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Stroke survivors cheered by Dick Clark's 'Eve' return

January 05, 2006|From Associated Press

HE sat stiffly behind a desk, one hand in front of him, one down at his side. His words had the familiar slurred sound of a stroke survivor. But his cadence was brisk, he made himself clear, and, most of all, he was there, on national TV.

Stroke survivors and their advocates say they were inspired by Dick Clark's New Year's Eve appearance, ringing in 2006 a year after his debilitating stroke.

"I think it's awesome," said Leean Hendrix, who was 26 when she had a stroke three years ago. "It was a tremendously courageous thing to do."

Hendrix, a former Miss Arizona who lives in Phoenix, echoed a hope common among stroke survivors interviewed: that the public might begin to treat them with the respect given those who've overcome cancer or heart attacks.

"Survivors of those other diseases seem to wear a badge of honor," said Hendrix. But a stroke, with its obvious impairment, "maybe isn't a pretty thing to look at. It's definitely not a sexy disease."

"So for him to get up on national TV and say, 'This is what I am now' -- I have nothing but respect for him," she said.

Diane Mulligan-Fairfield of the National Stroke Assn., a public education organization, called Clark a hero for showing the world his condition.

Clark's appearance on ABC's "New Year's Rockin' Eve" came a full year after the December 2004 stroke that forced him to miss last year's show. There had been intense speculation beforehand whether he'd be up to the task. The 76-year-old entertainer has given no interviews since his stroke.

On New Year's Eve, seated inside a studio at Times Square, Clark began by immediately acknowledging his condition, saying it had been a "long, hard fight" learning to walk and talk again. But, he said, "I wouldn't have missed this for the world."

Dr. Pierre Fayad, medical director of neurology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, said Clark's determination to go ahead with his appearance is just the kind of goal that often helps patients with recovery.

As for Clark himself, he will likely sit down in the next few weeks to decide what he wants to do about the future, said his spokesman, Paul Shefrin.

"He has never said this would be his last year," Shefrin said. "It's up to him."

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