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The Right People

A stroke is a disaster that could be the end of life as you know it, unless you happen to be cared for by “the right person”, writes Jan van der Merwe in his introduction to the latest edition of The Angels Journey.
Angels team 21 March 2024

While putting together this year's first edition of The Angels Journey, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own journey and what drives me. When my mother-in- law had her stroke, I’d been involved with stroke for just over ten years, mostly focused on primary prevention and acute treatment. I’d read all the studies, attended the congresses, and knew the descriptions of the Modified Rankin Scale. But it was when stroke made its way into our family, and I experience firsthand the devastating effect this disease has on the patient and their family, that everything changed.

Suddenly, the Modified Rankin Scale description, “Unable to attend to own bodily needs without assistance, and unable to walk unassisted”, wasn’t just a clinical trial criterion anymore. It meant that a dynamic woman who’d been a school principal just days before, had to wear nappies for the rest of her life. I can tell you, if you want to take away someone’s dignity, take away their ability to look after their most basic needs such as being able to go to the toilet by themselves.

This same deep sense of loss also drives Angels Team Leader Alicia Arjona whose story in this edition is such a sad example of everything that could go wrong, even in European hospitals in 2023, but is also such an inspiring account of how tragedy could fuel determination.

In this Journey we share the stories of people who decided that they want to be the “right person”. You will meet the team of nurses from Life Eugene Marais Hospital in Pretoria South Africa who developed and improved the stroke service in their hospital so that they themselves can be the right person for every patient admitted to their unit.

You will also read about a team of three young doctors in war-torn Ukraine who recognised that stroke is a problem that concerns everyone, not just doctors, and who took it upon themselves to raise awareness across their country through the FAST Heroes campaign.

You will also be inspired by the life stories and personal experiences with stroke that drove nurses Zasskia Wiese, Raquel Gonzalez and Eliel da Silva who all come from different corners of the world but who decided to be the right person when they themselves experienced what a difference that right person can make. We also take a trip to South Bohemia in Czech Republic for some insights into the mindset that is necessary to be the right person at the right time.

This edition is rounded off by a very special story of a stroke survivor called Mauro Carrucciu who doesn’t believe in luck, but in a group of the right people who gave him his life back.

You can download this and past editions of The Angels Journey here. 





Jan van der Merwe is the Global Project Lead of the Angels Initiative


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