Sunday, December 27, 2009

Singer, Songwriter, Quad, Vic Chesnutt, Checks Out - Death By US Health Care

Vic Chesnutt, 45, a singer-songwriter of spare, idiosyncratic folk tunes tinged with melancholy, died Christmas day in Athens, Ga., after an intentional overdose of prescription muscle relaxants, a family spokesman said.
Paralyzed after a 1983 single-car accident when he was driving drunk at age 18, Mr. Chesnutt had limited use of his arms and hands but nonetheless carved out a career in music, which included being a guitarist. He was discovered in the late 1980s by REM frontman Michael Stipe, who championed his early recordings, and he gained the respect of music critics and fellow musicians who were struck by his darkly humorous songs.
Chesnutt is reported to have said that car accident focused him as a musician and poet. He had attempted suicide several times before, but his latest album included  Flirted With You All My Life which he wrote as a breakup song with death. In it he expresses his wish to live.

Among the risk factors for suicide are physical illness and barriers to accessing mental health treatment. Among the protective factors is support from ongoing medical and mental health care relationships. Chesnutt had long-standing troubles with health insurance. Despite attempts to help:
In 1996 his songs were performed by Madonna, the Indigo Girls, Smashing Pumpkins, R.E.M. and others for “Sweet Relief II: The Gravity of the Situation” [ link], an album that benefited the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund, a nonprofit group that offers medical support for musicians.
Just a few weeks ago he was a guest on Fresh Air with Terry Gross. In that interview he discussed his dire health insurance situation:

Mr. CHESNUTT: I have been amazed and confused by the health care debate. We need health care reform. There is no doubt about it, we really need health care reform in this country. Because it’s absurd that somebody like me has to pay so much, it’s just too expensive in this country. It’s just ridiculously expensive. That they can take my house away for kidney stone operation is -that’s absurd.vic_chesnutt.jpg

GROSS: Is that what you’re facing the possibility of now?

Mr. CHESNUTT: Yeah. I mean, it could – I’m not sure exactly. I mean, I don’t have cash money to pay these people. I tried to pay them. I tried to make payments and then they finally ended up saying, no, you have to pay us in full now. And so, you know, I’m not sure what exactly my options are. I just – I really – you know, my feeling is that I think they’ve been paid, they’ve already been paid $100,000 from my insurance company. That seems like plenty. I mean, this would pay for like five or six of these operations in any other country in the world. You know, it affects – I mean, right now I need another surgery and I’ve putting it off for a year because I can’t afford it. And that’s absurd, I think.
I mean, I could actually lose a kidney. And, I mean, I could die only because I cannot afford to go in there again. I don’t want to die, especially just because of I don’t have enough money to go in the hospital. But that’s the reality of it. You know, I have a preexisting condition, my quadriplegia, and I can’t get health insurance.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wheelchair Man Holds 5 Hostage at Gunpoint

WYTHEVILLE, Va. (AP) -- An armed man in a wheelchair took five hostages Wednesday at a post office in western Virginia, forcing officials to cordon off three blocks of a downtown filled with holiday shoppers.

Shots were fired, but there were no reports of injuries. The man made no demands other than to ask for a pizza, said Pete Rendina, spokesman for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

Virginia State Police sent in a SWAT team and a bomb technician, and police at the scene told the Wytheville Enterprise the man had five pounds of a common plastic explosive strapped to his chest. State police spokeswoman Corinne Geller would not confirm that.

Susan Holman, manager of a store across the street, said officers told employees to leave the building because there was a man with explosives in the post office.

"The officer told us the man had enough explosives to take out the whole block," Holman told the Enterprise.

Mayor Trent Crewe told The Associated Press five hostages were in the building, including three employees and two customers.

Carlton Austin said his daughter, postal worker Margie Austin, was among the hostages. She managed to call a family friend around 4:30 p.m. and said she was fine. Later, her father said, family members were waiting to hear more.

"That's all we can do," he said.

Postal worker Walt Korndoerfer said he was in the post office when he heard shots and a co-worker ran past. He called police and then ran himself.

His wife, Christine Korndoerfer, said he called around 3:30 p.m. to tell her he had gotten out safely.

"My husband is not one to get upset," she said. "When he called, I don't think I've ever heard him so upset."

Town manager Wayne Sutherland, speaking from his office four blocks from the scene, said dozens of officers had circled the freestanding, brick post office.

"It's completely surrounded by police in every direction," Sutherland said. "All I can see is blue lights."


Monday, December 21, 2009

SCI Research Head to Meet with Obama

Will Ambler, president of a local nonprofit organization devoted to spinal cord injury research, has been invited to speak with President Obama’s disability advisor, Kareem Dale, on Jan. 7 at the White House.

“The meeting is scheduled to last approximately one hour and is an exciting opportunity to get the needed recognition and funds for curing spinal cord injury,” Ambler said.

The focus of the meeting involves three topics: the national cost of spinal cord injuries, how Santa Ynez Valley-based SCI Research Advancement can help find solutions, and how the administration can help SCI do that.

In addition to the White House invitation, SCI has launched a fundraising campaign with a Hollywood connection.

With the help of NBC and the staff from the hit television show “The Office,” SCI Research Advancement is holding an Internet raffle. The winner will receive two round trip tickets to Hollywood to visit the set of “ the office,” meet star Steve Carell and the rest of the cast, and enjoy a two-night hotel stay, all for a $1 ticket.

At the White House meeting, a discussion of the cost of spinal cord injury is important and timely as it pertains to the current health care reform debate, Ambler said.

“According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, spinal cord injury costs the U.S. taxpayer 20 billion dollars every year for the care of people who are chronically paralyzed, and the acute cost for spinal cord injury is 5 billion dollars every year, according to the National Institute of Health,” Ambler said.

“This includes costs to private insurance and public costs. Acute care takes place within the first six months and includes hospital and ICU care, initial rehabilitation, relocation, and acclimation to life in a wheelchair.

“There are 1.25 million people living with spinal cord injury in the U.S. The U.S. government spends 100 million (dollars) on cure research. There are 1.1 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S. The research budget for AIDS is 3 billion dollars. The funding is disproportionate for the population that suffers from spinal cord injury,” Ambler added.

The second point Ambler wants to raise is how SCI Research Advancement might be able to facilitate treatment and start human clinical trials.

“There have been great strides made in laboratory experiments, but to date nothing has translated into curing a human sitting in a wheelchair. We hope to change the lack of applied research with our meeting,” said Ambler.
His third point will be ways the administration can help SCI with these plans.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

No Condom, No Accident

A B.C. man who became paraplegic after contracting herpes from unprotected sex lost a $200,000 disability award Friday when the Supreme Court of Canada sided with his insurance company in a ruling that concluded that his misfortune, while tragic and unexpected, was not an accident.

The unanimous court said that allowing Randolph Gibbens to cash in "would stretch the boundaries of an accident policy beyond the snapping point" by effectively turning it into health insurance for disease sufferers, with lower premiums.

The case, which pitted the Co-operators Life Insurance Company against the former high-pressure water blaster, centred on the meaning of the word "accident" in
deciding insurance claims.

The ruling overturned two earlier victories for Gibbens in British Columbia courts, which had ruled that he lost the use of his legs by accident because he could not have anticipated it.

Gibbens, who is in his late 40s and lives in the Vancouver suburb of Port Coquitlam, contracted a rare form of genital herpes after having unprotected sex with three women in early 2003. The virus attacked his spine and paralyzed him from his abdomen down.

"I agree with the courts in British Columbia that Mr. Gibbens's paralysis was tragic and unexpected but I do not agree with them that it was caused by, 'external, violent and accidental means' within the meaning of the insurance policy," Justice Ian Binnie wrote in the 9-0 decision.

"In the case of Mr. Gibbens we are dealing with a disease transmitted in the ordinary course of having sex."
The B.C. Supreme Court, in siding with Gibbens two years ago, said his paraplegia was an unexpected outcome of having unprotected sex and that his behaviour, while foolish, was a far cry from engaging in "inordinate risk," such as laying down on the centre line of a highway during traffic.

The ruling was upheld in the B.C. Court of Appeal.

The Supreme Court, however, said it is not enough that an outcome be unexpected.

"In ordinary speech, 'accident' does not include ailments proceeding from natural causes," Binnie wrote.

"It cannot be correct that passengers sitting in an airliner who catch the SARS virus through the externality of the plane's air circulation system, or riders on a bus who catch 'swine flu' from an infected fellow passenger, or people who contract any number of infectious diseases because of a failure to wash hands in disinfectant, or to smack a circling mosquito, have valid claims under an accident policy."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Do Helmets and Pads Make Football Players More Prone to Injuries?

Do helmets and pads make football players more prone to injuries?

UMKC physics professor Robert Riggs is a man of science, so naturally he has a few theories.

But not all are limited to the scientific world that many people try avoiding. In fact, one is about football.
Riggs believes there would be fewer serious injuries if players didn’t wear pads or helmets.

“As a retired Marine officer,” Riggs said, “I know that when you’re wearing body armor, sometimes you feel invincible and I think there’s some of that. They put on all those pads and they feel invincible.”

But wouldn’t football without the pads and helmets basically be rugby?

Well, that’s Riggs’ point. He says rugby is far less dangerous than football.

“I actually played football in high school back in the 70s and they taught us to tackle with our shoulders,” Riggs said. “The first thing you did before tackled anyone was you broke down on someone; in other words, you came to a stop and tackled them leading with your shoulder or a glancing blow with the head.

“Now they coach them to just fly using the head as a missile for the most part.”

Riggs didn’t have any empirical evidence to back up his claim, but a study done last year in the British Journal of Sports Medicine appears to confirm his theory.

The study found that collegiate rugby injury rates were lower than those reported by the NCAA Injury Surveillance System for football, but similar to rates reported for men’s and women’s soccer in 2005–06.

One of the authors of that study is Lyle Micheli, director of the Division of Sports Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital. He said rule changes to rugby scrums have dramatically cut down on the number of spinal-cord injuries in that sport.

“Rugby does have injuries, but a lot of them are cuts and broken noses, that kind of thing,” Micheli said in a phone interview. “There’s no blocking in rugby. The actual amount of hard physical contact in rugby is less.

The major impact is occurring in the tackling situation. The scrums are kind of a controlled force, there’s no impact from them. One scrum is pushing against the other, so there’s not much injury. …

“In American football, probably every player is receiving impact-type contact.”

Micheli believes that football rules should be amended to allow for the ejection of players for a serious hit, particularly when the intent is to injure an opponent. He even advocates a red-card, yellow-card system that is used in soccer.

And like Riggs, Micheli believes poor technique is to blame for many of the serious football injuries.

“There’s a ballistic aspect to it. Even at the pro level, you see these defenders who sometimes hit like a projectile,” said Micheli, who is also Associate Clinical Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at Harvard Medical School in Boston. “They won’t even put their arms out to tackle the guy. They’ll bang them with their heads. They lack good, basic football principles."


Regeneration, It's in the Genes

FRIDAY, Dec. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Deleting a gene that suppresses natural growth factors enables regeneration of injured nerve fibers (axons) in mice, a new study shows.

The finding may lead to new treatments for people with brain and spinal cord injuries.
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Researchers at Children's Hospital Boston deleted the gene SOCS3 -- an inhibitor of a growth pathway called mTOR -- in the retinal ganglion cells of mice. These cells are in the optic nerve, which carries signals from the eyes to the brain.

Removel of SOCS3 resulted in vigorous growth of injured axons. The greatest improvement was seen after one week, when the researchers also detected signs that the mTOR pathway was re-activated. Axon growth increased even more when the researchers applied a growth factor called ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF) directly to the eye of mice in which SOCS3 had been deleted. But CNTF only modestly boosted axon growth in mice that still had SOCS3.

"CNTF and other cytokines [cellular signaling molecules] have been tested for promoting axon regeneration previously, but with no success," study leader Zhigang He, of the F.M. Kirby Neurobiology Center at Children's Hospital Boston, said in a university news release. "Now we know that this is due to the tight negative control of SOCS3. Inhibiting SOCS3, using small molecule compounds or RNA interference, might allow these cytokine growth factors to be functional."


Being in the Wheelchair, That's the Easiest Part

Like looking at an iceberg, Brandon Sulser's immobility is only the tip of his challenges from quadriplegia.

"Being in the wheelchair, that's the easiest part," he says.

Sulser's severely bruised spinal cord makes it difficult to breathe, because his diaphragm is weaker. It's easy to overheat because his body doesn't sweat. Quadriplegics and paraplegics often have lowered heart rates, leaving them prone to dizziness and fainting, struggling to keep up with workouts and at a higher risk for heart attacks.

Usually, doctors and physicians study and treat those complications when a patient is undergoing rehabilitation. But now Intermountain Medical Center, teaming with the James J. Peters VA Medical Center in New York City, will research those effects right after a spinal cord injury occurs.

The effects of spinal cord injuries are widespread because nerves are linked to the whole body -- "It's how
the brain talks to everything in your body," said Jolene Fox, a senior researcher at the Intermountain's trauma services.

The observational study's goal is to pinpoint the timing and way different systems deteriorate. Future studies could develop treatments to address those changes before rehab, and help improve a patient's quality of life.

"Right now, it's more that we support body systems until they get to rehab," said Mark Stevens, trauma services medical director at the Murray hospital. "What we hope is that these studies would lead
to interventions to treat those changes."
Patients with severely bruised or severed spinal cords are often kept in the trauma area for 10 to 20 days before they are released to begin rehabilitation, Stevens said.

But now, Stevens hopes to enlist patients who will allow their various organ systems to be tested within three days of their injury. He expects to find that dramatic changes occur quickly.

The days after the injury can be a difficult for people adjusting to the likelihood they will be paralyzed, but Sulser, who now works at Intermountain counseling other patients, expects many will enroll.

"I think a majority of people, if not all, would love to be part of this research because it gives us more of a future and a better hope of recovery," Sulser said.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

New Break-through in SCI Reseach

Deleting a gene that suppresses natural growth factors enables regeneration of injured nerve fibers (axons) in mice, a new study shows.
The finding may lead to new treatments for people with brain and spinal cord injuries.

Researchers at Children's Hospital Boston deleted the gene SOCS3 -- an inhibitor of a growth pathway called mTOR -- in the retinal ganglion cells of mice. These cells are in the optic nerve, which carries signals from the eyes to the brain.

Removel of SOCS3 resulted in vigorous growth of injured axons. The greatest improvement was seen after one week, when the researchers also detected signs that the mTOR pathway was re-activated. Axon growth increased even more when the researchers applied a growth factor called ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF) directly to the eye of mice in which SOCS3 had been deleted. But CNTF only modestly boosted axon growth in mice that still had SOCS3.

"CNTF and other cytokines [cellular signaling molecules] have been tested for promoting axon regeneration previously, but with no success," study leader Zhigang He, of the F.M. Kirby Neurobiology Center at Children's Hospital Boston, said in a university news release. "Now we know that this is due to the tight negative control of SOCS3. Inhibiting SOCS3, using small molecule compounds or RNA interference, might allow these cytokine growth factors to be functional."


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Dramatic Increase in Spinal Cord Injuries from Afghanistan

Spinal Cord Injury Iraq

Military medical officials have expressed concern over an increase in spinal injuries among U.S. troops coming home from Afghanistan. Afghan insurgents have responded to the increased presence of heavily armored U.S. vehicles with larger and more powerful roadside explosives.

Roadside bombs have become the top killer of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not only do the roadside bombs lead to crushed spines and other spinal injuries, they also result in traumatic brain injuries when soldiers are exposed to blasts, even with no impact to the head.

A USA Today story reported that the recent increase in spinal injuries occurred among soldiers in Afghanistan and not Iraq. The increase in spinal cord injuries among troops has arisen due to increased potency in roadside bombs used by insurgents. The U.S. Military issued 3500 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles as an attempt to deal with the roadside bombings. Unfortunately, Afghanistan insurgents responded with stronger and larger bombs.

Some of the 3500 MRAP vehicles deployed in Afghanistan have been lifted a few feet off the ground by roadside bomb explosions. Even though the MRAP vehicle may remain intact, some soldiers have suffered serious spinal cord injuries in the explosions. The MRAP vehicles cost about $1.4 million.

Medical professionals and Army engineers are comparing data to explore possible alterations and improvements to the MRAP vehicle design to make it safer for soldiers who are exposed to increasing roadside bomb possibilities. The MRAP vehicles, which cost about $1.4 million to make, have a hull designed in a V-shape, which helps to deflect the force of explosions away from the center of the vehicle, the USA Today article reported.

Since there are very few paved roads in Afghanistan, rebels can easily bury roadside explosives in the dirt roads, undetectable to soldiers driving along the roads at high speeds. Although the military has recently send over newer and lighter MRAP vehicles with better seating and harnesses, more improvements are still in the works to ensure the vehicles are safe for combat.

Salamanders Can Regenerate, Why Can't You?

ScienceDaily (Dec. 9, 2009) — For more than 400 years, scientists have studied the amazing regenerative power of salamanders, trying to understand how these creatures routinely repair injuries that would usually leave humans and other mammals paralyzed -- or worse.

Now, fueled by a highly competitive National Institutes of Health Grand Opportunity grant of $2.4 million, a multi-institutional team of researchers associated with the University of Florida McKnight Brain Institute's Regeneration Project has begun creating genomic tools necessary to compare the extraordinary regenerative capacity of the Mexican axolotl salamander with established mouse models of human disease and injury.

Researchers want to find ways to tap unused human capacities to treat spinal cord injury, stroke, traumatic brain injury and other neural conditions, according to Edward Scott, principal investigator for the GO grant and director of the McKnight Brain Institute's Program in Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine.

"The axolotl is the champion of vertebrate regeneration, with the ability to replace whole limbs and even parts of its central nervous system," Scott said. "These salamanders use many of the same body systems and genes that we do, but they have superior ability to regenerate after major injuries. We think that studying them will tell us a lot about a patient's natural regenerative capacities after spinal cord injury and nerve cell damage."

The issue of what controls organ regeneration was named among the top 25 major questions facing scientists in the next quarter century by Science magazine in 2005, Scott said. With medical science continually adding years to the human lifespan, the importance of "rebuilding and restoring" old tissues and organs is growing. But science had to enter the 21st century to fully explore the use of the highly regenerative axolotl as a model for human disease.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

If You Were a Worm You Could Walk

Photo: Scientists paralyze and then cure worms: Canadian researchers use light to turn potential drugs on, and then off
This tiny worm became temporarily paralyzed when scientists fed it a light-sensitive material, or "photoswitch," and then exposed it to ultraviolet light.
(American Chemical Society)

Ever since a Canadian team of scientists revealed they had figured out how to paralyze worms - and then cure the paralysis - just by flashing the worms with different beams of light, Neil Branda has been asked the same question over and over.

What animal is he going to paralyze next?

None, as a matter of fact, he says.

The worms simply served as a dramatic confirmation of the first known ability to use light as a means of switching a biological function on and off, and it could have major implications for fields ranging from optical memory to medical surgery in humans.

Light switching has been used for years in non-biological systems, such as transition lenses that darken when exposed to light, and then reverse the process when the light dims. But this is different.
"Nobody we know of has put light switching into live organisms and then shown a reversible biological effect, at least to the best of our knowledge," chemist Neil Branda, leader of the team of researchers at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia said in a telephone interview. The findings were published in the current issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Visible Light Activates and Reverses Paralysis

The researchers designed a molecule that "for several complicated reasons" they thought would induce paralysis in tiny transparent worms, C. elegans, when exposed to ultraviolet light.

The molecule was dissolved in an aqueous solution and then "orally administered" to hundreds of nematodes, which turned blue and went into paralysis. That was expected, because similar experiments have been done in labs around the world.

However, when the worms were hit with visible light, the process was reversed and the nematodes regained their mobility and appeared "as if they had never been paralyzed," the study reports.

Why is that such a big deal? Light is already used to switch on biological functions for treatment of arthritis and several types of cancer, called photodynamic therapy, but once the process is switched on, it can't be switched off.

Thus the drug remains active for some time - at least four weeks according to the Mayo Clinic - so patients have to avoid bright lights for six weeks to keep the activated drug from doing extensive damage elsewhere in the body.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Paralyzed Rugby Player Now Wants to Live

Friday, 4 December 2009
A man who wanted to die after being left paralysed by a rugby accident is now celebrating a first class law degree and a job at a top city firm.

He is one of several people with a disabled or terminal condition who are glad they didn’t end it all, and who now live a life of value and meaning.

Matt King, who was 17 at the time of the accident, suffered injuries to his spine which left him permanently paralysed from the neck down and dependent on a ventilator to breathe.

His case has been compared to the tragic death of Daniel James, another young man who suffered a debilitating rugby injury and committed suicide at the Dignitas facility in Switzerland.

Mr King said of his accident: “I knew I had broken my neck straight away”.

He added: “The paramedics were asking me to move my toes and I couldn’t. It was completely terrifying.”

“My first thought was ‘let me die’ because my vision of what my life would be like was awful.

“But I realised in hospital that I’m still young and if I was going to lead a meaningful life I would need to get an education.”

Speaking against plans to legalise assisted suicide, disability rights campaigner Baroness Campbell said: “A change in the law based on the assumption that some lives are more valuable and worthwhile than others would alter the mindset of the medical and social care professions, persuading more and more people that actually the prospect of an ‘easy’ way out is what people such as me really want.”


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

NIH Starts First New Stem Cell Lines Research

The National Institutes of Health said Wednesday that it had approved 13 new human embryonic stem cell lines for use by federally financed researchers, with another 96 lines under review.

The action followed President Obama’s decision in March to expand the number of such cell lines beyond those available under a policy set by President George W. Bush, which permitted research to begin only with lines already available on Aug. 9, 2001.

Since that date, biomedical researchers supported by the N.I.H. have had to raise private money to derive the cells, which are obtained from the fertilized embryos left over from in vitro fertility clinics.

With federal money banned from being used in any part of the work on the derived lines, researchers had to divide their laboratories and go to extreme lengths to separate research materials based on the financing source.

“You can imagine what it meant not to be able to carry a pipette from one room to another,” said Ali H. Brivanlou, a researcher at Rockefeller University. “They even had to repaint the walls to ensure no contamination by federal funds.”

Two of the newly approved 13 lines were derived by Dr. Brivanlou with private financing. The rest were prepared by Dr. George Daley of Children’s Hospital, Boston.

Dr. Daley said that private financing had been drying up and that he was eager to start research on the now-approved cell lines with the help of his federal grant money.

The director of the health agency, Dr. Francis S. Collins, said he believed most researchers would be satisfied with the outcome, even though they were still barred from deriving the cells themselves. “I’m not sure everyone is interested in deriving their own cell lines as long as they can get lines from others,” Dr. Collins said.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Poor Poor Mayor, Denied Right to Squash Small Children with iBOT

The Magic Kingdom wasn't so magical for one Florida man over the holiday weekend, reported The Miami Herald. Myron Rosner, the mayor of North Miami Beach who also happens to be paraplegic, says he was repeatedly hassled by Disney employees over his high-tech wheelchair.
The 49-year-old Rosner, who was paralyzed in a construction accident, uses an iBOT 4000 wheelchair. Johnson & Johnson manufactured only a few hundred of these unusual items before discontinuing the product line earlier this year, said the Sun Sentinel.
Skip over this content
Myron Rosner and family
Rosner Family
Myron Rosner is seen here with his family at Disney World, seated in his iBOT 4000 wheelchair. The upright, two-wheeled configuration of the chair caused Disney employees to mistake it for a Segway.
Unlike most wheelchairs, the four-wheeled iBOT is able to tilt back on two wheels and lift the rider to eye level. And that's where the trouble started at Disney World, said the Herald.
At both the Animal Kingdom and Epcot parks, Disney employees approached Rosner and his family and insisted that he drop back down to four wheels. They cited a Disney policy that forbids the use of two-wheeled Segway devices inside the park, the Herald reported.
"I was totally harassed by Disney World," Rosner told the Herald. "It was a nightmare for my wife, myself and my four children. They gave me the impression I was not welcome here.''
Rosner was allegedly told that if he didn't drop down to four wheels, he would be asked to leave the park, said the Sun Sentinel. On principle, he refused.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Sullen Schoolboy Saves Shivering SCI Man

A paralyzed man trapped when his car drove off an upstate New York road and plummeted down an embankment survived for 30 hours despite freezing temperatures and internal bleeding.

Christopher Drake has been paralyzed from the waist down almost all his life. He used his arms to drag himself to the top of the embankment after the Thursday morning crash off Route 97 in western Sullivan County. But he slipped and rolled back to the bottom.

Police say Drake was too tired to try again, so he took shelter in his car to help fight the cold. He had no cell phone.

More than 24 hours after the crash, the car was noticed by a 14-year-old boy looking out the window of a bus on his way home from school.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Electric Wheelchair for the Masses

Self-Taught Inventor Creates Homemade Electric Wheelchair

Li Rongbiao, a 67 year old pensioner and inventer, is making headlines in China because of his handmade electric chairs. Also known as the Walking Chair, it is assembled from spare parts and consists of spare wheels that ease stairway access for wheelchairs.
Walking Chair
Rongbiao started playing around with the idea of an affordable electric wheelchair when his wife ended up with a broken leg. It so happened that in this period, they faced a number of hassles, including difficulty accessing their fifth floor apartment.

That’s how this self-made inventer found himself buying computer books and looking for financing for his project.

However, the building of the chair took a bit of time since Rongbiao first had to handle all the basics. Thus, he taught himself computer designing for 6 months before spending the rest of the year constructing his dream chair.

As for funding, the innovator was so dedicated to this dream that he pooled all of his income into this project.

This included his savings, pension money as well as odd $70,000 he made from the sale of his apartment.

All this effort is not in vain as his Walking Chair is gaining popularity in China.

In fact, after he demonstrated his invention at one of the biggest disability shows in China, he has been receiving orders for the electric chair. And so, following his visit to this expo, interested parties have bought 30 of his Walking Chairs and there is still a backlog of more than 300 orders.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Disabled Actors Not Gleeful

LOS ANGELES — The glee club members twirl their wheelchairs to the tune of "Proud Mary" and in joyful solidarity with Artie, the fellow performer who must use his chair even when the music stops.

The scene in Wednesday's episode of the hit Fox series "Glee," which regularly celebrates diversity and the underdog, is yet another uplifting moment — except to those in the entertainment industry with disabilities and their advocates.

For them, the casting of a non-disabled actor to play the paraplegic high school student is another blown chance to hire a performer who truly fits the role.

"I think there's a fear of litigation, that a person with disabilities might slow a production down, fear that viewers might be uncomfortable," said Robert David Hall, longtime cast member of CBS' "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation."

All of that is nonsense, said Hall: "I've made my living as an actor for 30 years and I walk on two artificial legs."

Hall, 61, chair of a multi-union committee for performers with disabilities, is part of a small band of such steadily working actors on TV that includes Daryl "Chill" Mitchell, star of Fox's "Brothers"; teenager RJ Mitte of AMC's "Breaking Bad"; and ABC's "Private Practice" newcomer Michael Patrick Thornton.

Veteran actress Geri Jewell, who has cerebral palsy, appeared on HBO's now-departed "Deadwood."
Mitchell, 44, whose credits included "Veronica's Closet" and the film "Galaxy Quest" before he was injured in a motorcycle accident and "Ed" after he began using a wheelchair, is also a producer on the Sunday sitcom that's in need of higher ratings if it is to survive.

For Mitchell, "Brothers" represents more than just another show: He calls it "a movement" that deserves support from the wider disabled community as well as the industry.

"This is what my life is. This is what I want the world to see," he said. "I want to hold the networks accountable. If I can come out and do what I'm doing, they can come to the table."

It's not just TV that falls short of what Mitchell and others seek, including auditioning those with disabilities for roles that echo their situation and for roles in which it is irrelevant. (Then it's up to them to prove they deserve the job, Hall said.)


Champion Athletic Refuses to be Teated Like Potato Sack

Kurt Fearnley had just crawled along a 60-mile jungle track in Papua New Guinea.

But when he arrived at Brisbane airport a few days later, Jetstar— an offshoot of Qantas airlines — asked him to check in his wheelchair.

The Australian budget airline offered him its own wheelchair, specially designed for planes, but told Fearnley he would have to be pushed by airline staff.

Fearnley, who won marathon gold in the Beijing and Athens Paralympics, was insulted at being asked to give up his independence.

He said the equivalent for an able-bodied person "would be having your legs tied together, your pants pulled down and be carried or pushed through an airport."

In protest, he rejected the airline's wheelchair and dragged himself through the terminal, in and out of the toilet, and onto the plane.

Jetstar has now issued an apology, saying any embarrassment and hurt was not intentional.

It said its policy for passengers in wheelchairs was for them to transfer to the airline wheelchair, which is more maneuverable on the plane, at the boarding gate.

Jetstar have now assured Fearnley they are working on an alternative boarding procedure for disabled passengers.

He said: "As long as that's going ahead, I'm more than happy."

Since the incident, a man from Melbourne has said he spent six days in hospital after he fell out of a Jetstar wheelchair while being pushed by staff.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Think Before You Leap

medical tourism
Warnings are being issued by experts of the dangers of medical tourism saying that unproven stem cell therapy overseas could leave patients worse off.

Signing up for stem cell therapy is worth the risk for many people who are suffering with conditions like spinal injury, multiple sclerosis, motor neuron or Parkinson’s disease.

A medical journal reported earlier this year that an Israeli teenager developed brain tumors after experimental injections at a Russian clinic.

There are alternate reports also of patients contracting meningitis after treatments in China.

A handbook will be released by the Australian Stem Cell Centre to help patients analyze radial stem cell treatments abroad.

Experts, however, are warning patients against taking the risk with radical treatments abroad.
The Australian Stem Cell Centre Clinical adviser Dr Kirsten Herbert says that three patients contracted meningitis after stem cell treatment in China because of spinal cord injuries.

He also adds that cancer too is a possible side-effect although the likelihood is very rare.
It is important to not demoralize people who are seeking these cures but they must be helped in finding the right advice.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Paralyzed Woman Denied Right to Take CA Law Exam, Wins, Passes

Sara Granda, the woman paralyzed from the neck down who was able to take the state bar examination only after the governor and the State Supreme Court intervened, passed the bar today.

"Sara has overcome so much in her life and today I congratulate her for once again persevering and passing the California Bar Exam," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a prepared statement. "Her hard work, dedication and outlook on life" are an inspiration and prove that "opportunity lies in every obstacle," he said.

"She is a fighter and today I join Sara, her family and friends and all Californians as we celebrate her tremendous achievement," he said.

Granda, 29, can breathe only with a respirator, the result of a car crash when she was 17. Since the accident, she has earned three college degrees, including one in May from the UC Davis School of Law.

Confusion over her registration fee led to the State Bar of California's determination that she was ineligible for the exam because it had no application when the June 15 deadline passed.

Schwarzenegger, wrote a letter to the members of the Supreme Court, urging them to grant Granda's petition to be allowed to take the exam.

In a 6-0 ruling on July 27, the high court granted Granda's petition for what is called a "writ of mandate," directing the State Bar to let her take the exam.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Power Soccer

For an athlete, a spinal cord injury cannot only change how you live, but who you are.

Chris Finn said he was in the best shape of his life before a spinal cord injury. For 10 years, he searched for a sport he could play. He finally found it: power soccer.

"It changed my life," said Finn, the 38-year-old coach of Team USA.

The sport changed Michael Archer's life, too.

Archer, a 19-year-old IUPUI student from Greenwood, has arthrogryposis, which causes joint contractures before birth. Archer said he could walk using a walker until sixth grade, when he began using a motorized wheelchair. At first, he said, he couldn't stay on the sidewalk. Now, he is an athletic whiz kid.
Archer watched siblings play soccer and softball, and yearned for a sport he could do, too.

"Once I got into power soccer, that was actually the first really competitive sport that I was able to play," Archer said. "I just want to keep playing it."

He played on the U.S. team that won the 2007 World Cup in Japan. He is one of seven Indianapolis-area athletes attending a selection camp this week at Eagle Church in Whitestown. A national team is being chosen for the 2011 World Cup, and Indianapolis is a possible location for the tournament. The U.S. Power Soccer Association is headquartered here.

Others attending the camp include Case Calvert and Mathew Griffin, Indianapolis; Natalie and JC Russo, Carmel; and Jordan and Katie Dickey, Pendleton.
Finn, 38, knows the joy the sport can bring.

In 2002, the first time he stepped onto a power soccer court, he rolled the ball across the floor -- and into the goal. This, he told himself, is for me.

"I remember playing soccer out in the backyard, a 10-year-old kid dreaming I was going to be the next Pele, playing in the World Cup," Finn recalled. "This was my chance to fulfill that dream."


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Georgia Bulldog Paralyzed

Chance Veazey was living out his dream. He had a scholarship to play baseball at the University of Georgia. He impressed his coach so much during fall workouts that he was already penciled in as the starting second baseman.

Tragedy struck before Veazey made it to opening day.

Late last month, the freshman wrapped up a routine study session at the campus learning center, hopped on his scooter and drove out into the night. He never made it to where he was going, colliding with a car along the way. Sprawled out on the ground, he couldn't feel anything in his legs.

Veazey, it turned out, had sustained a devastating spinal cord injury.

The grim diagnosis: paralyzed below the waist.

"I can't begin to imagine what's going through his head,'' Georgia coach David Perno said Thursday, shortly after the first details of Veazey's injury were made public. "There will be no one on our team feeling sorry for themselves anymore, I can tell you that. This was life changing not only for me, but a lot of people close to him.''

Veazey was injured Oct. 28 - the first night of the World Series, strangely enough - and transferred about a week later to the Shepherd Center. There he is learning how to live from a wheelchair and perhaps girding himself to face the reality that he may never walk again.

"We're only three weeks into it,'' said Dr. Donald Peck Leslie, Shepherd's medical director. "I don't think (he's given up on the) hope that something miraculous is going to happen, that the light is going to suddenly turn on. We've seen it happen. We wish it happened more. But we have got to help him deal with the possibility, the probability, that it may not. That's very important.''

Over the years, Shepherd has worked with more than 50,000 victims of spinal cord injuries, including hockey player Travis Roy, who was left a quadriplegic by a freak injury on the very first shift of his very first college game. Veazey never made it to his first game, though he had already shown the Bulldogs he was quite a player.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Human Trails to Begin Using High Purity Stem Cells

In 2002, at his lab at UC-Irvine, Hans Keirstead delicately sliced open the spines of eight lab rats with a scalpel, then not so delicately punched into their spinal-cord tissue with the force of two hundred kilodynes. A week later, he reached for a vial inside which was something most of the scientific world believed was impossible: a stem-cell solution so pure that the risk of any newly derived nerve cells morphing into tumors had been all but eliminated. He drew some liquid from the vial and injected his elixir — set to grow into oligodendrocytes, which help ferry movement-generating electric impulses into muscles — into the spines of the recently paralyzed rats. Then an assistant grabbed a camera. The resulting video was short, but its meaning was unmistakable: The rats stood up and wobbly walked. The clip went viral and the public cheered. But many of Keirstead's colleagues were less sanguine. Was the science right? they wondered. He hadn't even published a paper on it yet. As early as this spring, we'll begin to find out.

Pending one final review, next year a handful of paralyzed men and women are set to get Keirstead's high-purity stem cells injected directly into their spinal cords, above and below the injury site. Conducted by the Geron Corporation — to whom Keirstead turned over his research — it will be the first-ever test of purified stem cells in humans. Again, the public is mesmerized by what could happen, and again, Keirstead's colleagues are nervous. If the phase-one trial exacerbates a subject's condition or, far worse, kills one, Keirstead's test won't just fail, it could retard progress on stem cells for decades. He is in effect taking the first major step on stem cells for everyone. And he's doing it with a novel therapy that has a shorter paper trail than most.

Aware of the stakes, the FDA temporarily put the brakes on the trial in August, weeks before it was originally set to begin, so it could rereview the data. But Keirstead is unfazed. He has confidence in his work. The trial application Geron submitted was the longest ever — twenty-two thousand pages — all pointing toward the success and efficacy of Keirstead's method. He feels certain the trial will go forward. "My guess is that the FDA got new supporting data that is very interesting and they just need time to vet it."

Monday, November 16, 2009

$25 Million For Bad Back Flip

This isn't the life 32-year-old Shane Downey pictured for himself 9 ½ years ago.

Back then he was an athlete and he loved gymnastics.But one bad landing after a double backflip on a piece of gymnastics equipment stopped all competition for Downey and left him paralyzed."There was no pain but everything was gone," Downey said. "I live a life but it's completely different now."Downey said it happened while he was helping out a coach at a local gymnastics center.He was asked to try out the Tumbl Trak, which is like a long, narrow trampoline.During his move something went wrong. Downey crushed his spinal cord.
His brother saw it all unfold."He said I needed to get up, I was scaring people," Downey said. "And while we where having that short conversation I realized that I was not OK and that I couldn't move."A jury found JC Sports, Inc. 100 percent negligent for Downey's injuries. Downey's lawyer said the staff wasn't spotting him, and he said they knew they couldn't, so they should have told Downey to stop.Now, they'll have to pay $25.5 million for the mistake."The sad part is they did nothing, and that's what the distinction is," Downey's attorney

Mitch Woodleif said. "They did not do any supervision whatsoever. They didn't say, 'Stop.' They didn't say, 'Don't do that kind of pass.' They didn't say anything."Downey said the money from the lawsuit won't give him his life back.In fact, most of it will just go to pay his mounting medical bills and the ones that are still to come.

Downey's attorney said the family has faced $3 million in medical bills already."Pretty much the only thing I can do on my own is eat and move around in my chair," Downey said. "I mean, I have to have someone around to help me get dressed and to change clothes and to help me go to the bathroom and take a shower and go from one place to the next. And I mean, you lose a lot of dignity whenever you can't do things for yourself."


Saturday, November 14, 2009

No Arms, No Legs, But Gets Guns

A N.J. man who cannot move his arms still has the right to bear arms, a New Jersey superior court judge said Tuesday.

For the past two years Manville’s police chief has denied James Cap, 46, his second ammendment rights by not allowing him to have a firearms ID card—a requirement to purchase a gun in the state of New Jersey.
Cap was an avid hunter as a teenager, before he broke his neck and became paralyzed in a high school football game 30 years ago. For the past two-and-a-half years, he’s wanted to buy a gun and hunt again, even though he is confined to an electronic wheel chair.

Cap sued for the right to buy a shotgun, so that he can mount it on his wheelchair. He will shoot it with a special breathing tube.

Superior Court Judge John Pursel said there is “no reason” Cap should be denied a firearms ID card, reports the Star-Ledger.

“I hope you enjoy the use of your firearm,” Pursel said before signing an order allows him a permit as long as his guns are stored in a safe and qualified people assist him with the weapons.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A New Member of the SCI Family?

The Army psychiatrist charged with killing 13 people in a shooting rampage at Fort Hood is paralyzed from the waist down as a result of his bullet wounds and may remain that way, his lawyer said Friday.

The suspect, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, remains in the intensive care unit at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio with four bullet wounds, said the lawyer, John P. Galligan. He is coherent but easily fatigued and cannot sit up or feel anything in his legs, Mr. Galligan said.

Military officials charged Major Hasan, 39, with 13 counts of premeditated murder on Wednesday, setting in motion a court-martial proceeding that could lead to the death penalty.

The psychiatrist was brought down in a gunfight with two police officers after the Nov. 5 rampage on unarmed soldiers and civilians in a center on the post where military personnel receive medical attention before being deployed or after returning from missions.

Dewey Mitchell, a spokesman for the hospital, said he could not confirm whether Major Hasan was paralyzed because he has requested that no information be released about his condition.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Afghanistan War: One in Six Wounded Have Spinal Cord Injuries

Far from winding down, the numbers of U.S. soldiers coming home wounded have continued to swell. The problem is especially acute among those fighting in Afghanistan, where nearly four times as many troops were injured in October as a year ago.

Amputations, burns, brain injuries and shrapnel wounds proliferate in Afghanistan, due mostly to increasingly potent improvised bombs targeting U.S. forces. Snipers' bullets and mortar rounds also are to blame.

Of particular concern are the so-called hidden wounds, traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder that can have long-term side effects such as depression.

Since 2007, more than 70,000 service members have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury — more than 20,000 of them this year, according to the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center. Most of the injuries are mild but leave symptoms such as headaches and difficulty concentrating.

 In Afghanistan, spinal injuries have increased significantly, due mostly to the powerful explosives used in the improvised bombs that rattle U.S. troops inside heavily armored vehicles. For those injured by these bombs, recovery can mean a year or more at a military hospital like Walter Reed Army Medical Center, followed by months, years or even a lifetime of therapy and coping with disability.

At least 1,800 troops were wounded in Afghanistan in the first 10 months of this year, about 40 percent of all the wounded U.S. troops in Afghanistan since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Nearly 1,000 of those injuries occurred in the last three months.

In Iraq, more than 600 troops have been wounded so far this year.

By far, improvised explosive devices are the biggest killer of U.S. troops in both countries.

In Afghanistan in the last four months, the volume of explosives used to make IEDs and the total number of IEDs have increased, Col. Wayne Shanks, chief of public affairs for the International Security Assistance Forces in Afghanistan, said in an e-mail.

Spinal injuries account for one in six of the wounds treated in the Afghanistan battle theater, Shanks said. Of those injuries, about 15 percent involved motor or sensory changes such as a broken back or spinal cord injury, Shanks said.


Monday, November 9, 2009

FDA Approves First Stem Cell Treatment

The first human embryonic stem cell treatment approved by the FDA for human testing has been shown to restore limb function in rats with neck spinal cord injuries -- a finding that could expand the clinical trial to include people with cervical damage.

In January, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration gave Geron Corp. of Menlo Park, Calif., permission to test the UC Irvine treatment in individuals with thoracic spinal cord injuries, which occur below the neck.
However, trying it in those with cervical damage wasn't approved because preclinical testing with rats hadn't been completed.

Results of the cervical study currently appear online in the journal Stem Cells. UCI scientist Hans Keirstead hopes the data will prompt the FDA to authorize clinical testing of the treatment in people with both types of spinal cord damage. About 52 percent of spinal cord injuries are cervical and 48 percent thoracic.

"People with cervical damage often have lost or impaired limb movement and bowel, bladder or sexual function, and currently there's no effective treatment. It's a challenging existence," said Keirstead, a primary author of the study. "What our therapy did to injured rodents is phenomenal. If we see even a fraction of that benefit in humans, it will be nothing short of a home run."

A week after test rats with 100 percent walking ability suffered neck spinal cord injuries, some received the stem cell treatment. The walking ability of those that didn't degraded to 38 percent. Treated rats' ability, however, was restored to 97 percent.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Nanobots Repair Spinal Cords

Researchers at Purdue University have discovered a new approach for repairing damaged nerve fibers in spinal cord injuries using nano-spheres that could be injected into the blood shortly after an accident.

The synthetic "copolymer micelles" are drug-delivery spheres about 60 nanometers in diameter, or roughly 100 times smaller than the diameter of a red blood cell.

Researchers have been studying how to deliver drugs for cancer treatment and other therapies using these spheres. Medications might be harbored in the cores and ferried to diseased or damaged tissue.

Purdue researchers have now shown that the micelles themselves repair damaged axons, fibers that transmit electrical impulses in the spinal cord.

"That was a very surprising discovery," said Ji-Xin Cheng, an associate professor in the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering and Department of Chemistry. "Micelles have been used for 30 years as drug-delivery vehicles in research, but no one has ever used them directly as a medicine."

Findings are detailed in a research paper appearing Sunday (Nov. 8) in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
A critical feature of micelles is that they combine two types of polymers, one being hydrophobic and the other hydrophilic, meaning they are either unable or able to mix with water. The hydrophobic core can be loaded with drugs to treat disease.

The micelles might be used instead of more conventional "membrane sealing agents," including polyethylene glycol, which makes up the outer shell of the micelles. Because of the nanoscale size and the polyethylene glycol shell of the micelles, they are not quickly filtered by the kidney or captured by the liver, enabling them to remain in the bloodstream long enough to circulate to damaged tissues.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Quad Dumped from Chair, Handcuffed, Arrested

While a quadriplegic was being arrested for blocking a police car with his wheelchair so his teenage daughter wouldn't be removed from their home after a domestic dispute, she sobbed hysterically inside the cruiser and repeatedly begged two officers to let her father go.

"Please don't take my dad to jail!" the 16-year-old girl can be heard crying on the audio of a police car video of the incident obtained Friday by The Enquirer. "Please don't hurt him! ... Daddy! Daddy! Please let him go! Please, oh please! Please don't hurt him!"

James K. Kestler, 39, who is paralyzed from the chest down and has minimal use of his arms, said he remains incredulous that he was pulled from his wheelchair during a rain storm, painfully handcuffed and taken to the Clermont County Jail after getting into a dispute with his daughter.

"I can't believe it happened," Kestler said. "There's no sense in it."

Police arrested Kestler on July 30 after he got into an argument with his daughter over an eyebrow piercing that he had told her not to get.

Kestler's ex-wife, Carrie, who was in Vermont, phoned police after her daughter called and said he was going to kill her, according to a police report.

"She was upset because I was taking her cell phone and grounding her," Kestler said of his daughter.

 "He couldn't possibly kill her," said Tim Smith, Kestler's defense attorney. "He's paralyzed from the chest down (as the result of a 2005 fall). "She admits to police he never said he was going to kill her."

Kestler, who used to deliver milk to stores for a dairy, said he can't grasp anything with his hands, but he can operate a motorized wheelchair with the palm of his right hand. He blocked a police cruiser with his wheelchair after Officers Skip Rasfeld and John Chirgwin said they would take the girl to a grandmother's home to cool off.

"Mr. Kestler said he'd rather be arrested," Rasfeld wrote in a police report. "I did not want to arrest him, (but) Mr. Kestler was beyond all reasoning."


Dusty Ride

Dusty Franz will spend the next two weeks speeding down the shoulders and sidewalks of central Florida's roadways at five miles an hour.

The Ruskin resident is not traveling by car, but rather a motorized wheelchair. His journey started Friday morning from the Sebring Moose Lodge and will take him 200 miles through Highlands County, Lake Wales, Winter Haven, Lakeland, Brandon and finally back home.

Covering between 12 and 15 miles every day at 5 mph, Franz estimated he'd be back in Ruskin on Nov. 21.

He set out on this journey as a fundraiser for the Moose Legion's charities, which benefits children who are without parents or come from broken homes and senior citizens who are in need of assistance.
The title is simple enough: Dusty's Ride.

"My wife thought I was crazy for doing this, because of my physical shape that I'm in," Franz said. "It was just something that I thought I had to do at this point."

Four years ago, Franz's life was forever changed when he was seriously hurt in a car accident. The U.S. Air Force veteran underwent 12 surgeries, with the most recent on Aug. 20, and has two more to go.
Franz suffered a spinal cord injury and lost all movement from the waist down.

"Certain things inside are shut down," he said. "My stomach's shut down, and there's one surgeon in the state that's working with this pacemaker, like they do for your heart, and they put it on my stomach and they're trying this out to make sure that I can get food down."
Franz was on a feeding tube until a month ago and underwent a dramatic weight loss, dropping from 206 to 123 pounds.

Since starting to eat solid foods again, things have improved.

"Right now, I'm doing good," Franz said. "I'm up to 136. Gaining weight slowly."

A portion of the money raised will go toward helping other veterans.

Slow ride ... take it easy


Friday, November 6, 2009

Blood Clots

Early thromboprophylaxis should be used to prevent deep-vein thrombosis in patients who have suffered an acute spinal cord injury, according to a meta-analysis in the November issue of the Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery.

Avraam Ploumis, M.D., of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, and colleagues reviewed the medical literature for clinical trials on thromboprophylaxis following acute spinal injuries, with and without spinal cord injury. The reviewers screened 489 studies, of which 21 met the criteria for their meta-analysis. Outcomes assessed included deep-vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, and adverse events.
The researchers found that the cases of deep-vein thrombosis were significantly lower among patients who did not have spinal cord injury than among patients who did (odds ratio, 6.0). Among the patients who had spinal cord injury, those taking oral anticoagulants had significantly fewer pulmonary embolisms than those not taking anticoagulants. Also, there were significantly fewer deep-vein-thrombosis incidents among patients beginning thromboprophylaxis within two weeks of the injury compared to those in whom it was delayed. In addition, heparin-based pharmacoprophylaxis using low-molecular-weight heparin was found superior to unfractionated heparin.

"The prevalence of deep-vein thrombosis following a spine injury is higher among patients who have a spinal cord injury than among those who do not have a spinal cord injury. Therefore, thromboprophylaxis in these patients should start as early as possible once it is deemed safe in terms of potential bleeding complications," the authors write.

Authors of the study reported financial relationships with Medtronic and DePuy Spine


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Quad Beauty Tycoon

Clark's Botanicals is not your typical beauty company, and founder Francesco Clark will be the first one to tell you that. From how the formulas are developed to methods of building brand awareness, this business does things its own way.

And Francesco Clark is not your typical business owner. In 2002, he suffered a severe spinal-cord injury from a pool diving accident that left him without the ability to feel or move 98% of his body. As a result, Mr. Clark's skin became unresponsive to temperature. He stopped sweating, and the condition of his skin deteriorated. After trying dozens of skincare products, both over-the-counter and prescription, Mr. Clark took matters into his own hands. He enlisted the help of his father, a doctor and homeopathy expert, and together they developed a unique botanically-based moisturizing cream. After sharing the product with friends and family and receiving great feedback, the ball got rolling that would develop into Clark's Botanicals. Mr. Clark's injury never hindered him in building his company. "I think the biggest challenge for me was not the physical challenge, but it was showing people that I could do just as much as they could," he says.

Today, Clark's Botanicals has made a name for itself and has received attention from many fashion and beauty editors – without spending a dime on promotions. "We're a small company, so we don't have any advertising budget or marketing budget," says Mr. Clark. Instead, he's utilized contacts in the industry (Mr. Clark previously worked at Harpers Bazaar) and has even reached out to Michelle Obama for support – and she is now a Clark's customer. He credits much of the company's growth to word-of-mouth and the positive reputation of its products, which are made with essential oils such as Jasmine Absolute rather than the usual chemicals used in beauty products.

Mr. Clark also has a focus on helping others with spinal-cord injuries. A percentage of the profits from Clark's Botanicals is donated to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, which is devoted to curing spinal-cord injuries and improving the quality of life for people with paralysis. Mr. Clark spends a lot of time volunteering with the foundation, working on fundraisers and events. Mr. Reeve is a personal hero of his. "It's not just another beauty company, it's really my passion and my mission," says Mr. Clark.


Prevent Spinal Cord Damage Using a Vitamin B3 Precursor

Substances naturally produced by the human body may one day help prevent paralysis following a spinal cord injury, according to researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College. A recent $2.5 million grant from the New York State Spinal Cord Injury Research Board will fund their research investigating this possibility.

The Weill Cornell team believes that permanent nerve damage may be avoided by raising levels of a compound that converts to nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) -- the active form of vitamin B3. The compound would potentially be administered immediately following spinal cord injury.

"Boosting NAD+ after injury may prevent permanent nerve death," explains Dr. Samie Jaffrey, associate professor of pharmacology at Weill Cornell Medical College. "Our study is aimed at synthesizing a molecule that, when given soon after injury, may augment the body's production of NAD+ and rescue these cells before they are stressed beyond recovery."

The compound, called nicotinamide riboside (NR) -- a natural NAD+ precursor found in foods like milk -- as well as other NR derivatives have already been proven to protect against cell death and axonal degeneration in cultured cells and in models of spinal cord injury. In 2007, the authors reported results of laboratory experiments finding that NR can increase NAD+ concentrations as high as 270 percent when compared with untreated control cells. No other known agent has been shown to achieve these types of increases in cells.

NAD+ is known to play a key role in human cells by activating proteins called sirtuins that help the cells survive under stress. Sirtuins, which can be activated by compounds like resveratrol (found in large concentrations in the skin of grapes used to make red wine) have been shown to possess anti-aging and healing properties. The researchers believe that quickly increasing the NAD+ levels may help to activate the sirtuin levels in the cells and prevent cell death. This is especially important because when cells and tissues experience extreme trauma, NAD+ levels drop quickly.

In the newly funded research, the Weill Cornell team will conduct a lab study to see how NR compounds can raise NAD+ levels in cells that are stressed to the point that they will die within three to four hours, and instead survive as a consequence of treatment. In a separate study, Dr. Brett Langley from the Burke Rehabilitation Center in Westchester, N.Y. -- a hospital affiliated with Weill Cornell Medical College -- will test the compounds in mice with spinal injuries, with the hope of observing physical recovery and improvement in behavioral testing.

"We hope to show that a natural compound that can be produced cheaply and efficiently could be the key to preventing permanent injury," explains Dr. Anthony Sauve, associate professor of pharmacology at Weill Cornell Medical College. "We also believe that the compound would be perfectly safe to use in humans, since it is a vitamin that has not been shown to have negative effects on the body when artificially elevated."


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Finally Some Good News for Shed Man

Help is on the way for a paralyzed Hidalgo County man who has been living in a storage shed. Woodrow Reed lost his mobile home to foreclosure. A family saw his story and offered to help.

Estela Garza is donating a home. She says she knows it’s not a mansion, but it something she wants to share.

“This is my dad's house, and I just don't want it to go to waste,” she explains. “I'd rather give it away to somebody who is going to actually make use of it.”

Garza says she was trying to sell it.

“And I was like maybe God doesn't want me to sell it…. Maybe he wants us to give it to somebody that is in need,” she recalls thinking.

A friend told Garza and her husband about Reed, his fight with foreclosure, and his health battle.

That's when they decided to do something.

The house needs some work, including some new fixtures and some fresh paint. But the Garzas know Reed could use the place, and they want to him to have it.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Enzyme Eats Scar Tissue that Blocks Spine Repair

U.S. researchers have engineered an enzyme that can gobble up scar tissue formed after spinal cord injuries in rats, overcoming a key hurdle to getting injured nerves to reconnect and heal.

Spinal cord injuries trigger a cascade of events in the body that block the growth of nerve cells after a spinal cord injury.
"One of the major impediments has been this scar tissue that has formed," said Ravi Bellamkonda, a biomedical engineering professor at Georgia Institute of Technology Research and at Emory University, whose study appears in Tuesday's issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
He said sugar proteins found near the scar tissue inhibit nerve fiber regeneration, and eliminating scar tissue is an essential step toward getting nerve fibers to grow back.

Other teams have shown that delivering an enzyme from bacteria that digests scar tissue may help.
"The problem has been this enzyme is really sensitive and degrades very fast," Bellamkonda said in a telephone interview.

He said the enzyme, chondroitinase ABC (chABC), is heat sensitive and must be repeatedly injected or infused into the body to work.

Bellamkonda's team found a way to overcome both of those issues. They mixed the enzyme with a sugar called trehalose that made it stable at internal body temperature.

And instead of injecting the enzyme into the spinal cord, they put it into tiny hollow straws just twice the length of a single cell. They inject these at the injury site in a special gel that keeps the straws in place.
Bellamkonda's team tested the system in rats and found the enzyme prevented scar tissue formation for up to six weeks.


Dog Walks and Happy Again

dachshund.jpgSpinal cord injury patients around the world may draw new hope for the future from the story of a paralyzed little dog who was able to walk again after receiving an experimental spinal cord treatment. Cambridge University scientists pioneered the new treatment that made it possible for Henry the dachshund to walk after he was paralyzed by a severe spinal cord injury.

Veterinarians at the Cambridge Veterinary School took cells from the dog’s nose and injected them into his ailing spinal cord. The New York Daily News reported that nose cells were used because they encourage the growth of new nerve fibers in the spinal cord. Henry had lost the ability to walk at the end of last year when discs between the vertebrae in his spine ruptured. It was also reported that certain species of canines have an increased risk of spinal cord injuries, so they make good candidates for exploration of experimental treatments.

Scientists had previously reported success with the nose cell technique in experiments with rats, which inspire professors Nick Jeffrey and Robin Franklin to attempt the experimental procedure on the dachshund. The scientists hope to eventually use the procedure to treat human patients with severe spinal cord injuries.

In addition to the medical treatment, Henry received physiotherapy and rehabilitation on a treadmill. Only a month after getting the nose cell treatment, Henry was able to walk again. The poor little puppy was reportedly downtrodden and depressed before he received the procedure. Afterward, his owner reported signs of the dog’s returning happiness.

Sarah Beech, the owner of the lucky dachshund, was amazed by the miraculous results of the veterinary treatment. She was quoted in the New York Daily News article saying, “It’s incredible,” Henry’s owner, Sarah Beech, told the Daily Mail. “I didn’t think Henry would ever be able to walk again, but over the last few months, he has been wagging his tail and taking small steps.”

The news of such rapid success in reversing Henry’s paralysis should bring hopeful expectation to the many spinal cord injury patients waiting for such amazing treatments to be made available to humans. With all the recent advances in spinal cord injury treatments, it seems only a matter of time before paralysis is seen as a temporary, instead of irreversible, condition.