DENMAN couple 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 last Tuesday, ahead of fellow finalists Rob Goyen (WA), Shane Isles (Queensland), Tania Shirgwin (SA) and Brooke Parsons (Victoria).
The category recognises indomitable courage and hope shown by survivors and carers in the face of stroke recovery.
Mr Ward, a Muswellbrook Shire councillor, suffered a stroke at the age of 48 in 2013.
Although his partner recognised the F.A.S.T. (Face, Arms, Speech, Time) signs of stroke and called triple zero (000) straight away, he experienced a number of unfortunate delays in accessing time-critical treatment.
Regrettably, living in a regional area there was no CT brain scanner locally and there was no stroke specialist to diagnose Mr Ward.
His treatment was delayed until he could be transferred to the nearest city hospital, all the while the stroke continued to attack his brain.
The Wards have now taken their experience and shared it to highlight the current inequalities in stroke care.
The couple also use the incident to advocate for change.
Mrs Ward 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," she explained.
"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 the Wards had 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," she added.
"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.
Almost 70 people were nominated for an award this year across six categories: Improving Life after Stroke, Creative, Courage, Fundraiser of the Year, Volunteer of the Year and President's Achievement.