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Newcastle local’s heartfelt ‘thank you’


National Stroke Week provided an emotional opportunity for Newcastle resident John Duenzl to offer a heartfelt “thank you” to his “heroes”.

His gratitude was primarily directed to the kind strangers, who came to his aid when he had a stroke, along with the health professionals who treated him and supported his recovery.

The 39-year-old father was enjoying the first day of a beach holiday in 2019 when he lost his balance, coordination and vision in the water, but managed to scream for help.

He recalled it all happened in an instant.

“Thankfully there were people nearby,” Mr Duenzl said.

“My wife Trudi and some strangers pulled me from the ocean, lay me on the sand and called Triple Zero for help.

“Their swift response ensured I got to hospital quickly and received time-critical medical treatment to stop the stroke’s attack on my brain.

“I can’t thank them enough.

“Without that understanding of what to do, and their united effort, I might not have received the urgent assistance I needed.”

Mr Duenzl is now joining with the Stroke Foundation to encourage Novocastrians to learn and share the most common signs of stroke, F.A.S.T (Face. Arms. Speech. Time), to help save lives and reduce disability from stroke.

Using the F.A.S.T test involves asking these simple questions:

  • Face – Check their face. Has their mouth drooped?
  • Arms – Can they lift both arms?
  • Speech – Is their speech slurred? Do they understand you?
  • Time – Is critical. If you see any of these signs, phone 000 straight away.

Stroke strikes the brain, the human control centre.

And, more than 27,400 Australians experienced a stroke in 2020 – that is one stroke every 19 minutes.

It kills up to 1.9 million brain cells per minute, however prompt medical treatment can stop this damage.

Stroke Foundation NSW state manager Rhian Paton-Kelly said Mr Duenzl’s story demonstrated how important it was to seek medical help immediately for stroke.

“We know the faster a stroke patient gets to hospital and receives treatment, the better their chance is of survival and successful rehabilitation,” she explained.

“John is making great gains in his recovery.

“It’s wonderful to hear he has returned to the activities he loves like skateboarding and surfing.

“Just as John found with his experience, a united effort can make all the difference in a stroke emergency.

“That’s why more people who know the F.A.S.T message, the better.”

While National Stroke Week is over for another year, there is still a way for locals to continue to learn how to ease the burden of the disease. 

Virtual or in-person StrokeSafe talks are available for workplaces and community groups.

They’re presented by volunteers, many of whom are survivors of stroke or family members.

The presentations include life-saving information about stroke, prevention and recognition.

“The program aims to reduce the number of Australians impacted by stroke through education,” Stroke Foundation executive director stroke services Dr Lisa Murphy said.

“Public health has come to the fore like never before as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is wonderful to see workplaces taking steps to improve the health, wellbeing and knowledge of their staff.

“With the incidence of stroke growing among people of working age (18-64), these talks can make a difference to lives.

“Sadly, it is one of Australia’s biggest killers and a leading cause of disability.”

More than 80% of strokes can be prevented by managing blood pressure and cholesterol and living a healthy, active lifestyle.

If you would like to request a free StrokeSafe presentation, phone 1300 194 196 or book online.

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