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Bruschi adds muscle in support of tobacco, stroke bills

  • Rep. Dan Cahill met New England Patriots great Tedy Bruschi on Thursday. Bruschi was at the Statehouse to advocate for better services for people suffering from a stroke. shns photo



State House News House
Thursday, May 17, 2018

For years he was part of the defense that helped the New England Patriots win three Super Bowl rings. Now Tedy Bruschi is putting his shoulder into legislation that would help others access the same sort of care he received when he suffered a stroke midway through his playing career.

“I’m proud to be a Super Bowl champion. I’m proud to be a stroke survivor, too. Those are a couple things that no one can ever take away from me, and I’m proud of both of them,” the 44-year-old told the News Service.

The North Attleborough resident on Thursday joined officials from the American Heart Association, which is backing three main bills, including one raising the tobacco purchase age to 21 that cleared the House on a 147-4 vote last week.

When Bruschi suffered a stroke in 2005, he was treated at Massachusetts General Hospital, which he said was well equipped to handle the medical emergency.

“I had a system of people that were all getting in communication with each other in terms of where I should be based on the symptoms I was having,” Bruschi said. He said, “Everyone should have that option.”

Legislation sponsored by Braintree Rep. Mark Cusack would identify hospitals that are best positioned to treat strokes and establish protocols for emergency responders handling stroke patients.

“Right now it’s a system where you have to go to the nearest hospital. If that EMT recognizes a stroke, and recognizes that hospital is not the level of care that they need to be at, I’m going to take you somewhere where you need to be treated, and possibly receive life-saving treatment,” Bruschi said.

The House has passed an order extending the Public Health Committee’s reporting deadline for Cusack’s bill.

The Senate included a provision similar to Cusack’s bill in its omnibus health care overhaul legislation passed last November, according to Sen. Jason Lewis, co-chair of the Public Health Committee. Right now stroke victims are usually transported to the nearest hospital, but under the proposal, Lewis said, medical technicians would “treat stroke the way we currently treat gunshot wounds or heart attacks,” sending patients to hospitals equipped to handle them.

Lewis also said he has “no doubt” the Senate will pass the legislation that already cleared the House, raising the tobacco and e-cigarette purchase age to 21 and banning vaping from workplaces. The Senate passed similar legislation last session.

The Senate will “hopefully” take up the tobacco bill in June, Lewis told the News Service. The last day of formal sessions this year is July 31.

Bruschi, who said he never fell into smoking cigarettes though he enjoys a cigar now and then, has a favorable view of raising the tobacco purchase age, too.

“Smoking and drinking — giving these kids a little bit longer to make good decisions in their lives — I’m all for that,” Bruschi said.

Bruschi, who was a key player in the Pats formidable linebacker corps, said that he had a stroke in the middle of the night after playing in the Pro Bowl right as he was dreaming about tackling Jerome Bettis, the Pittsburgh Steelers running back also known as “The Bus.”

“There’s this big hole, and then there’s 36 in black, and boom, there’s a tackle. Right in that moment in my dream, I had my stroke,” Bruschi told an audience in the Great Hall. Bruschi said his dream was about an actual tackle he had made in the AFC Championship game, and he said that after recovering from his stroke he went on to make another 366 tackles in four seasons.

The American Heart Association also backs legislation that would require elementary schools to provide students with 150 minutes per week of physical education, and require middle and high schools to provide 225 minutes of physical education.

That bill received a favorable report from the Committee on Education, and the Committee on Health Care Financing requested an extension on its deadline for issuing a report on the legislation.