Jigmi Wangdi

In recognition of exceptional commitment to advancing the goals of the World Stroke Day campaign, Dawa Tshering, executive director of the Bhutan Stroke Foundation, received the prestigious World Stroke Organisation Award for Individual Achievement 2022.

Tshering said that the award isn’t just a personal accolade but a collective recognition for all those involved and acknowledged the pivotal role played by stakeholders, especially the Ministry of Health and media partners, in raising awareness about strokes in Bhutan.

The Foundation, initiated by Dawa Tshering in 2019 after his wife suffered a stroke, focuses on the critical four-hour window for stroke treatment. He highlighted the importance of timely hospital admission, emphasising that swift action during this period can significantly impact recovery. 

Despite challenges in creating awareness and advocating for stroke issues in Bhutan, Dawa Tshering underscored the need for effective policies and planning. He expressed concern about the shortage of physiotherapists, speech therapists, and occupational therapists in the country, emphasising their vital role in stroke recovery.

Spiritual integration, according to Dawa Tshering, is another crucial aspect. He noted that spiritual leaders, such as Rinpoches, can play a significant role in aiding patients’ mental recovery through counsel and prayers.

Addressing the Foundation’s challenges, Dawa Tshering emphasised the collaborative effort required. While Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) can generate social awareness, he stressed the necessity of support from specialists and doctors for technical awareness.

Highlighting the inadequacy of Bhutanese hospitals in treating stroke patients, Dawa Tshering pointed out the burden on families when patients are sent home, and urged the government’s co-operation in developing proper policies to ensure comprehensive care for stroke patients.

Despite the current limitations, the Foundation extends support to patients through livelihood training. Dawa Tshering shared success stories of survivors working in a bakery, illustrating the positive impact of such initiatives.

Revealing a concerning statistic, Dawa Tshering mentioned a high incidence of strokes among individuals aged 25 to 70, with 60 percent being male and 40percent female.

However, he emphasised the need for further research and validation of this data.

Despite assisting around 30 patients since its inception in 2019, the Bhutan Stroke Foundation faces a growing demand for support, with over 200 registered patients seeking assistance.

Dawa Tshering advocated for collaborative efforts with the government to develop policies that will alleviate the long-term challenges faced by stroke patients in Bhutan.