Impact: Stroke

A medical stroke impacts the lives of more than 9000 New Zealanders every year. Here, we visit Middlemore Hospital and follow Max and Iutita as they adapt to life after surviving a stroke.

A medical stroke impacts the lives of more than 9000 New Zealanders every year. Auckland’s Middlemore Hospital is just one of the many facilities throughout the country which aid stroke patients in their recovery, treating five every day.

David Maxwell and Iutita Filipo are two patients who recently survived a life-changing stroke. With physical and neurological deficits to overcome, the beginning of their journey to recovery requires interventions to get them back to daily living.

At 76, David has lived most of his life as a vegetarian, and believed his lifestyle choices meant  he would have a lower risk of a medical event like a stroke.

David smiling on his hospital bed with his whife beside him.
David has to go through a long rehabilitation period after his stroke.

Arindam Kar is a stroke physician who believes too few people recognise the signs of a stroke.

“The common stroke-like symptoms are weakness or numbness often down one side of the body, problems with speech, slurring or saying the wrong words.”

While David’s speech is not affected, he has lost control over the right side of his body, meaning he cannot even lift his arm without consciously making the decision to.

Dr. Kar in his hospital office.
Dr. Kar suggests recognising early symptoms and emphasising prevention.

After four weeks of daily work with a physiotherapist and occupational therapist David can manage small, yet significant movements like lifting his arm above his head and his coordination is improving constantly.

“I’m happy with what I’ve done and with sitting and standing and leaning it’s all under control.”

Kar says 75% of strokes happen to people over 65. But doctor’s are alarmed at how often younger people are having strokes.

"The sooner you treat them the better their chances of a full recovery.”

“When patients with a suspected stroke come in, the priorities are to stabilise them, the sooner you treat them the better their chances of a full recovery.”

Patients are immediately given a CT Scan to look at the brain tissue and determine whether the stroke was caused by a blood clot or lack of oxygen. This also helps to decide whether it was a large stroke or has irreversible damage.

76-year-old Mrs Filipo’s stroke was much more serious than David’s and it affected her speech and abilities significantly.

Mrs. Filipo sleeping on her hospital bed with a family member beside her.
Mrs. Filipo's stroke was more severe than Davids.

One month after her stroke, she is still relying on others to help her walk and transfer from bed to chair. She suffered a heart attack, seizure and stroke all within a couple of days. Her CT scan also revealed she had previously had a minor stroke which went unnoticed.

Doctor Edward Wong is a stroke specialist and neurologist and he knows if a person has had one stroke they are more likely to have another. He also says there are other elements which contribute. 

“Other factors that come into play are her age and her lifestyle.”

A CT scan showing a healthy brain next to a stroke affected brain.
A stroke can cause permanent and severe damage in your brain.

Filipo was on heart condition and diabetes medication before her stroke and also admits she does not eat well.

Her children feel remorseful they had not intervened earlier as their mother now faces months of recovery.

“It’s been very difficult to see someone, one of our parents in this condition. She communicates with her facial expressions because she can’t talk.”

Mrs Filipo practising physical rehabilitation.
Mrs. Filipo has to work hard on her rehabilitation

Anna Leatu, Filipo’s daughter says they did not take it seriously until their mother had her stroke.

“We like to eat till we pop, but you’re meant to eat to live, not live to eat.”

10 weeks after her stroke she is discharged from the hospital. But she can not go back to her own home as she needs full-time support from her

David meditating in his back yard.
David Maxwell is just one of many New Zealanders that are affected by stroke every year.

The community stroke team starts weekly sessions of physio, speech and language and occupational therapy.

Nearly three months after her stroke her speech is slowly improving and she is back at church.

Kar urges the importance of acting quickly if you believe someone has had a stroke. 

“Don’t waste a second or a minute if you think someone has had a stroke. Call an ambulance straight away. The chances of making a full recovery are much higher in those patients who are treated quickly.”

Watch, learn and be inspired

Get your favourite stories in your inbox.

This first name field is required
This last name field is required
This email address field is required This email address field is not valid

Thank you for subscribing

You'll receive your first newsletter soon.


{{ serverError }}