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Stroke Patients, Loved Ones Can Get Answers, Help

My daily Patch Tour started with an inspirational story from a Greenfield man.

I was going to use this column to thank people for an awesome July. Greenfield Patch users came to the site in record numbers, giving us a great start to the third quarter.

I was going to parlay that into a discussion of the Patch Tour, letting you all know where I'd be this week and encourage you to stop out and say 'hi' and ask about Patch.

It was going to be a pretty self-promotional piece, admittedly, until I sat down with Len Cich, a Greenfield resident of 41 years.

Len and I had been going back and forth through email as he attempted to send me some photos of Henry Winkler, who made an appearance at St. Luke's Medical Center in Milwaukee in early July to discuss upper limb spasticity, a common side effect suffered by stroke victims.

Len, who often goes to meetings, and I finally met up this morning at Starbucks, and I'm glad we did.

Len told me about Aurora Health Care's Stroke Patient Advisory Council (SPAC), a group mostly comprised of volunteers like Len and his wife Arlene, who get together once a month to discuss their own stories and find new ways to get the word out about strokes: how to prevent them, how to detect early signs and how to deal with the aftermath.

In 2006, Arlene Cich suffered a massive stroke, the kind that puts your life in immediate danger. The kind that paraylizes half your body. The kind that changes your life forever.

Arlene had bleeding in her brain. An operation to end the bleeding could lead to death or Arlene becoming a vegetable, as Len put it. So Len decided to let the bleeding stop on its own, which it eventually did.

Len remembers the days leading up to Arlene's discharge from the hospital. After nearly a month and a half had passed, and as the day to go home approached, Len came to this realization: Though he had been to nearly every therapy session,  every doctor visit, every important meeting, he didn't know what to do once he got Arlene home.

When he asked, doctors sort of threw up their hands as if to say, "You're on your own. Good luck."

That experience stuck with Len for years, and when the SPAC, founded last July, asked Len and Arlene to be members, they jumped at the opportunity.

"The council raises awareness of strokes, helps people recognize strokes," Len said. "Some of the little things that you might notice beforehand can tell you when a stroke is imminent."

Len said the council also helps loved ones, many of whom become primary caregivers, understand the mental anguish stroke victims suffer.

"All strokes are different, but I wish I had known about what she was thinking about when I brought her home," Len said. "She got angry with me, even blamed me for the stroke. ... We've come a long way since then."

For more details on SPAC and how to join or donate to its cause, contact Aurora Health Care's Jennifer Perry at 414-385-8675.

And as for my weekly "tour," here are some places you can catch me the rest of this week:

Monday: most of the day will be spent at as I catch up on the weekend and plan out my week.

Tuesday: Rain, rain, stay away for . Not sure in what capacity I'll be there - setting up an informational table, hanging with my family, or just mingling - but I'll be out wearing my green Patch t-shirt so stop me and say hi.

Wednesday: Time to give blood again. I'll be at the at 9:45 a.m. Be one of two people to join me and I'll give you a $10 Starbucks gift card.

Thursday: Former Police Chief retired June 30, and his party is Thursday night at Klemmer's. Apparently they let just anyone in there because I got an invite.

Friday: I'm hoping to stop by the event at Greenfield High School.

Remember, the Patch Tour is designed for you to meet me, so if you have an event or want me to stop by your business, let me know and I'll work it into my schedule!

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