This year, nearly 800,000 Americans will suffer a stroke. Stroke is the leading cause of preventable disability in the United States and the 5th leading cause of death. Every year, thousands of us are unable to return to work after suffering a stroke or other major health event. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this is equivalent to a $36 billion loss in economic productivity every year.
I was able to return to work a year after suffering an ischemic stroke. Thanks to months of therapy and rehabilitation, I learned to walk, talk and write again. Without access to that specialized and intense rehab, I wouldn’t have been able to climb the 45 steps of the Capitol surrounded by colleagues from both sides of the aisle. It is one of the proudest and most memorable moments of my life.
Not all stroke survivors are as lucky, which is why I introduced S. 800, the “Enhancing the Stature and Visibility of Medical Research at NIH Act.” I want to improve the standard of care for rehabilitation so others that need intense, specialized rehabilitation can recover from a stroke or other major trauma, and return to independence like I did. S. 800 will modernize the foundation of specialized rehabilitation by updating rehabilitation research at NIH’s National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research.
Getting Americans back to work after recovering a setback should be the goal for all doctors and rehabilitation therapists. Representing the people of Illinois is the greatest honor of my life – I am thankful every day that I had the support to continue doing what I love after my stroke. Every American should have the same chance that I did.