- Thato had to learn everything all over again after the stroke, and he recovered remarkably.
- She has since gone from volunteer to co-director of the Stroke Survivors Foundation.
- Thato does not regret what happened and is completely satisfied with how her life has turned out.
“As a fan of Lyra, I only see a healthy woman – in fact, she’s an empire woman. But after the news of her having a stroke, the only thing I could think about was getting the proper rehabilitation she required: Does she have the treatment she needs, is she dealing with With a good neurologist?” says Thatto Meniko, a stroke survivor and co-director of the Stroke Survivors Foundation.
This week, the family of South African singer Lira revealed that she had suffered a stroke while in Germany for a show. Unfortunately, this caused the 43-year-old’s speech to be affected.
“All I could think about was if she had the support system, not just from the medical field, but from her family, and the community around her, just to make sure that whatever happened, she wouldn’t lose the legacy that she’s been building for years. I just hope she gets treated. The wanted you need,” says Thatho, who suffered a major stroke nearly ten years ago at the age of 33.
Read | I was fit, ate healthy, and had no risk factors – and yet I had a stroke at age 33. Here’s what I wish I’d known
Thatho knows the feeling of enduring and recovering from the medical event that affects nearly 240 people every day in South Africa.
The struggle to communicate
She’s come a long way since then, but she’s never really wondered if this is a battle she might not be winning. Since the beginning of her rehabilitation, she has resisted the fallout of a stroke with relentless courage.
When Health24 first spoke to her in 2019, she was weaned about her extensive stroke rehabilitation treatment, which included speech therapy, occupational neurotherapy, and occupational therapy for her global confinement — a condition that occurs after a stroke (or head injury). Patients with aphasia may be able to understand little or no spoken language and struggle to communicate.
“Officially, my treatment is over, but unofficially it is not because of the work I need as a mother and as director of the institution. I have to be very cognizant to do my best; the literature should come out almost complete so that everything is clear as to what I am trying to articulate and what it is My intention,” she says.
She adds that having a baby provided her with a form of lifelong therapy and rehabilitation.
“I had to consciously make sure everything I was saying came right because kids are like copy and paste, so whatever you give them they’ll give back,” she jokes.
But Thato has really enjoyed motherhood for the past two years. “It’s the best treatment I’ve ever had, because it has made me very careful about everything I pass on to my son.”
She also credits the foundation’s support system for her journey to recovery. Thato says:
What I love most about working in the organization is that we, as stroke survivors, can communicate beautifully because we are not shy when we have difficulty pronouncing a word. This is the part I love: it’s like connecting with “your people”.
She believes that every stroke survivor should have this kind of support. The foundation recently developed a mobile application called PDSS (Post-Stroke Support), which provides support for stroke survivors. It is still under improvement but is available for download.
The foundation will be hosting a Golf Day on May 24 this year. This will be their first fundraising event and they hope to use the funds to improve the app so that it is more accessible to all stroke survivors in South Australia, and eventually survivors globally.
Resume where you left off
Thato was a lawyer on her way to completing her master’s degree in law before she had a stroke. Fast forward to 2018, I completed a short course in a paralegal field to test her ability to study, which I completed successfully.
She has since decided to take an advanced human rights course at the University of Pretoria. She has to pass nine courses this year and aims to focus on disability law in the South African context. The course will start next year and she is looking forward to the experience.
Awareness, awareness, awareness
Thato suffered a transient ischemic attack (TIA), one of three types of stroke, also known as a “mini-stroke” in November 2011. That was just six months before his main stroke. Evidence suggests that the incidence of stroke (the most common type of stroke) in young adults (18-50 years) is increasing.
“What is very important now, is what we are pushing for in the organization: awareness,” Thatto says. “If I am going to talk to any young South African or global citizen, they need to be aware of the symptoms of a stroke; how to prepare when they have a stroke. And they need to make sure that their family and close friends are aware of that.”
In 2019, statistics indicated that one in six people will have a stroke in their lifetime. This has increased to one in four. “So if we don’t take awareness seriously, there’s going to be a problem,” she says.
Stroke is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide. Thato says:
For example, I have difficulties with aphasia and nervous fatigue. There are people who have mobility difficulties, others who have difficulty swallowing, are blind or deaf. A stroke can cause all kinds of multiple disabilities, but when people are more aware, they will take action right away.
She says nervous fatigue is different from physical fatigue or exhaustion. “Fatigue and exhaustion will let you know when it’s time to rest, but nervous fatigue gives you about a minute until it hits you hard.”
When this happens, the effect of aphasia becomes apparent, when one has difficulty expressing a word or sentence.
“Your body heals itself.”
Recovery time after a stroke varies from person to person. But Thato stresses the need for patience. “All you had to do was persevere and allow time to work on your recovery. I had to go back to class R.” She had to learn the verbal difference between ‘d’ and ‘t’, ‘b’ and ‘p’, etc., and that the word ‘heaven’ was not ‘even’, ‘few’ was not ‘view’, and ‘felt’ was not ‘let go’, for example.
The brain and body heal on their own. All you have to do is take care of them and they will take care of you.
She has no regrets about losing the life she lived before the stroke. In fact, she is steadfast in her belief that her stroke experience and the treatment she has received over the years has given her a new, happier life.
“I have no negativity about what happened and nothing to complain about. I’m not the same person I was before my stroke – but I’m better off now because I’m more aware of every step and action I took to make my life prosper.”
Prayers for Lyra and other stroke survivors
Thato’s thoughts and focus move to Lyra again. “I read about Lira a couple of days ago. I don’t know if she’s in the hospital right now, but I know she’s just going to feel it [reality] When I got out of the hospital.
“Because it comes with every stroke survivor, the moment you get out of the hospital, that’s when you see the wear and tear and the burden of the stroke itself. And that’s when you see your family and your support group. You literally have to adjust to your new personality in order to live the life you want to. to live it.”
She continues, “All my prayers go out to Lyra and other stroke survivors. As always, they are very welcome to contact us at the Stroke Survivors Foundation…No one is alone.”
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