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First Things First

Some moments, especially our “firsts”, are often vastly more meaningful than others, probably because they signify change, writes Angels global project lead Jan van der Merwe in the latest edition of the Angels Journey.
Angels team 15 November 2023

I vividly remember the first training trip that Thomas Fischer and I undertook to India for Angels. Our first global steering committee meeting with the top experts in stroke including the then presidents of the European and World Stroke Organisations. The first hospital that officially registered on the Angels website . . .

Defining moments are those that shape our lives. Some moments, especially our “firsts”, are often vastly more meaningful than others, probably because they signify change. Looking back on our firsts, we know that every one of these firsts took courage, but we also realise that the world looked different afterwards, we were different.

It is for this reason that we consider ourselves extremely privileged to be part of, and in some cases even the orchestrators of, people’s firsts.

This issue of the Angels Journey is filled with firsts, every one of them transformative. We join Dr Rosa Napoletano in Italy as she reflects
on her first meeting with Angels consultant, Stefania Fiorillo, and how that lead to a transformed stroke team and eventually an Angels diamond award.

We cannot help but be inspired by the story of the Romanian Dream Team as they reflect on all the firsts they experienced in their outstanding efforts to transform stroke treatment in Romania. The first time they were tasked as young residents to go and perform training in another hospital, their first simulation training, and of course their joy upon hearing that the hospital they had trained had performed their first thrombolysis.

We cannot fail to be moved by news from war-torn Ukraine, such as the story of Yurii Cherednychenko, a man of many firsts: “The first aneurysm embolisation with detachable coils in Ukraine, the first stent-assisted coiling of a cerebral aneurysm, the first flow-diverter implantation, and so on. And on. In 2016, he carried out the first mechanical thrombectomy in Ukraine, giving a local football hero a second chance at life. In 2017 he was among the first Ukrainian doctors to work with the Angels Initiative and eventually the first to implement Angels checklists and recommendations throughout the stroke pathway.” Dr Cherednychenko is now the world’s leading expert in combat trauma and stroke, the result of nearly two years of pioneering neurosurgery on the frontline.

Recently we had our first Angels Day event in Athens, Greece, with a determined group of neurologists. It’s another first that will no doubt lead to changes beyond what we can imagine.

Firsts don’t only happen inside hospitals, however, and in this edition, we share how the initial implementation of the FAST Heroes stroke awareness campaign in Brackenfell and Petunia primary schools in the Western Cape region of South Africa led to two grandmothers being saved from the devastating consequences of stroke.

Finally, one of our consultants in Spain, Maria Atienza, provides a glimpse of the impact it has on us when we experience our own firsts together with you.

It is, as always, our hope that these exceptional stories will inspire you and give you the courage to attempt your own first. It could just change your life.



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