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In 2021's final edition of The Angels Journey we were proud to introduce a stellar line-up of stroke heroes, from the winners of the inaugural EMS Angels Awards to a group of children from a tiny village in Slovakia whose enthusiasm for our FAST Heroes campaign made them the best in the world, writes Jan van Der Merwe. 

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In the December 2021 issue of The Angels Journey we introduced the new leader of the ESO, president-elect Prof Peter Kelly, whose focus in his new role, we were delighted to learn, will be on health equity and supporting the implementation of the Stroke Action Plan for Europe (SAPE). Achieving the goals set for us by SAPE will take clarity about the task at hand, deliberate action and a bit of blind courage. Faced with such a daunting task, we often tend to overcomplicate matters, which reminded me of the following quote by Mother Meera, a spiritual guru from India who now lives in a small village in the German countryside about an hour away from our headquarters in Ingelheim.

"Be like a child – clear, loving, spontaneous, infinitely flexible and ready each moment to wonder and accept a miracle.”

On a pleasant autumn Saturday morning a couple of weeks ago, my five-year-old daughter and I were in town to do some shopping. I was about to attend an in-person conference for the first time in two years and had decided the occasion called for some new work shoes. We found a nice shoe shop in the centre of town where after some deliberation I eventually found a pair that I liked.

The friendly salesperson helped me find the correct size which I proceeded to put on to see how they fit. As I got up to have a look in the mirror, my daughter tapped me on the back and with a sparkle in her eye said, “Now run up and down the passage, Daddy, I want to see how fast these shoes make you!”

I mean, when was the last time someone asked you to run up and down a passage to see how fast your shoes made you? It’s so simple, yet so profound.

In another story from the same edition we were proud to introduce you to 113 kids from a tiny village called Liesek in the rural north of Slovakia who, with the same love, wonder and clear mission as my daughter, took up the challenge to become FAST Heroes and pass their life-saving message about how to spot the symptoms of stroke and what to do when these appear on to their grandparents.

In a village where nearly every home is occupied by multiple generations, these kids demonstrated that they would do whatever it takes to have as
much time as possible with their grandparents. Their determination made them the best performing school in the world – or at least out of the 1,860 schools from 14 countries around the world who implemented the FAST Heroes campaign this year.

Keeping things as clear and uncomplicated as possible is something we aspire to in Angels. A great example of this is the recent success we’ve seen in Bucharest, Romania, where we supported a pilot project aimed at getting prehospital teams to implement one very important priority action – prenotification. The impact of implementing this one action has had such a knock- on effect that it led to them achieving the amazing accolade of being among the first-ever recipients
of the EMS Angels Awards presented at the EUSEM Congress in Lisbon this year. Read their inspiring story here

In another success story of 2021, winners of the inaugural EMS Angels Awards reflect on individual cases that inspired them to achieve the level of quality in stroke care that earned them an EMS Angels Award. What I really like about these awards is that they are based on data – data about how real stroke patients were treated. A good result for the EMS company by implication means a good result for each patient whose case is reflected in that data.

Another example of how highlighting a simple step can lead to massive gains is the subject of a story reported by our consultants in Italy. By making a slight change in the way data was visualised they clearly and persuasively demonstrated the impact of treating the patient at the CT. We hope this inspires you to action in the same way as it has done the Italian stroke community.

Finally we write about how a group of nurses in an almost forgotten region of Spain were inspired to take it upon themselves to bring about change. The so-called Helsinki challenge started with a simple poster and turned into a movement that will be hard to stop.

So, did I run in my new shoes? You bet I did. I ran up and down that passage faster than I knew my legs could carry me. Not because the shoes made me faster, but because my daughter believed they would.

My hope is that you will find inspiration in the deliberate actions taken in each of these amazing stories, and that you will embrace these clear and simple ideas and implement them with the confidence of a five-year-old wearing a FAST Heroes mask.

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