Speech before Congress

Mr. Chairman, honorable Members of the Committee, it is a privilege to speak to you today. My name is Kate Adamson, I am spokesperson for the American Heart Association, and most importantly, I am a mother, and a wife. I know many people feel skeptical about Congress. Many people believe that Government can do no good and that everything in Washington is all about the all mighty dollar. I am here to say that they are wrong. You as a body have done great things for those unfortunate people whom, through no fault of their own, are sick, and in real need of real help. The Americans with their Disabilities Act, and the help given to research, to prevent, cure, and lessen the effects of stroke and heart disease, are some of the finest things to ever come out of the government.

I know you face hard challenges in today’s world., what you spend here, you cannot spend there. You are faced with very, very difficult choices. But, the true measure of a society is how it treats the least of its members, specifically the sick and needy.

I am only 34 years old, and before my devastating stroke in June of 1995, I was a mother, a wife, an athlete, and a person vitally interested in my Community. Now, after suffering a double brain stem ponds stroke, which left me totally paralyzed being unable to even blink, and after months and months of treatment, I am still a mother, wife, and someone vitally interested in a broader community. Only now, I am all these things but without the use of the left side of my body.

Without the funding that you have already given to fight stroke and heart disease, I would be none of these things. After my stroke, I suffered from locked in syndrome. I spent 50 days in the ICU. During those 50 days, I was conscious and could feel everything. I could feel pain, but was unable to move any part of my body. I was totally trapped in my body. Fed by a tube surgically placed in my stomach, breathing only by using a tube surgically placed in my throat. I could not speak, could not eat, could not drink, and could not move. My body was trapped, unable to move and remained in a rigid death-like position, that my body had assumed.

There was little hope for me to even live through the night, and frankly, my doctor hoped that I would not live because my future looked so bleak. I am a very lucky woman. Miraculously, I lived, and more than that, I overcame the locked-in syndrome.

My miracle did not come about without much prayer and great skill on the part of my doctors. The knowledge and skill my doctors possessed is something that this Government, acting at its best, helped make possible. Without years of research and many many dollars provided by men and woman like yourselves, I would not be here to talk today.

Of course, the story does not end with my leaving ICU. It only begins there. I have been through countless hours of physical therapy. Physical therapy has been developed to its present state with the help of funds provided in part by this Government.

I have seen my own life come to a point where I could do nothing for myself. I found myself at 33 years old, wearing a diaper and unable to control my own bodily functions. I found myself unable to talk for months. Any and all communications I had with the outside world, was limited to blinking my eyes, yes or no. I will not mention or elaborate on the physical pain, for it was transitory.

The tears of my daughters, 18 month old Rachel, and 3 year old Stephanie would be enough, if you saw them, to convince you to fund research as one of your top priorities. If you could see what this experience has done to my family and other friends, you would realize that Stroke and Heart Disease is not just a problem that strikes one person. Stroke and Heart Disease effects and strikes families and whole communities.

Every minute in the United States, someone suffers a stroke. Annually, stroke strikes more people than cigarette smoking kills. Each year over 500,000 people have a stroke, and nearly a third of the stroke victims will die within a few months. Almost all of the survivors will be disabled for the rest of their lives.

The treatment of Stroke will cost this nation over 25 billion dollars in medical costs, and approximately 200 billion dollars more in lost productivity. If we hope to save Medicare, which is one of Congress’ top priorities, we must learn to spend medical dollars wisely.

With research, we can prevent and cure stroke, thus saving billions of dollars, and in the bargain, we can save innocent people from a living death.

There is no greater good that you as a Congress could possibly do than to help the dedicated men and women who fight daily to prevent and to cure stroke and heart disease. I pray that you will generously help us.

I will close by asking you to be just a little selfish. I can stand here today, when yesterday I was the picture of health, so can you stand here tomorrow, also the victim of stroke. I pray it will not happen to you, but the truth is, that within the next 10 years, it will happen to some of you, and it may happen to all of you. So please, help. For, in helping any of us, you will be helping all of us.