Stroke support stories - Dr Arosha Siriwardana, Sri Lanka

The World Stroke Organisation is committed to developing more Stroke Support Organizations (SSOs) and stroke support activities around the world. Supportive activity can include information and advice, peer support, family counselling, rehabilitation therapy or welfare services. We want to promote this invaluable activity as much as we can. If you would like to share your stories of stroke support please contact Sarah.Belson@stroke.org.uk

The establishment of the first stroke support group in Sri Lanka

Dr Arosha Siriwardana, Senior Medical Officer, Neurology Unit, National Hospital of Sri Lanka, tells us about the new stroke support group.


Context
There has been a growth in stroke incidence in Sri Lanka since 1990 (Global Burden of Disease 2010) and stroke is the second leading cause of death in the country (WHO 2012). There are also a significant proportion of stroke survivors of working age in Sri Lanka.

Response
Dr Padma Gunaratne, Senior Consultant Neurologist at the National Hospital of Sri Lanka, recognised the need for increased support for stroke survivors and she mobilised a team of professionals to organise the stroke support group. The team consists of doctors, nurses, therapists, social services officers, counsellors and care givers.

The vision
On 28th January 2017, the first stroke support meeting was held and the group was established. 26 stroke survivors attended. It is a mixed gender group and members have both speech and motor disabilities. During the meeting, the participants registered as members of the group and the objectives of the group were agreed in all three languages: Sinhala; Tamil and English.

Dr Gunaratne welcomed the new  members and shared the vision to establish more groups across Sri Lanka. The Deputy Director General of the National Hospital, Dr Jasinghe talked about the popularity of social support groups in other countries and the advantages of setting up stroke support groups in every main hospital. President of the National Stroke Association of Sri Lanka, Dr Riffsy, highlighted the importance of sustaining this activity in future. 

Discussion
Mr Bandara, from the Social Services Department of Sri Lanka, explained the role the department can play in providing financial support and assistance devices such as wheelchairs and walking aids for stroke survivors.
One of the care givers, Mrs Ovitigedera, told the group about her experience as a successful care giver of her husband who was affected by a stroke.
Other participants shared their stories and experiences, which at times were quite emotional. They were worried about the abilities that they have lost and they dream about getting back to their previous lifestyles. Some expressed their happiness about still being alive. 
The issues raised in the question and answer session included questions about the length of rehabilitation treatment and living with epilepsy.

The future
As Buddhists, Dr Siriwardanawe explains that they have been taught to listen to Dhamma sermons, to learn and remember them and to practice them. In Sri Lanka, stroke support groups can help people to practice Dhamma, demonstrating altruism, generosity and humanity. Ultimately, all members of the stroke team can also benefit from developing and providing stroke support for stroke survivors and their families. Dr Siriwardanawe feels confident that the stroke support groups will be cherished by Sri Lankans in future.

If you would like to find out more about the stroke support activities in Sri Lanka, please contact sarah.belson@stroke.org.uk 


Stroke support stories - Dr Arosha Siriwardana, Sri Lanka Reviewed by Sarah Belson on Thursday, March 09, 2017 Rating: 5

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