Tedy and Heidi Bruschi Help Open New Center of Excellence in Stroke Recovery

Special to the Patriot-Bridge 

In front of a packed audience nestled in the second-floor lounge of the Sanders IMPACT Practice Center, the excitement was palpable. In just a few moments, MGH Institute of Health Professions would officially be partnering with one of the most well-known stroke survivors in the country and the charitable organization he co-founded with his wife.

The ribbon is cut by Tedy’s Team Communications Director Allison Gianfelice and Executive Director Elizabeth Perry Tirrell, Tedy Bruschi and his wife Heidi Bomberger Bruschi, Kimberly Erler OT PhD,
Associate Professor and Occupational Therapy Director at Tedy’s Team Center Of Excellence in Stroke
Recovery, MGH Institute Of Health Professions President Paula Milone-Nuzzo, MGH Chief Nurse Emirita
Jeanette Ives Erickson, and CBS Boston Sports Director Steve Burton.

Then came the countdown, the ribbon cutting by oversized gold-colored scissors, and the cheers of excitement by friends, stroke survivors, fundraisers, researchers, and members of the IHP community. The Tedy’s Team Center of Excellence in Stroke Recovery at MGH Institute of Health Professions became official during a ribbon cutting ceremony on March 2.

The Center was made possible thanks to a $1 million gift by Tedy’s Team, the charitable entity that uses running as a platform for stroke awareness and philanthropy. It was co-founded by former New England Patriot great Tedy Bruschi and his wife Heidi after Tedy suffered a stroke at the age of 31. Through his rehabilitation, Bruschi made a stunning return to professional football. The Bruschis are hoping fellow stroke survivors being assisted at the MGH Institute will have the same opportunity for a comeback as Tedy received. 

“It’s amazing,” said Heidi Bruschi. “The people, the standard of care, the love and the support that they offer these clients. There is no set time frame and for each one of them, it’s different. To be able to come here for as long as needed, it’s really special and it’s really important. Your care doesn’t end when your insurance says it does.”

The partnership with the IHP came from a relationship that began almost 20 years ago. When Bruschi began rehabilitation, he worked with IHP assistant professor of physical therapy Anne McCarthy Jacobson, who was also working at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. Tedy Bruschi credits McCarthy Jacobson as critical to him getting back on the field. The Bruschis have stayed in touch with McCarthy Jacobson through the years and when the time came to invest in stroke recovery, that long-term connection with the IHP came full circle.

“Anne introduced us to this wonderful place,” Tedy Bruschi told the crowd. “She said, ‘Tedy, this is something you need to be associated with. This is something where I volunteer my time, where I work.’ Anne, thank you so much for making that connection. And because of that, here we are, here we are.”

MGH Institute President Paula Milone-Nuzzo told the crowd that beyond high quality treatment, the Center will build on the science of stroke recovery treatment by advancing legislation and policy while educating the public about treatment and warning signs.

The ribbon cutting was also attended by New England Patriots President Jonathan Kraft and emceed by CBS Boston Sports Director Steve Burton.

Offering hope, a second chance, and free care for the uninsured and underinsured is just one facet of the new Center of Excellence in Stroke Recovery. Other signature features will be translating science to practice by advancing research in stroke recovery and educating the community about stroke symptoms.

Dr. Kim Erler, the Center’s inaugural director, told the audience that it typically takes 15 years for science to go from the lab to the bedside and actually be implemented into patient care.

“We’re going to change that. We have the best scientists collaborating with the clinical faculty at the IHP and we’re going to have them be in the clinic working with these patients to actually make a difference,” said Erler. “That’s something that we’re going to be able to do so that it doesn’t take 15 years and so that we can become a model for future stroke rehabilitation. We can then say, ‘Look at our outcomes. Look at these technologies. Look at these interventions. Let’s go to the policymakers and make this available for everyone, not just those who are coming to our Center.’”

The Center of Excellence, housed within the IHP’s interprofessional Sanders IMPACT Practice Center, leverages the excellent services provided within the Aphasia Center, the Ionta Physical Therapy Center, and the Tabor/Connor Occupational Therapy Center, to address the highly complex issues of stroke rehabilitation that cannot be solved by one discipline alone.

Speaking of alone, the Bruschis certainly weren’t alone when Tedy received a second chance at life, and both he and Heidi are counting on the new Center of Excellence in Stroke Recovery to provide stroke survivors with the same.

“We’re giving people a second chance,” said Tedy Bruschi. “The rehabilitation process in general – they give you a certain amount of time to rehab, a certain number of visits to therapy centers or whatever it may be. And then what do you do after it ends? You know, you can come here. This is a place that involves teaching, learning, and recovery. And we provide it to people for free. And that’s something that we’re both very proud of.”

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