signs of stroke Research to improve speech rehab for stroke patients Tauranga Hospital is one of two hospitals in New Zealand taking part in one of the largest Australasian clinical trials designed to improve language rehabilitation for people recovering from stroke. FACE The Very Early Rehabilitation in Speech (VERSE) study seeks to better understand the best way of treating people having difficulty with speech and language (aphasia) after having a stroke. on one side Speech-Language Therapist Dr. Meghann Grawburg who is leading the research at Tauranga Hospital says, “The trial focuses on recruiting patients within the first 14 days following a stroke. We are interested to find out what kind of therapy and how much therapy is needed for best recovery in the early days after a stroke.” Drooping ARM Weakness on one side Patients will be randomly assigned to one of three different speech therapy treatment programmes of various levels of intensity. Over the course of a month they’ll go through speech therapy exercises up to five hours a week. A team of 11 speech therapists at Tauranga Hospital is involved in the trial which began in May and will continue through to December. “We aim to have at least ten Bay of Plenty patients on the trial. As well as language loss, the selection criteria involves the patient having a certain level of alertness, which in the early days after a stroke isn’t always that common.” Christchurch Hospital is also taking part in the trial along with sixteen hospitals across Australia. The VERSE Trial based at Edith Cowan University in Western Australia aims to have 246 stroke patients participate in the trial. VERSE (@VERSE_Trial) | Twitter Part of the Tauranga Hospital Speech Therapy team involved in one of the largest stroke speech therapy trials in Australasia. Left to right: April Mora (Student), Speech Language Therapists: Gwen Lake, Meghann Grawburg, Natalie Oakley, Helen Liddall, with Fiona Hewerdine (Speech Language Team Leader). SPEECH jumbled, slurred or lost TIME to call 111 think FAST If you see ANY of the signs, call 111 immediately. stroke.org.nz • Stroke is the third largest killer in New Zealand (about 2500 people every year). Around 10 percent of stroke deaths occur in people under 65. • E very day about 24 New Zealanders have a stroke. A quarter occur in people under 65. • H igh blood pressure is a major cause of strokes. One in five New Zealanders has high blood pressure, and a third of these don’t know it. Reducing your blood pressure can greatly reduce stroke risk What are the signs of stroke? The signs and symptoms of stroke usually come on suddenly. The type of signs experienced will depend on what area of the brain is affected. Common first signs of stroke include: •Sudden weakness and/or numbness of face, arm and/or leg especially on one side of the body •Sudden blurred or loss of vision in one or both eyes •Sudden difficulty speaking or understanding what others are saying •Sudden loss of balance or an unexplained fall or difficulty controlling movements, especially with any of the other signs. Concerns raised over dropping immunisation rates Recent outbreaks and rising cases of vaccine preventable diseases such as measles, mumps, and whooping cough across New Zealand has Toi Te Ora – Public Health Service worried. There has been a prolonged mumps outbreak since early 2017, centred on the Auckland region, but with several confirmed cases reported in the Bay of Plenty. There have also been confirmed cases of measles locally, and a national increase in the number of whooping cough cases (pertussis). Local cases show that these diseases are a present and ongoing risk in our community. “I wouldn’t be relying on others being immune, with uptake at our local levels,” says Dr Miller. Childhood immunisations are free and it is never too late to catch up. Parents can contact their local medical centre for an appointment for their child or to discuss immunisation. Childhood immunisations are free. For more information call 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466 863) or visit www.ttophs.govt.nz. Prevention of outbreaks of these serious infectious diseases relies on having good local uptake of immunisation, particularly amongst our children. When most children are fully immunised (95%) the chances of significant outbreaks are greatly reduced. Immunisation coverage for New Zealand children at two years of age is 93% for the three month period ending March 2017. In the Bay of Plenty it is only 90%. Worryingly, recent months have seen a gradual decline in childhood immunisation rates, particularly in younger children, with children fully immunised at 8 months of age drifting down over the past year to only 86%. The District Health Board is concerned about this and is bringing in new approaches to ensure children get the opportunity to be protected. “Parents need to be aware that these serious illnesses are occurring in our community, and the only sure way of reducing their risk is to check that their children are up to date with their immunisations,” says Dr Miller. Make sure your family is fully immunised to protect them from preventable diseases such as measles, mumps and whooping cough.