By Mei Kuan
In conjunction with World Stroke Day to be unfolded on October 29, Ipoh Echo spoke to Janet Yeo, Founder Chairperson of the National Stroke Association of Malaysia (NASAM) to learn how the NGO reaches out to the stroke survivors during the pandemic and beyond.
Running for 24 years now, NASAM is one of the few stroke associations in the world that serves the community via rehabilitation programmes while most others focus on advocacy and education. From a total of 9 NASAM centres nationwide, one of them is located in Ipoh along Lorong Pinji.
“NASAM has created a stroke-specific rehab programme which is internationally recognised and much sought after by other stroke associations. As a ‘voice of a stroke survivor’ and a stroke support organisation, NASAM looks beyond re-training an arm or a leg. It has in place holistic programmes which look at the mind, body and spirit. Such programmes help to empower the stroke survivors and enable them to eventually contribute to society. Those who come to us are able to confidently return to society and many go back to work,” explained Janet who founded NASAM in November 1996 when she herself was recovering from a devastating stroke.
According to her, the pandemic and the MCO have dictated huge changes in the NASAM style of rehab which was generally in groups with plenty of interaction and fun while the NASAM centres were akin to a second home to the stroke survivors and caregivers.
“Initially, we closed all our nine centres as therapists used mobile apps and worked hard from homes to motivate our members. It was tough as not all members were savvy and could be reached online. There were other problems like poor internet connection, signal and wifi. Plus, for those who had a stroke or brain attack, we had to take into consideration the cognitive challenges. The pandemic impacted our stroke survivors and their recovery because it was hard to keep in touch with them. We lost contact with many of the stroke survivors especially those from the disadvantaged groups who lacked access and support to handle the social media platforms,” she highlighted.
Equally challenging was reaching and helping new stroke survivors who needed early rehab to facilitate recovery and prevent complications.
“We are still adapting. For our stroke community, we have created a helpline (018 222 1878) which serves anyone having a stroke and their families. We encourage those who are unable to be physically present to use our telehealth services. There are group sessions via Zoom where we offer a mix of upbeat aerobics, occupational therapy, exercises to improve strength, balance and endurance as well as Qi Gong for mind and body relaxation. There are essential exercises via WhatsApp video for those who cannot join the fixed timings of the Zoom sessions. For those who prefer customised, one-on-one telehealth sessions with a therapist, it is available by appointment. Meanwhile, physical sessions at the centres have resumed too, by appointment and for one-on-one sessions only,” she stated, stressing that each centre operates in strict adherence to the health and safety standard operating procedures.
The pandemic has dealt a crushing blow to every sector and NASAM, as an NGO, is not spared.
“The number of appointments is very much reduced. Financially, our operations have been severely hit. During the MCO, we had no income from rehab and no donations for many months. This serious setback of zero income has threatened the viability of NASAM going forward. Our financial reserves are seriously dented. We try very hard to keep our spending to the minimum so that we can continue to serve the stroke community in Malaysia, we have just enough to last us to the end of December this year. I am urging readers to help us with a donation. It does not matter how big or small. Every contribution counts. Help us help the stroke community,” she appealed.
Corporates and individuals who would like to lend a helping hand can donate via direct bank-in to 5122 3152 0534 (Maybank). Kindly fax the bank-in slip to 03 79310087 or email to email@example.com with your name as per IC for tax exempt receipts to be issued. One also can fill in the donation form featured in NASAM’s website: www.nasam.org
NASAM Ipoh is located at No 9, Lorong Pinji, off Jalan Pasir Puteh, 31650 Ipoh. It operates from Monday to Friday starting 9am till 5pm (closed on Saturday, Sunday and public holidays). The centre can be reached at 05 321 1089 or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org