Encouraging full lives and independence for survivors of stroke

Richie Judson, a patient of the Stroke Care program, uses the QEH Gait Lab with the assistance of physiotherapist Tamara MacDonald and Provincial Stroke Coordinator Trish-Helm Neima

There are 4,500 Islanders living with the effects of a stroke. The professionals in PEI's Organized Stroke Care Program are working to make sure a patient’s life, post-stroke, is as full and independent as possible.

“Our role here is to ensure there is a compassionate, interdisciplinary approach so that we provide care that follows best practice and that our support for patients and families is at the highest level,” says Trish Helm-Neima, provincial stroke coordinator of HealthPEI.

Since 2010, the provincial stroke program has been offering patients treatment that encourages the fullest possible recovery.

“If we look back a few decades  when I came  into the health system as a physiotherapist, a stroke patient  would be put on one of the hospital  wards where they might be with people who had a number of medical conditions and with staff who were not necessarily specialized in stroke care,” Helm-Neima says.

“Today our stroke services use an interdisciplinary team approach where each of the people involved in a patient’s recovery plan has specialized training in stroke care. They provide care that is specific to the needs of the persons affected by stroke that would not be possible without specialized training in this area.”

Helm-Neima says the stroke program has developed a good network of resources in communities and in the major hospitals. They provide coordinated treatment through a range of care and rehabilitation services across the province including specialized services at QEH, PCH, the provincial stroke rehabilitation services, as well as partnerships with Island EMS and community transition supports. The goal is to get stroke survivors back to family and community living.

 “In the past few years we have also seen tremendous improvement in technology that allows medical professionals to intervene in a stroke and limit the damage it causes. There are “clot-buster” drugs that can treat and minimize the effects of a stroke while it happens and new technologies that allow a physician to insert a device through the blood vessels to the clot and physically remove it,” Helm-Neima said.

“So we’re getting better at both intervening in acute stroke and at helping people regain abilities after a stroke has occurred and return to the community with hope for a life with a 'new normal'. The challenge now is to make sure that Islanders can take advantage of the improvements.

"The early interventions we have will only benefit people if they recognize the signs of a stroke and get to a facility where they can be helped,” she said.

Calling 9-1-1 quickly is the most important step for emergency medical care when someone is experiencing a stroke.

“After a stroke has happened and a person is returning to the community, we want to make sure the community is ready to work with them," says Helm-Neima. “The outlook for people who have had a stroke is much brighter than it used to be. We will continue our work to ensure that Islanders receive the best possible stroke care and that resources are in place to support life after stroke.”

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