Irene Tabansi is a Stroke Ambassador at Stroke Action Nigeria, a stroke support organization that provides services for stroke survivors, their carers and people at risk of having a stroke. Ambassadors are trained to provide peer support and to deliver awareness and campaign activities. At the World Stroke Congress 2021, Irene shared her story and how connecting with Stroke Action Nigeria has helped in her recovery journey.
Before my stroke
I was working in the Federal Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resource, in Owerri in Imo State. I was independent and doing everything for myself. I had no idea that I had high blood pressure and diabetes before I had a stroke. And although I had met someone that had a stroke, I did not know a stroke survivor on a personal level.
I went to visit my cousin and that evening I got up from the chair to go to the toilet and then I could not get up. My family took me inside and put me to bed. I slept but in the morning, I could not get up from the bed again and I could not talk. I went to the traditional healer where I paid 4,000 Naira (about $10 USD) a session. I went there once a week for about four months.
Having a stroke changed my life, I could not walk or talk and I was bedridden. I lost everything - my job, I was incontinent, and crying all the time. My sister was my main carer doing everything for me, even lifting me up.
Looking back, now I know that I should have been taken to the hospital immediately because stroke is a medical emergency. I came back to Onitsha to live and I was introduced to Stroke Action. I did not go to Stroke Action immediately because I felt that I will get better with the physiotherapy that I was able to access. I believed that I would start doing the things I did for myself before and go back to work. I did not want to be seen as a permanently disabled person.
Overcoming my fear
After some time, recognizing that I needed more support for my recovery, I went back to the Stroke Action Life after Stroke Centre. I was welcomed by volunteers and other stroke survivors. The nurse assessed me and we agreed my prevention, rehabilitation and support goals. I started to attend the Centre twice a week for my self-management skills. I was supported by a Stroke Ambassador, the Functional Rehabilitation and Exercise Training Coach and had peer befriender.
Attending the Life after Stroke Centre, being involved in my assessment and goal planning, working on my self-management goals, participating in group exercise with my peers, and befriending other stroke survivors have all contributed to my stroke recovery journey. As stroke survivors, we share our stories of stroke, its impact and progress with our recovery and rehabilitation. We become friends, telephone and visit each other. Each stroke survivor learns a set of exercises which they lead during physical activity sessions. We also learn social and communication support activities that each person leads during psychosocial support class which also includes arts, gardening and conversation class. This is how we learn the skills that help us to become Stroke Ambassadors in our areas of interest.
I am now improving in my stroke recovery. My mobility is better. I now speak better. I can move my right arm a bit better, but I am hoping for better function. I have more confidence in myself and able to go out on my own in the community, going to the market, church, and using public transport. I am now a Stroke Ambassador and assist other stroke survivors with their goal plan, especially with exercise and using the gym. I am a member of the Stroke Action Cooperative Farm. I am learning to get involved in stroke advocacy, and attending and speaking at the World Stroke Congress is a good start!
For more information visit: https://www.strokeactionnigeria.com/