“Our country is small in population, around 7 million in total, but we are among the countries with the highest stroke incidence. Approximately 25.000 strokes occur every year in Serbia. With numbers as high as this, a person would think that we are getting closer to a solution of how to take care of those who survive stroke, but the reality is- we are still very, very far from it. As the Stroke Action Plan for Europe 2018 – 2030 stated, the issues that stroke survivors are facing long term have historically been ignored, and this is what we are hoping to see changed, with the implementation of this Plan, over the next 10-12 years” says Dr Ivan Milojević, Vice President of the Serbian stroke organisation “Moždani udar” and SAFE Board member.

SAFE: What is one issue related to the life after stroke in your country that you think needs special attention?

IM: One of the basic things we consider as the biggest problem in Serbia is the nonexistence of an organized service which would deal with patients after stroke. In our country there is a rehabilitation that involves active participation of medical institutions up to 3 months after stroke and later after that patients are left on their own, or to their families. Even if there is an early rehabilitation provided shortly after stroke in the stroke units, and rehabilitation provided later after that in rehabilitation centres and specialized physical rehabilitation facilities, that is not enough, and stroke survivors long term needs for rehabilitation after stroke are not satisfied. Apart from regular check-ups by a neurologist, there are no other forms of organized monitoring of stroke survivors.

SAFE: What would be the solution, i.e. what is your organisation’s position regarding this issue? 

IM: One of the main ideas that led to forming our association was, among others, about finding a way to organise stroke survivors’ gatherings, so they could share their experiences as peer to per support, and to include them in social activities.  We tried to form Stroke clubs, and we are still working on finding the most suitable way to organise this activity. Unfortunately, this is not easy, because our organization is small and doesn’t have financial susatainability that would enable us to have our own space or to rent one for this type of gatherings. Our association has an active two-way communication with stroke survivors via our social network pages. They share with us their stories and we share them through our website and social media channels. We hope these stories might inspire and encourage other stroke survivors to overcome their problems. In that way, and by organizing public campaigns and actions, we are helping the voice of patient to be heard.

SAFE: Please tell us more about your organisation. 

IM: Association “Moždani udar” was founded on 30th July 2012 as an NGO. As representatives of stroke patients, we are dedicated to raising awareness of all aspects of stroke. We are involved in many activities and campaigns that cover primary prevention, stroke symptoms early recognition, stroke treatment, rehabilitation, and life after stroke.  We were and are part of European and World stroke campaigns, as well as some of the most prominent European projects (Angels Initiative, Stroke Support Organisation Faculty Tool – SSOFT etc). We also share an up-to-date progress information of EU funded stroke research projects by disseminating materials on our language.