Mom, what do you actually do at the hospital?
My six-year-old daughter is sitting at the kitchen table. At school she is learning about professions, and tomorrow she has a ‘show and tell’ about her parents’ jobs. Her father, that is easy, she says. He is an anesthesiologist, a sleep doctor. He makes sure you do not feel pain while undergoing surgery. For this, he uses a mask with a balloon and milk-like medication that gives you a funny tingling feeling in your arm. All this is very clear to her. Years ago, her father brought home a book explaining anesthesia to children undergoing ear surgery. She made us read it as a bedtime story repeatedly, and today Lucas and the sleep doctor is still one of her favorites.
Now me. She hesitates.
She knows I am a neurologist. That I work with people with brain disease, that I often get called at night, but that is all. I see the question marks in her eyes. So, I start talking to her about stroke. Together, we search the internet for educational videos suitable for her age and practice calling 112. I’m surprised to see how easily she captures the information; how straightforward it seems to her.
Today, my daughter came home from school smiling. She describes proudly how she told her class about stroke, its symptoms and what to do if it happens to someone near you. She showed them a stent retriever and explained to them about ‘time is brain’. Her classmates asked questions and a boy talked about his grandmother who had a stroke a year ago.
It makes me wonder. Do we invest enough in stroke education of children and young adults? Education campaigns most often target risk groups, and the general population, but nearly always at an adult level. However, these risk groups are often grandparents, taking care of their grandchildren before or after school, during school holidays etc. Educating children therefore seems invaluable when trying to raise public awareness on stroke. Educational material at the level of (young) children should therefore be easily accessible and available in local languages.
It is therefore great to see that the Boehringer Ingelheim Angels Initiative has developed educational materials and videos for children that can easily be adapted to local languages and needs. You can register and access these materials here: https://fastheroes.com/
I have come to appreciate much more the role of local stroke organisations in developing and distributing materials for the public, both young and old, that raise awareness of stroke symptoms and emergency response. In Belgium, the Belgian Stroke Council has supported the development of a children’s book on aphasia and stroke entitled “Why does grandma talks so funny”. As a WSO Future Leader I now want to play my part in raising awareness and will be getting involved in World Stroke Day campaign this year to raise awareness that minutes can save lives.
Author: Laetitia Yperzeele is a UEMS Board certified Neurologist working at the Stroke Unit and NeuroVascular Reference Center (NVCA) of the Antwerp University Hospital (UZA) in Belgium. She is the coordinator of the hospitals’ Stroke Program and its regional Stroke Network since 2014, and is responsible for the organization of in-hospital stroke care and follow-up after discharge (rehabilitation and outpatient clinic). She has been a member of the Scientific Board of the Belgian Stroke Council since 2016 and a fellow of the European Stroke Organization since 2019.
Achieving our vision of a life free from stroke is a task that WSO cannot achieve alone. We are committed to building our partnerships at the global, regional and national level to scale up and deliver improvements in prevention, treatment and support to reduce the burden of stroke.