Stroke, also known as brain attack or cerebrovascular accident is a condition of the brain that results in the weakness (paralysis) of one side of the body. This occurs when there is stoppage of blood flow to a part of the brain. As a result, the brain is deprived of oxygen and essential nutrients which the cells of the brain depend on for survival. If this process goes on for some time, the brain cells get damaged or die, thereby losing its function. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), stroke is the second leading cause of death globally, with 6.5 million annual mortality rate of which two-thirds occur in sub-Saharan Africa.
In Ghana, it is reported that stroke is among the top 3 causes of death. Although stroke is said to be the most preventable neurological disease, there is still an increase in the incidence of stroke. There is scarcity of data about the incidence of strokes in Ghana. However, according to the 2014 annual report of the Ghana Health Service, the incidence rate of the two main risk factors of stroke, hypertension and diabetes increased by 20.7% and 22.6% respectively within 2011 and 2014. This is not surprising as a study conducted in Accra concluded that the community awareness of the risk factors and warning signs of stroke is sub-optimal.
Due to improved health care systems which have reduced stroke mortality, the prevalence of stroke survivors is on the ascendancy in Ghana. These stroke survivors live with various degrees of disability because of little attention given to their rehabilitation needs, limited rehabilitation centers, inadequate trained professionals in neurorehabilitation and spiritualising the condition. A study conducted at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital reported that stroke does not only affect the functional independence and quality of life of the stroke survivor but also exerts financial, social, psychological and physical burden on the family as well. Therefore, stroke is a condition of public health importance with social and economic consequences.
Studies all over the world have indicated that proper rehabilitation of stroke survivors lead to functional independence. However, in Ghana the condition is ascribed to spirituality and family members of stroke survivors would want to seek spiritual purification instead of rehabilitation. Families of stroke survivors spend years travelling across the length and breadth of the country seeking spiritual assistance for their loved ones. Once they find no remedies, they use Physiotherapy (Rehabilitation) as the last option. By this time, disability has prevailed for so long. Although rehabilitation specialists try to do their best at this stage, it delays recovery and causes a lot of pain to the stroke survivors as the joints in the affected limbs are already very stiff.
In conclusion, stroke is NOT a spiritual disease and seeking proper rehabilitation immediately by a qualified personnel will improve functional independence.