Henry Winkler, aka 'The Fonz,' giving stroke patients in Houston hope

August 20, 2012 5:39:20 PM PDT
Often after a stroke, people will develop unexpected tightness in the muscles of their arms. Sometimes their hand will clench and won't open. Many stroke patients give up.

Health Check reporter Christi Myers shows us how the actor known for playing "The Fonz" is giving stroke patients here in Houston hope.

The Fonz was always focused on, well, The Fonz. Henry Winkler, who created that role on the ABC show "Happy Days," is just the opposite.

"I watched my mother, the hope, just drip out of her body because she gave up on the therapy. Nothing seemed to be working," Winkler said.

He wanted to help others after seeing his mother's suffering after a stroke. She suffered for 10 years from what's called upper limb spasticity, where the muscles are taut and the hands and arms are drawn, it causes great pain.

"It was very difficult to see the disintegration of her life," said Winkler.

Now Botox shots can relax taut muscles caused by a stroke. At TIRR Memorial Hermann, they use an ultrasound machine to carefully place a series of Botox shots into the tight muscles. And Winkler is on a mission to tell others about a treatment that wasn't available to his mother.

"The smallest relief of the muscles relaxing -- sometimes a little bit, sometimes a lot -- the relief of the pain is worth finding out whether you are a candidate," Winkler said.

On Monday, he talked to stroke patients and their families at TIRR Memorial Hermann. And his visit of encouragement makes a difference.

"I'm very glad that Henry Winkler, a big-time celebrity, is partnering with us and spreading the word," said Dr. Francisco Gerard, TIRR Memorial Hermann Chief Medical Officer.

The message The Fonz wants to leave with people is that if you've had a stroke, keep asking for new treatments.

"There is something now that can give you relief," said Winkler.


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