Marco Andiolo never thought a leisurely Friday afternoon stroll in the mall would save his life. The 56-year old Italian expat was shopping in Al Wahda Mall when a stroke awareness stand caught his eye. The awareness campaign was run by Amana Healthcare—a specialized provider of inpatient rehabilitation, long-term and home healthcare services— to educate the public about the prevention, detection and rehabilitation of stroke on Stroke Awareness Day, October 29th. Nurses were running through the risk factors for a stroke, the preventative measures to follow, how to recognize the symptoms, and monitoring blood pressure of interested volunteers.
“I was shocked when my blood pressure indicated an alarmingly high reading of 191/118,” Marco recalls. “The Amana Healthcare physician at the counter suggested I walk around the mall for one hour and come back to check my blood pressure again. After doing so, it was still high at 182/126.”
Marco’s high blood pressure, if left untreated, put him at high risk for a stroke: a “brain attack” caused by clotting or bleeding of small vessels in the brain. On the advice of the Amana team, Marco urgently visited a physician for a series of further tests and medication to treat his abnormally high blood pressure. When Marco was discharged back home the physician ordered him to maintain a healthy diet, avoid coffee, exercise regularly, and purchase a blood pressure machine to regularly monitor himself.
CATCHING EARLY SIGNS
“Although I was exercising my whole life and was even a certified aerobics trainer, my new work routine and diet caused my cholesterol and blood pressure to peak to dangerous levels. Within a few months of treatment, my blood pressure returned to less than 120/80 as I applied healthy changes to my life,” Marco proudly stated. “I am so grateful to Amana Healthcare’s awareness drive for saving me from a stroke.”
Catching the signs early wasn’t the case for 59-year old Emirati, Saleh Kalban. The Sharjah-born resident was fishing, which he did for a living, when he suddenly fell to the ground, unable to stand or walk. His limited movements caused his colleagues to panic and call for emergency services where a helicopter flew Saleh to Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi (CCAD).
“I knew I was undergoing a stroke in the moment— although I couldn’t express myself — because I had seen my elder brother and sister go through similar symptoms,” Saleh revealed. “I exercise, but I also used to smoke regularly, which I’ve recently quit.” Saleh stayed at CCAD for ten days for stabilization and a thorough assessment. In need of specialized rehabilitation to help him make a full recovery, Saleh was then transferred to Amana Healthcare’s specialized inpatient rehabilitation hospital in Khalifa City, where a multidisciplinary team of rehabilitation experts carried out further detailed assessments and created a customized care plan for him.
“As soon as I was admitted to Amana, I immediately understood the importance of early rehabilitation after a stroke. Under their care, I was able to move again for the first time,” said Saleh. “Prior to being admitted, I had heard from multiple doctors that I was a hopeless case and that my organs weren’t functioning properly, yet within days in intensive rehabilitation I had already seen positive changes.”
Saleh remained at Amana Healthcare for two months, where he underwent hydrotherapy, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, and was monitored by physicians and dietitians day and night. After a productive but exhausting three to five hour session with his various therapists, Saleh’s favorite time of the day was sitting in outdoor garden in the evening, listening to the trickling of the water in the fountain – which he found soothing. “The design of the hospital is different to any other hospital I’d seen before. It gave me peace of mind as though I was in the comfort of my own home, and I appreciated the open space and greenery – which gave me freedom and privacy at the same time,” said Saleh.
While Saleh enjoyed occasional outings with therapy staff and his family, what impacted his wellbeing even more were the weekly support groups held for him and his family. “I have never seen such a dedication for support and wellbeing before – it was a solid 100%. I knew clinically I was getting the care I needed, but the weekly stroke support group meetings helped me, my family, and other stroke survivors get our questions answered,” Saleh said with a smile.
Whereas Saleh was initially incapable of walking, speaking, or eating on his own, within two months he was discharged home in a fully-recovered condition to his family of three beautiful children. “In the comfort of my own country, language, and family, I received better medical and supportive care here at Amana Healthcare than I could have received anywhere around the world,” he remarked. “I am truly grateful.”