Arrive Alive

Suffering a Stroke and Emergency Response

Launch of mySOS Emergency App, myStroke and ER24 Partnership

Strokes can be reversed if treated urgently within a specialised stroke unit, but most South Africans do not know that stroke units have been established or where the units are located.

The recently formed partnership between myStroke, mySOS and ER24 enable patients with suspected strokes to get the best help available FAST, as “TIME IS BRAIN”.

Historical Lack of Specialist Stroke Care in South Africa

Strokes are one area of South African medical care that has not kept up with international standards which includes the development of specialist stroke units which are able to provide specialist:

  • emergency treatment to minimise damage caused by the stroke
  • medical care to avoid complications and to treat the underlying cause so recurrent strokes can be avoided
  • rehab therapy to increase the recovery rates after a stroke.

Despite many initiatives from several institutions over the last 20 years, no one has managed to establish a nationwide network of stroke units which has resulted in the vast majority of stroke patients being denied international standards of medical care.


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Stroke units are being established through South Africa

This has all changed over the last year. The myStroke Initiative, funded by Boehringer Ingelheim and endorsed by the South African Stroke Society, has successfully supported the establishment of stroke units throughout South Africa. Sixteen of these units have registered on indicating that they are able to provide specialist stroke care. There are another 40 hospitals that are setting up the systems and should be ready to admit stroke patients within the next 6 months.

This means that for the first time in history, South Africans in many cities and towns all over the country have access to protocol driven stroke treatment.

As is all other countries, specialist stroke care will always only be available in certain hospitals, so we need to educate the public of where they need to go should they suspect a stroke.

What treatment should they expect?

The challenge with treating strokes is the need to determine whether the stroke is caused by a blockage or a bleed, as opposite treatments are needed. The only way to out-rule a bleeding stroke is to obtain a CT or MRI scan, which can take several hours in a non-specialist unit. By going to a recognised stroke unit, the patient increases the chances significantly for a medical examinations, blood tests and scan all to be done in a very short period of time to enable the specialist to decide on the most appropriate emergency care in less than an hour of arriving at the hospital to enable treatment to be given as soon as possible, but within 4.5 hours of the start of the stroke.

Strokes caused by a blockage (which account for about 85% of all strokes) can be treated using a clot busting medication (for small clots), or mechanical removal (for large clots). The earlier blood flow is restored to the brain, the more brain tissue is saved.

For this reason, it is better to spend extra time driving to the appropriate hospital than waiting for hours for a scan in a non-specialist hospital.

How to find the nearest stroke unit Specialist stroke units are able to register on the Once the hospitals have multidisciplinary teams trained to treat strokes, as well as the required facilities and technology accessible 24/7 they are then listed on the pages accessible to the public.


mySOS Emergency App is a free mobile application (, which gives the user access to the closest, most relevant emergency service providers, based on the user’s location, anywhere in South Africa.

The mySOS App features a dedicated myStroke “Emergency button”, for direct access to a dedicated national stroke hotline, operated by a specialist medical team at the ER24 National Emergency Call Centre who are responsible for call screening, triage, emergency advice and dispatching of emergency ambulances based on a set of international criteria.

The mySOS myStroke “Find Near Me” button also allows the public to find the closest stroke unit, no matter where they are in South Africa ( It also offers the international FAST stroke screening tool, as a self assessment tool for the public.

mySOS is a free, lifesaving app and should be downloaded as soon as possible.

Emergency Medical Care

Emergency Medical Care consist of rapid patient screening, assessment and initial treatment, before and during transport to an appropriate stroke centre, based on the patient’s condition at the time of assessment, suspected diagnosis and physical location.

The treating medical provider will liaise with the ER24 National Emergency Call Centre, to ensure that patients are transported and referred to appropriate medical care facilities at all times.

Website for additional information: To find the nearest stroke unit:

Contact details:

MyStroke: Dr Lynn Katsoulis 083 393 4232
mySOS Dr Fanie Hattingh 082 308 0951
ER24 Dr Robyn Holgate 083 454 1638

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