Windsor neurologist raises alarm over dip in ER visits for stroke symptoms

Dr. Ryan Punambolam, medical director of the Enhanced District Stroke Centre of Windsor-Essex, is concerned about a growing hesitancy to seek help by people experiencing a mini-stroke.  

'Don't wait' to get treatment, says medical director of EDSC Windsor-Essex

Dr. Ryan Punambolam says to seek medical attention immediately if you think you may be having a stroke. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

Windsor Regional Hospital is urging residents to learn the signs of a stroke and seek immediate treatment, after the hospital noticed the number of stroke patients and those seeking help dropped during the height of the pandemic. 

Dr. Ryan Punambolam, medical director of the Enhanced District Stroke Centre for Windsor-Essex, is concerned about a growing hesitancy among people experiencing a mini-stroke to seek help.

"Windsorites, in general, tend to be a little bit more reluctant, they may wake up and notice weakness of the hand or numbness and hope that will go away," said Punambolam. "The message we're here to spread is ... don't wait."

As June is Stroke Awareness Month, Punambolam wants to warn residents of the signs of a stroke and the challenges that strokes present. 

Dale Bayliss, who experienced a stroke in the spring, is encouraging anyone who may be having a stroke to seek medical attention as soon as possible. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

'Stroke is painless'

According to Dr. Punambolam, a stroke is painless and the initial symptoms can be ignored, whereas fewer people hesitate to call 911 if they are having a heart attack.

A stroke can affect one's speech, which makes it more difficult to ask for help, and the treatment window is shorter than for most heart diseases. 

"It's a lot more unforgiving for a lot of those reasons," said Dr. Punambolam.

Dale Bayliss, 67, experienced a stroke on April 16. He waited three days before he sought medical treatment. 

"I noticed weakness in my left leg and some in my left arm and I thought it would go away," said Bayliss.

"All of a sudden I got a blinding headache, blurred vision, and I couldn't rise from my chair."  

Bayliss was taken to Windsor Regional Hospital's Ouellette Campus, where he was treated for a week before spending two and a half weeks at the Tayfour Regional Rehabilitation Centre. 

He has been receiving therapy and said he is about 75 to 85 per cent back to normal. 

According to Windsor Regional Hospital, Windsor-Essex has some of the highest rates of vascular disease in the country.

The symptoms of a stroke can be remembered using the acronym FAST:

  • FACE: Face is drooping on one side.
  • ARM: One arm is drifting.
  • SPEECH: Speech is slurred or patient is having difficulty finding words.
  • TIME: Time. Call 911 immediately.

After initial warning symptoms, the risk of stroke recurring can be up to 20 to 30 per cent higher within the first few days or weeks of the symptoms. 

While Bayliss is expected to make a full recovery, he urges those who experience symptoms to immediately seek help.

"I waited three days," said Bayliss. "It could have been a heck of a lot worse because I lost my mother to a stroke 18 years ago."


  • This story has been updated to clarify that Dale Bayliss was treated at Windsor Regional Hospital following his stroke.
    Jun 15, 2021 11:36 AM ET

With files from Dale Molnar


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