heavy, according to his wife. It was the early signs of a stroke, likely to have been caused by blocked blood vessels.

An ambulance was called and he was taken to the Cleveland Clinic, where doctors diagnosed a stroke. Once stabilised, he was moved to the stroke recovery centre at Amana Healthcare in Khalifa City.

Dr Khalid Anwar, a consultant of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Amana, said it is vital that stroke patients get medical help as quickly as possible to improve the chances of recovery.

“Management is defined by acute care to prevent brain damage as soon as possible, as millions of brain cells are lost every minute,” he said.

“Medication is most effective if used within three hours of having a stroke.”

Almost 50 per cent of victims will need rehabilitation.

“There is enough evidence to suggest stroke patients respond better in specialist clinics, rather than on regular medical wards,” Dr Anwar said.

Mr Al Hashim’s son, who also lives in Abu Dhabi, said the whole experience had been a shock to the family.

“I had heard of strokes but my dad was healthy, so it was a shock,” said Mohammed.

“Dad was healthy but then told me he had fallen down before about four years previously. Doctors said that could also have been a stroke but he had not told anyone before.

“I want my dad to walk again and be able to sit down and be able to get back up on his own so he can go to Friday prayers.” Mr Al Hashim has been at Amana Healthcare for two months, and is now about to go home.

One of the exercises he has been repeating to regain his co-ordination and strength is getting in and out of a chair unaided. His speech is returning to normal and a bonus of being surrounded by many British and Irish nurses at the centre is that his English has also improved.

Another Emirati stroke patient is Mubarak Saeed Al Mansouri, 42, who suffered the brain injury as he was about to board a flight.

He felt weakness in his left arm and leg, and began slurring his speech.

A flight attendant recognised the symptoms and advised that he go straight to hospital.

Mr Al Mansouri was admitted to a stroke recovery unit in Abu Dhabi, and after intensive occupational therapy and physiotherapy sessions, he can now dress and wash himself. He recently has got back behind the wheel to regain his independence and a normal life.

nwebster@thenational.ae