Bakhwi Kablay is 38 and the Programme Coordinator of Touch A Life Wazha Center (TALWC). She suffered a stroke on May 17, 2011.
Kablay says she left no stone unturned to ensure that she lives positively with stroke through physiotherapy modes involving the gym, yoga and Chinese acupuncture and has over the months risen from being a stigmatized “basket case” to the status of the able-bodied.
To prove the determination, six months after the attack that left her with paralysis of the left side, including the arm and leg, she regained partial use of her arm, but could still not even wiggle her left toes or cry.
Today, Kablay drives a Toyota Vitz automatic, a far cry from the Discovery Land Rover she used to drive around in but had to sell because of limited use of the left hand.
Apart from driving herself around, she bathes, cooks and carries out other household chores unaided.
The motivated Kablay says due to her unforgettable encounter with stroke and the general apathy among Batswana towards the malady, coupled with the lack of fully equipped physiotherapy facilities in local health centres, she is going to launch the Stroke Awareness Campaign (SAC) at the Tlokwa Heights Pre-school in Tlokweng on September 22, 2012.
The programme for the Campaign, which includes presentation by medical practitioners in the key areas of risk factors, diagnosis and treatment, will be a herald for the establishment under the auspices of TALWC of a fully-fledged stroke rehabilitation centre with state-of-the-art equipment and trained staff to carry out physiotherapy and provide psychosocial support for patients.
“Apart from minimizing the incidence of stroke through education and awareness, TALWC’s mission will also advocate HIV prevention, poverty eradication and support and care for orphans and vulnerable children,” said Kablay.
She talked about how she succumbed to stroke.
“It was business as usual as I danced the fateful night away to some of the late Michael Jackson’s popular hits, convinced it was the best remedy of overcoming the psychological trauma my mind was going through as a result of stress from an unresolved and seemingly irreconcilable family problem. Little did I realize that the stress had already induced irreversible psychological trauma and that it was only a matter of hours before my entire physique would be grotesquely disabled. In my entire life, the devastating nightmare I experienced when I realized I could not only rise from my bed and tumbled to the floor unable to use both arms and legs, falls beyond comprehension, because my whole left side was paralyzed. More still, my mouth suffered severe deformation as a result of a sudden twist to the left. And with the tongue cleaved to the roof of the buccal cavity, I could only make incoherent noises when I tried to tell my sister over the mobile phone.”
Kablay said after assessing the freak and debilitating health condition, her 11-year old daughter called an ambulance so she could be immediately taken to the emergency care at the hospital.
Paramedics who attended to her recorded high blood pressure although she had no medical history of hyper tension. Despite her critical medical condition, she was only admitted to hospital on signing a cheque for payment of a deposit of P10 000, thank God that she is right-handed!
Continuing with her ordeal, the mother of two girls, aged 12 and 16, says: “According to medical research, anyone at any age can have stroke as a result of a ‘brain attack’. On admission to hospital, I was a frightful wreck, characterized by severe immobility through general body paralysis. In addition to my askew mouth, my left eye was popping out of the socket, I could not lift my arm which seemed riveted to the hospital bed, I could not stand up without the support by two able-bodied people on both sides, and, worst of all, suffered bouts of being in and out of consciousness.”
On the following day, after diagnosis, doctors heavily sedated her so she could sleep longer hours. What she hated most was being bathed by attendant nursing staff. She still lived under the illusion that she would regain use of both arms and legs.
“However, after three weeks of continuous hospitalization and no improvement in my condition, I accepted and lived positively with the grim realities of stroke. When I was discharged, the biggest challenge was that medical aid only paid P3 000 which was far too inadequate for fees local private practitioners charge for physiotherapy. I was compelled to consult Government health facilities which lacked the right equipment and trained staff. Although neighbouring countries offered the only last best hope in terms of physiotherapy, the exorbitant fees, beyond medical aid coverage prevented private individuals’ access.”
Kablay, who holds an MBA obtained from the US in 1998 and is an entrepreneur, said she suffered economic hardships through loss of income due to many months of treatment and rehabilitation. Furthermore, the astronomical physical rehabilitation, psychosocial, pharmaceutical drugs, therapy and support costs depleted personal savings within a short space of time.
She noted that without the emotional and financial support of family members, such costs are beyond the means of the average person. From experience, stigma and discrimination can affect the psychosocial status of the stroke survivor and immediate family. The worst case scenario involves isolation of the survivor.
Prolonged dislocation of her upper arm ball socket joint from the shoulder (due to the fact that the hospital staff realized months after her discharge that they had forgotten to provide her with a supportive arm sling) almost compelled her to abandon first attempts to resume driving. She had to support her elbow with a cushion as a temporary measure.
Gaborone-based general practitioner Dr. Tuelo Joseph Ntwaagae says stroke is a brain attack that occurs when blood, which brings oxygen to the brain, stops flowing and brain cells die. It is one of the leading causes of disability in Botswana, although there are no statistics to support it. Not all risk factors pertaining to age, gender, race or family history can be controlled. Medical risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and arterial fibrillation can often be controlled by surgery, medication and healthier lifestyles. “Talk with your healthcare professional about risk factor management and take any prescribed medication regularly.”