Berlin/Gütersloh, 11/27/2023

‘One Of The Best Decisions Of My Life’

Liz Mohn

Subject: Society
Country: Germany
Category: Project

On Friday evening, the German Stroke Foundation celebrated its 30th anniversary in Berlin with numerous distinguished guests, doctors, and people affected by strokes. Liz Mohn described the establishment of the foundation as “one of the best decisions of my life.” As part of the stage program, which at times was very emotional, former patients spoke about their own experiences.

Last Friday, the German Stroke Foundation celebrated its 30th anniversary in Berlin with an engaging program and many “goosebump moments.” Founder Liz Mohn and her daughter Brigitte Mohn welcomed more than 150 guests, including numerous leading personages from politics and society, medical professionals and people affected by stroke, long-time companions of the foundation, and friends of the family. Among the guests was Elke Büdenbender, wife of German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who also gave the laudatory speech. TV presenters Frauke Ludowig and Guido Maria Kretschmer emceed the varied and at times very emotional stage program. Both have been voluntary ambassadors for the German Stroke Foundation for many years.

‘A great contribution to our society’

When Liz Mohn established the German Stroke Foundation 30 years ago, strokes were still considered a stepchild of modern medicine. There were few effective treatment options, and many sufferers withdrew from active life out of shame. Today, almost twice as many people survive a stroke. “Establishing the German Stroke Foundation was one of the best decisions of my life,” said Liz Mohn in her speech. “Why don’t you give it a try, too?” the visibly high-spirited founder called out to her guests as she called for more social commitment.

“With your work, you have made survival possible for thousands of people,” Elke Büdenbender said in her speech, thanking the founder and praising the foundation’s commitment to stroke aftercare in particular. “People need support in a situation of powerlessness and shock. It is precisely for these people that the German Stroke Foundation is there,” she emphasized. “This is a great contribution to our society.”

Using the power of imagination to move your hand

The event also featured the premiere screening of a new TV commercial for the German Stroke Foundation’s “#gemeinsamstark” (strongtogether) campaign, developed pro bono by the communications agency Territory, a Bertelsmann company. The main protagonists Bernd, Mirjam, and Nela took to the stage to talk about how they fought their way back to life. Mirjam actually found the love of her life as a result of her stroke: the Stroke Foundation’s press office had arranged for a TV team from Hessischer Rundfunk to do a report featuring her. Sound engineer Wolfgang and Mirjam exchanged telephone numbers. And last year, the two got married.

Neurologists Prof. Mario Siebler and Prof. Darius Nabavi took stock of the enormous developments in stroke care and aftercare over the past 30 years, focusing in particular on the establishment of dedicated stroke units at hospitals. Brigitte Mohn, Chairwoman of the Board of Trustees, explained that the Foundation is now taking the next step and pushing ahead with the introduction of “guides” for patients. The guests experienced an emotional highlight when Guido Schulze demonstrated an electronic arm orthosis on stage. After three years, the partially paralyzed stroke patient can now move his hand again. “That was an amazing moment for me,” he said, visibly moved. Charité Berlin’s first Professor of Neurotechnology Surjo Soekadar made this possible: He developed a technique in which brain waves are measured and converted into commands for electronic orthoses. Patients learn to control their hand again using the power of their own imagination and visualization.

Actress becomes a stroke helper

Actor Igor Dolgatschew spoke movingly on stage about how deeply affected he was by his role as a stroke patient in the RTL daily soap “Alles was zählt”. The series, produced by UFA Serial Drama, even featured Bianca Naß, a real stroke pilot  trained by the German Stroke Foundation. The foundation arranged for actress Friederike Linke to attend the Wermelskirchen self-help group to prepare for her role as a stroke patient in the ZDF production “Tonio and Julia.” The connection became so close that she became the group’s patron and trained as a volunteer stroke helper.

Jule Köhler suffered a severe stroke at the age of six. Liz Mohn accompanied her on her journey and motivated her to complete her A-levels (high school) despite her severe disability. Today, the hopeful young woman is studying art history. Her story was especially encouraging for parents with a child who has suffered a stroke. Wolfram Kons announced that the “Stiftung RTL – Wir helfen Kindern” foundation will also be supporting the German Stroke Foundation’s new children’s project with €818,000.

A stroke never strikes just one person alone: TV presenter Mareile Höppner and fashion entrepreneur Angela van Moll made it clear how important family support is for those affected. Wrestling world champion Alex Leipold, gallery owner Alexander Baumgarte, and presenter Birgit von Bentzel talked about why they have been involved with the German Stroke Foundation for years. And then it was time for a particularly emotional finale: singer Patricia Kelly performed together with the Aphasia Choir Berlin for the first time. The women and men in the choir have partially lost their speech as a result of the stroke, but singing helps them to relearn it – goosebumps abounded in the auditorium as the choir sang “Amazing Grace,” and some of the singers shed tears of joy.

More information about the German Stroke Foundation.