Henry Winkler may be best known for his role as “Fonzie” in the 1970s hit sitcom Happy Days, but the past few years he has taken on a new role as the voice of the Open Arms Campaign (www.OpenArmsCampaign.com).
Winkler has been traveling to hospitals around the country speaking to patients and caregivers about upper limb spasticity (ULS). While ULS is a little-known disease, it affects 58 percent of stroke survivors.
Upper limb spasticity is a deeply personal condition to Winkler because his mom suffered from it for 10 years before she passed.
“I watched the thrill of life- the joy- just drip out of her body,” he said of watching his mom live with the condition.
During the time his mother lived with ULS, Winkler stepped in as her caregiver. He feels had there been greater awareness, his mother would have had a better chance to fight the condition.
Winkler took initiative to raise awareness about ULS, and joined forces with eight national advocacy groups, including the Open Arms Campaign. “It is my pleasure to go across the country and talk to people so they have this information,” he said.
Winkler visited the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix on Feb. 29, 2012, and spoke to patients and caregivers alongside Dr. Christina Kwasnica.
Kwasnica, who serves as the medical director of neurological-rehabilitation at the Barrow Institute, spoke to patients about the symptoms and treatment options of ULS. She described ULS as “excessive activity in the muscles” and said it “causes muscles to be stiff and tight.”
Kwasnica suggested patients suffering from ULS build up a team to help them start the rehabilitation process. “You can’t do this rehabilitation without help through all of the stages,” she said.
Botox therapy has become one of the most common treatment options for ULS, according to Kwasnica. She said she sees miracles everyday because of the treatment.
One of these miracles is Kwasnica’s patient Brent Bartell, who has received numerous Botox treatments since starting rehabilitation after a motorcycle accident in 2003.