Denman locals Stephen and Tracy Ward have been applauded for their dedication to advocating for better treatment and services for people with stroke in rural and regional Australia.
The husband and wife were presented with the Courage Award at the Stroke Foundation’s 2019 Stroke Awards in Melbourne on Tuesday.
The category recognises indomitable courage and hope shown by survivors and carers in the face of stroke recovery.
Stephen suffered a stroke at the age of 48 in 2013. Although Tracy recognised the F.A.S.T. (Face, Arms, Speech Time) signs of stroke and called triple zero (000) straight away, Stephen experienced a number of unfortunate delays in accessing time-critical treatment.
Living in a regional area there was no CT brain scanner locally, there was no stroke specialist to diagnose Stephen and no treatment. Stephen’s treatment was delayed until he could be transferred to the nearest city hospital, all the while the stroke continued to attack his brain.
Stephen and Tracy have taken their experience and shared it to highlight the current inequalities in stroke care. The couple use their experience to advocate for change.
Tracy said they were honoured to be named this year’s Courage Award recipients.
“Stroke has changed our lives forever, but we will not give up,” Tracy said.
“We will keep on knocking on the doors of our state and federal politicians until we see the roll out of an Australian Telestroke Network.”
Stroke Foundation Chief Executive Officer Sharon McGowan said Stephen and Tracy have played an integral role in putting stroke on the state and national political agenda.
“Tracy and Stephen have been instrumental in highlighting the disparity in access to best practise treatment for rural and metropolitan Australians.
“They have shown great courage and strength in sharing their story with members of state and federal parliament.
“Their dedication to closing the divide and improving the state of stroke for regional Australians in the future is extraordinary.”
The Stroke Awards recognise and celebrate outstanding Australians who are dedicated to treating, supporting and advocating for stroke survivors and the broader stroke community.