These stroke survivors are up for their own 'Olympics'


Few of us would know first-hand, but there must surely be a sense of exhilaration for athletes as they walk on the tarmac of a stadium during a games' opening ceremony. And if that tournament were the Olympics, the buzz would be tremendous.

Nasam Stroke Games, to be held on March 4 at the Panasonic National Sports Complex in Shah Alam, hopes to imbue stroke survivors with this same sense of excitement.

The tourney which makes its debut this year, is the brainchild of Janet Yeo, founder chairman of the National Stroke Association of Malaysia (Nasam).

"The idea came to me three years ago. I've always loved the opening ceremony of the Olympics; it's such a powerful experience. I wondered what it would be like to put strokees in a Stroke Olympics," said Yeo.

As a strokee (the term affectionately given to stroke survivors) herself, Yeo knows exactly how dire life can be during the recovery process, having suffered her ordeal in 1989. She was a high-­flying career woman who saw life come to a grinding halt at the age of 44.

"Depression can set in, and it can be a very frustrating time. Suicidal thoughts can even creep in. It may seem like there is nothing to look forward to except to watch TV. If there are no caregivers, the survivors end up in nursing homes," said Yeo.

Setting the stage

Photo: The Star/ANN

The Stroke Games hopes to offer a ray of light that strokees desperately deserve.

"The games strives to inspire strokees to reach for the stars. For those who can't walk, at least they will have a goal in sight."

These goals are not merely for strokees, they are also for caregivers. "I would also like to change public perception of strokees, to let them know that we are not all bedridden or wheelchair-bound and old. I want people to see that strokees are vibrant and enthusiastic people," added the 72-year-old, who converted her house into the PJ Nasam treatment centre. According to Yeo, her strokees have been training daily for the past five months, and are raring to go.

Alimaton Saadiah, 66, a former administration officer with the National Family Planning Board, is ecstatic about the games. "I'm looking forward to making new friends. Nasam's wider reach will allow me to meet people from different parts of the country," said Alimaton, who suffered a stroke in June 2011.

Her sentiments are shared by Agatha Chin, 56.

"I want to meet other strokees and make new friends, especially from other Nasam branches," Chin enthused. The business owner and finance director had a stroke in June 2015. Chin hopes to get back to work one day, and eventually hand the reins to her children.

A time to heal

Photo: The Star/ANN

Yeo said the games might just be the impetus the strokees need to nudge them towards a speedy recovery. "The Stroke Games is driven by the belief that sports and games heal the brain. It will provide a platform for stroke survivors to overcome challenges and inspire them to compete with one another in the spirit of sportsmanship and camaraderie."

The tourney will see Nasam centres from across the country competing with each other. There will be contestants from Nasam centres in Petaling Jaya, Ampang, Perak, Sabah, Penang, Malacca, Johor, Kedah and Kuantan.

Close to 800 stroke survivors, their family members and friends, will converge at the Panasonic National Sports Complex on March 4 for this sporting event. There will be 17 activities - four individual and 13 group challenges.

Race and motor skills-based events - such as obstacle walk, baton relay, darts, bowling and basketball - dominate the games. Contestants stand a chance to win gold, silver and bronze medals for their valiant efforts.

"It is my hope that the games will restore the self-respect and dignity of strokees," Yeo stressed. "Come and cheer them on, make them feel like the champions they are."

The one-day Stroke Games will be followed by Nasam's 20th anniversary dinner at Geno Hotel in Subang Jaya on March 5.