A unique initiative, perhaps the first in India, is all set to be the initiated in the Union Territory of Chandigarh to tackle brain strokes that are assuming an alarming increase in India.

The Chandigarh administration has joined with the largest public health facility in India, the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) to work out a strategy involving school children to generate awareness about the identification and immediate treatment of a brain stroke.

Dr Dheeraj Khurana of Department of Neurology at PGIMER told The Citizen, “We are looking forward to launch this initiative in January. The whole idea is to address children in both public and private schools on the importance of identifying brain strokes and getting them treated well in time. It is going to be a children to parents initiative.”

He disclosed that groups of children will be identified from schools and trained by experts in identifying symptoms of brain stroke and what needs to be done next. “If children are educated, parents get educated about it automatically. The project in Chandigarh is likely to be a pilot project that may be replicated in other cities across the country. Chandigarh is an ideal place to launch such an initiative because the people here are well educated and health conscious,” he added.

A PGIMER spokesperson said, "We are formally launching a stroke education program in schools and have invited schools to become a part of this campaign as children are a very effective means of educating their own families and the society. By involving school students as a medium to spread awareness in the classroom, we believe we would be reaching a large segment of the population of the city directly or indirectly and we hope to make Chandigarh Stroke Smart in the coming years.”

Dr Khurana said that the modalities about involving the number of children, their age groups and a fianl blue print of the training are being worked out and will be revealed when the initiative takes off after a few weeks.

Brain strokes are increasingly rapidly across the world as well as in India having impacted at least 80 million people world wide. Of these around 50 million patients have been left with permanent disability.

Experts at PGIMER say that strokes are the leading cause of death and disability worldwide and India accounts for more than four-fifths of these.

“In India, the stroke burden is alarming and has been rising in the last few years with approximately 1.8 million people getting a stroke every year and 0.7 million dying because of it. The biggest burden that a stroke patient faces is disability and this can devastate the entire family of the victim,” PGIMER said recently.

Experts underline that one of the biggest challenges is to make life after a brain stroke purposeful and useful and this can be achieved by providing a dedicated care and support to the patients.

A stroke is known to trigger when blood supply to a part of the brain is interrupted and gets reduced. This leads to the cells dying within minutes in the absence of oxygen and other nutrients.

The PGIMER alone registered over 600 stroke patients this year till the month of October and 340 patients managed to reach the institute within the 24 hour window. The institute claims to have simultaneously witnessed a remarkable increase in the number of patients who were able to get treated after reaching the emergency from November 2018 to October this year.

Experts said that in the last one year 60 patients were treated with Thrombolysis and Thrombectomy (interventional treatment) and out of these 50% patients have achieved almost complete recovery marked by achieving near normal life.

They added that better results are being achieved in treatment since patients can be offered complete clot removal from the brain with available interventions. The biggest advantage of Thrombectomy is that it can be done even up to 24 hours as compared to the earlier windows of 4.5 hours.

The PGIMER Neurological Society had organized a Moving Strong with Stroke (MSAS) awareness campaign from November 13 to 17. The theme of World Stroke Organization this year, “One in four of us will have a stroke – Don’t be the One” carries a strong note of caution and urgency for everyone to understand the dangers associated with a brain stroke. It is always good to know about a disease, but it is best “NOT TO HAVE IT AT ALL”.

Dr Khurana said that among other causes of this malady are bad diet and lifestyle. He said that the risk factors need to be taken care of.

The administration has also pitched in and the stroke treating capability of the city has been increased with the General Hospital in Sector 16 also becoming ‘Stroke Ready’. The experts at the hospital have been treating acute strokes since April this year and there i active collaboration between both hospitals on a hub and spoke principle. PGIMER has also started organizing Stroke Talks that aim at increasing cognizance of the fundamental needs of the stroke survivors and the care givers.

The concept of setting up a stroke support group has been introduced where the patients interact with each other and try to learn from each other’s difficulties besides motivating each other to strive harder despite these disabilities.

Experts have been pointing out that brain stroke does not only affect the elderly. Young people are also at equal risk of falling prey to the malady as the available data shows.