“The municipalities (in Norway) govern themselves regarding the economy and the government can’t earmark money to be used in the municipalities for each purpose. The municipal decides what they want to use the money for. And too often we see that there are no more money left when it comes to give patients the treatment they need, and which Norwegian law grants them” says Bjørn Bakke, leader of the Norwegian Stroke Support Organisation, Norsk forening for slagrammede, which is a member of SAFE.

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

Photo: Bjørn Bakke, private archive

BB: In Norway we see that the situation for stroke survivors gets worse after the initial treatment in the stroke unit in hospitals and the first rehabilitation in the hospitals. These treatments (medical, surgery, rehabilitation) are financed by the government and follows in most cases national guidelines which are developed and refined during the (last) years. These treatments are usually of a very high quality.

The problem arises when the patient leaves the governmental treatment and the local municipal takes over the rehabilitation. There are of course laws regulating that a patient is granted the same treatment. But unfortunately, this is not necessarily so – in most cases. Norway has approx. 400 municipalities and every single one has a different approach to this issue. To be short, it comes down to economy.

SAFE: What would be the solution, i.e. what is your organisation’s position regarding this issue?
BB: There are 4 stroke organizations in Norway, and we have all concluded that we must engage politicians so that the parliament can pass new laws to strengthen the rights for the patients. This year we have local elections, and this gives us all a great opportunity to address municipal politicians all over Norway. We have a lot of work to do to address the public and the politicians with arguments. This means writing to the politicians and in newspapers and influence the wherever possible, like using Facebook etc.

SAFE: Please tell us more about your organisation.
BB: Our organization is driven by stroke injured people and our main issue is to work for stroke injured people. We are a nonprofit organization having approx. 1250 members spread all over Norway in 19 local organizations. We plan to establish more local organization, but we see also that we need to change our structure a bit in some places. Some of the local organizations cover a too large area and it is not possible for them to gather people from all over their area, so we may need to split some large organizations into smaller units.

Neuropathic Pain After Stroke

Dr Hege Ihle-Hansen, specialist in inner medicine and geriatrics at Oslo University hospital, Ullevål, told us that in follow-up after stroke a neuropathic pain is also mapped, and this is included in the national guidelines concerning follow-up 3 months after stroke.

Grethe Lunde, a stroke survivor, member of Norsk forening for slagrammede and SAFE Board member is one of many stroke survivors who live with neuropathic pain.

“How to live with muscle pain/neurological pain after 25 years as a stroke survivor? Well, I am really happy to be a knitter, as knitting often cuts the link to the “pain button” in our brain. It is a great way to disconnect from what is hurting. Knitting is also great fun and a really good tool for enhancing the mobility in your hands. Knitting distracts you from chronic pain. A study conducted by Harvard Medical School’s Mind and Body Institute, found that knitting lowers heart rate, by an average of 11 beats per minute, and induces an “enhanced state of calm, similar to that of yoga” concluded Grethe.

Photos by: Grethe Lunde Some of the knitting patterns that Grethe knitted recently.