Sunday, 16 December 2012

Grow Movement advises Ugandan Stroke Rehabilitation Centre

Uganda's average life expectancy is just 53 years, 18 years below the global average, and considerably less than that of the African continent (58 years)*. The number of doctors in proportion to the population is astoundingly low, with only one doctor for every 10,000 people. 

Strokes are one of the top 5 causes of death in Uganda, largely due to the prevalence of risk factors. Approximately 7.3% of the population are affected by HIV and 25% by sickle cell anaemia. This, in addition to insufficient quantities of fruit and vegetables in typical diets and the abuse of alcohol, drugs and cigarettes, means that the Ugandan population are particularly vulnerable to strokes.

When local resident Ibrahim Bukenya graduated from the Mulago School of physiotherapy, he realized that he wanted to help stroke survivors. After attending a Grow Movement empowerment programme, he was assigned a consultant, Mr. Nichola Bianchi. Mr. Bianchi used his experience in finance to advise Ibrahim by email or telephone on a weekly basis, working with him from Italy to formulate business plans and learn about how to manage the financial side of a business by monitoring cash flow and creating a balance sheet. With this advice, in 2010 Ibrahim established the Stroke Rehabilitation Centre in Wampewo

Ibrahim Bukenya helps a patient get back on his feet 
Ibrahim said of the process of launching the centre: 'The best moment was when I was introduced to Nichola, he really helped me to organise my business and understand the financial terms.' 

From singlehandedly running a home physiotherapy service from a rented room in Kampala, Ibrahim is now the founder and principal physiotherapist of The Stroke Rehabilitation Centre, a non-governmental organisation which treats about 15 patients, recovering from strokes or spinal problems, each month, as well as offering employment to local people.

His work is crucial in treating the severe psychological and physical conditions found in people after a stroke. Stroke survivors commonly experience depression, anxiety, loss of mobility and impaired speech. If left untreated, these conditions may last a lifetime. Before they can resume their daily lives, a long period of rehabilitation is often required. At the Stroke Rehabilitation Centre, to aid patients in their recovery process, each is individually assessed to ensure that they recieve the ideal treatment for their specific situation. The centre also offers support and advice to the family and friends of patients. 

After suffering from a stroke, Moses Opolot could not stand, sit or talk. When he was introduced to the Stroke Rehabilitation Centre,  'I started attending therapy and after a few weeks, I started experiencing great improvement. I learnt to walk with a stick, and later was able to walk by myself.' Staff at the centre worked closely with his family, teaching them to the best way to help him recover. Moses is now able to drive again and hopes to resume the life he had before his stroke soon.

2012 World Stroke Day Walk
In addition to being responsible for the progress of its patients, the Stroke Rehabilitation Centre is instrumental in raising stroke awareness in Uganda. In Uganda, many people believe that after having a stroke, a person is unable to resume their life and must remain indoors until their death. The efforts of the SRC to dispel this harmful misconception include organising an annual walk for World Stroke Day which was the first acknowledgement of the day in Uganda.

Ibrahim hopes that in the future, the centre will grow so that it is able to offer accommodation to over 50 patients. With the support of his second Grow Movement consultant, Nishi Agrawal from India, he is currently working to raise 100 million Ugandan shillings (about $37,000 or £23,000) over the next four years in order to purchase land to see his vision fulfilled, spreading his care network to the rest of Uganda. 

The actions of the Stroke Rehabilitation Centre demonstrate the ability and potential of a few individuals to make a significant difference to their community.

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