The Heart and Stroke Foundation is marking Stroke Awareness Month by promoting employee preparation and workplace wellness initiatives.

Ontario Power Generation is among the employers preparing its employees to recognize the signs of stroke, says Tanya Hickey, OPG’s senior manager of health and safety strategies. She recalls a recent incident where this preparedness paid off.

“We had an employee a few weeks ago who was going to work from home but decided to come in and flatlined at work. If she was at home, she [likely] wouldn’t have survived, but because our emergency response team was able to respond, she did. They had to use the defibrillator four times before they got a pulse. . . . She is still in acute care; it’s been seven weeks now. She’s 42 with no pre-existing health conditions.”

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If a stroke is suspected, employees should call an ambulance rather than letting the person drive to the hospital themselves, says Jude Drory, senior corporate partnership officer at the Heart and Stroke Foundation. “We have some of the best stroke centres in Ontario, so an ambulance can not only provide you with blood clot medicine, they can also take you to one of these stroke centres.”

The Heart and Stroke Foundation also provides its FAST — Face, Arms, Speech and Time — toolkit as a key resource employers can share with their employees. “The ‘T’ in FAST is of utmost importance because, with strokes, time is literally everything,” says Drory. “The faster you can treat it, the more likely you’re not going to have any type of long-term disability.”

In a hybrid work environment, it’s important for employees to take this information home so someone there can recognize the symptoms of stroke, as well as having first aid set up in the at-home workplace, says Hickey. “[Hybrid work] is bringing in a whole new dynamic, not only in the home, but now we have to consider whether we have enough first aid people in office when employees are in the office at different hours.”

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OPG often analyzes its benefits plan to determine which drugs plan members are using the most. With high blood pressure one of the top health issues among employees, Hickey notes stroke is a risk for many workers. And both Hickey and Drory recognize the importance of maintaining personal health to prevent stroke.

“Some of the wellness initiatives OPG is doing are meditation once a week for employees [and] we’re encouraging [initiatives] through our [employee assistance program] dealing with nutrition, wellness and stress reduction,” says Hickey. “We’ve been spending a lot of time focusing on that and will do this campaign during the month of June. We put together an entire package with education materials, created a PowerPoint presentation [and are doing] safety meetings.”

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