Saturday, July 31, 2010

Stem Cell Treatment on Spinal Cord Injured to begin on humans

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given the all-clear to a clinical trial of embryonic stem cells as a treatment for spinal-cord injury.

It is potentially the first time embryonic stem cells will be tested on humans.

The developer of the treatment, Geron Corporation, said the FDA had removed a clinical hold on its GRNOPC1 therapy.

It hopes to start testing GRNOPC1 on humans by year's end, enrolling eight to 10 patients across the US.

The trial will take about two years, with each patient being studied for one year.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Quadriplegic John Callahan: Irreverent, Hilarious, Touching, and Sometimes Tasteless, Dies

Fearless John Callahan pushed boundaries of taste and humor with his art Gallery

On Saturday, John Callahan died at 59. He was among the most brilliant and original cartoonists who ever lived. If you never heard of him, it is because he assured his semi-obscurity by venturing into some of the most unnerving, taboo areas imaginable, in a fearless pursuit of humor.

A blind man is plummeting off a cliff. In front of him, on a leash, also falling, is a small animal. The blind man is thinking, "Why did I buy a seeing-eye lemming?"

Callahan was a quadriplegic; he drew with two spastic hands, held together as if in prayer, each giving the other just enough support to fashion a semi-straight line, a line just squirrelly enough to give the drawing a slightly lunatic feel. As it happens, "slightly lunatic" was perfect.

A man is selling puppies on the street. The grim reaper has walked up to him, accompanied by her three little grim reaper children. They are excitedly bouncing around, saying, "Mommy! Mommy! Can we kill the puppies?"

In the late 1980s, when we were editors of the Sunday magazine of the Miami Herald, Tom Shroder and I first saw a Callahan cartoon in a small weekly newspaper in Oregon -- the only sort of paper at the time that would run his stuff. This was it:

Two horseflies are sitting on a couch. The male fly is putting the moves on the female fly. On the floor, in front of them, are some little round objects. The female fly is saying: "Darling! Not in front of the maggots!"

A few weeks later, Tom and I began running Callahan's work every week in our magazine, Tropic. I believe we gave Callahan his first big break in the mainstream media, and it began a long collaboration and friendship.

Headless bodies are stumbling out of a restaurant, blood spurting from the necks. The restaurant's name is "The Low Ceiling-Fan Cafe."

I think Callahan, who never achieved any significant degree of commercial success, was the first and best to apply such darkness to the comics; this sort of edge is now almost mainstream. If you watch "Family Guy" or "South Park" or "American Dad," you will see that they are Callahan's children.


Callahan's Web Page

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Stingley's "Assassin" Dies

Jack Tatum, Whose Tackle Paralyzed Player, Dies at 61

Jack Tatum, the former Oakland Raiders player who earned the nickname the Assassin for his brutal hits, none of them more devastating than a blow that left New England Patriots wide receiver Darryl Stingley paralyzed in 1978, died Tuesday in Oakland, Calif. He was 61.
Ben Margot/Associated Press

Tatum, known as the Assassin, burnished the Raiders’ outlaw image with hits like this one on Minnesota’s Sammy White.

The Raiders announced his death on their Web site. The cause was a heart attack, Tatum’s friend and former Ohio State teammate John Hicks told The Associated Press. Tatum had suffered from diabetes in recent years, leading to the amputation of a leg.

Tatum played 10 seasons in the National Football League and won a Super Bowl ring in 1977 with the Raiders, whose outlaw image was enhanced by Tatum’s ferocious style of play.

Tatum, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, was one of the most feared hitters in football, and he came to be a symbol of a violent game. “I like to believe that my best hits border on felonious assault,” he wrote in a 1980 book, “They Call Me Assassin.”

His collision with Stingley, one of the most indelible in N.F.L. history, defined Tatum’s reputation. It came on Aug. 12, 1978, in a preseason game against the Patriots at Oakland Coliseum. Stingley was running a crossing pattern, and the force of the hit fractured two vertebrae in Stingley’s neck and severely damaged his spinal cord, leaving him a quadriplegic.

No penalty flags were thrown and Tatum was not disciplined — but Stingley and Tatum never reconciled. Tatum did not apologize for the hit, earning him considerable national scorn.

“It was tough on him, too,” Hicks told The A.P. “He wasn’t the same person after that. For years he was almost a recluse.”

In his 1980 book, Tatum wrote: “When the reality of Stingley’s injury hit me with its full impact, I was shattered. To think that my tackle broke another man’s neck and killed his future.”


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Happy Birthday ADA!

A generation has passed since Rene David Luna, 54, chained his wheelchair in front of a CTA bus and swung a sledgehammer to make a point about the city's sidewalks.

Since then, he said, the world has changed in ways that younger people cannot imagine.

"People assume the buses all arrived with lifts on them," Luna said. "They don't know we had to fight for them."

Register with Chicago Tribune and receive free newsletters and alerts >>

Two decades ago, activists combined their struggle to navigate ordinary obstacles with the extraordinary effort of convincing the country that the rights of the disabled were as fundamental as the rights of other minorities.

This month marks the 20th anniversary of that effort's culmination in the landmark Americans With Disabilities Act, signed into law by President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990.

The law established broad civil rights for people with disabilities and promoted their full participation in and access to services and activities, paving the way for the next generation of disabled Americans to expect access as a basic right.

Joe Russo, a 45-year-old attorney who is deputy commissioner of compliance in Mayor Richard Daley's Office for People With Disabilities, said it is a mark of the law's achievement.

"I'm glad," he said. "I want them to take it for granted."

Things were different when Russo, who has used a wheelchair most of his life as a result of a degenerative disease, was attending law school at New York University in the late 1980s. The campus, he said, had virtually no accommodations, forcing him to use backdoor delivery entrances.


Friday, July 16, 2010

Well at Least She Had Something to Eat While She Waited for Help

Wheelchair Lady Saved by Blackberries

A Roseburg woman is lucky she was found Thursday afternoon after a bizarre accident.

The woman, who lives in the Riverview Terrace Retirement Center at the corner of Stewart Parkway and Harvard was attempting to cross the bridge over the South Umpqua River towards Stewart Park.

Her motorized wheelchair slipped off the right side of the pedestrian walkway just before entering the bridge.

Firefighters say she and the wheelchair rolled down the embankment into a large grow of blackberries.

Thankfully, a passing motorist saw the chair and stopped to see what was going on. They say the woman was so far into the vines that they couldn't see her, but they heard her calling out for help.

Firefighters had to cut away the berry vines to get to her, and they were able to carry the woman up to the sidewalk.

She was transported to Mercy Medical Center for treatment, and northbound traffic was shut down for about a half hour while the woman was rescued from the berry patch.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

You Will Not Win Any Races Here But Up You Go

Bionic legs allow paralyzed man to walk again

When Hayden Allen suffered a spinal cord injury in a motorbike accident five years ago, doctors told him he’d never walk again.

But today a revolutionary product developed by a New Zealand biotech company has enabled him to do just that.

Mr Allen has been one of the first people in the world to use Rex, the Robotic Exoskeleton - a pair of robotic legs that supports and assists a person who usually uses a wheelchair.

It lets them stand, walk and go up and down steps and slopes.

‘I’ll never forget what it was like to see my feet walking under me the first time I used Rex,' said Mr Allen.

‘People say to me, "Look up when you’re walking" but I just can’t stop staring down at my feet moving.’

Rex users move from their chair into Rex, strap themselves in and control their movements using a joystick and control pad.

The equipment weighs 38kg (84lb) and is individually made for each user.

It is powered by a lightweight, long-life rechargeable battery.

Mr Allen, a mechanic, also spoke of how liberated he felt around his workshop as he now has far more access to machinery - and he can finally talk to people at eye level again.

Dr Richard Roxburgh, Auckland neurologist and medical adviser to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, said: ‘For many of my patients, Rex represents the first time they’ve been able to stand up and walk for years.

Read more:


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Dallas Cowboys Facility Collapse: Rich Behm Left Paralyzed - Update

Dallas Cowboys staff member Rich Behm was seriously injured and left paralyzed from the waist down when the team's practice facility collapsed in May. Here are Babe Laufenberg's thoughts about the interview, the only one Behm has given since he was injured.

As with any interview, you always want to get the story right and to do justice to the subject at hand. I have always believed in fairness; always tried very hard to make sure that the subject was the story, not me doing the interview.

This story was a bit unique for me, however. I have known Rich Behm for many years, as well as his brother, Chris. Chris works in the Cowboys Television Department, and I have done many shows with Chris, both radio and television. I received the call from Chris as he was driving to the hospital the night of the accident. He was at a wedding a couple of hours away, knowing that in all likelihood his brother would never walk again. I could sense the helplessness in his voice, the anxiety, and the feeling that if he had been at the facility, maybe, just maybe, there would have been something he could have done. No matter how much reality would tell you otherwise, I think you could understand his thought process.

I think we all try to imagine how we would handle certain situations that occur in other people's lives, both tragic and triumphant. The truth is, we don't really know until we are actually confronted with the situation.

I have spoken to Rich many times since the accident, but always on the relatively superficial level, thinking -- however naively -- that, "Hey, maybe if I don't mention it, he won't know he is paralyzed."


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Bear Attacks, Carries Off, and Eats Wheelchair User

Anchorage Police are asking residents to take extra precautions around bears after a bizarre incident Thursday morning almost a triggered a bear attack in East Anchorage.

Officers say they responded to the 200 block of Yellow Leaf Circle just after 10 a.m. when neighbors called to report a woman was chasing a bear down an alley.

When they arrived, they learned that a black bear had jumped into Karan Nixon's fenced yard on the nearby Orange Leaf Circle, snatching her pet rabbit "George" with its teeth.

After hearing the rabbit screaming, the Nixon, who was wearing stockings, then chased the bear through several yards and down an alley.

However, the bear kept running, jumped over a fence and took off with George.

Neighbors say George was well known in the neighborhood because his back two legs were paralyzed, so his previous owner built him a two-wheeled cart to get around in. In addition, George was in training to become a therapy pet.

Neighbors also told police they were concerned for children and other pets in the Muldoon area because that particular bear had been causing problems recently in the neighborhood, getting into trash and people's yards.

Although Nixon was not hurt in this situation, Police say they'd like to remind all Anchorage residents to keep a close eye on their pets while bears are active, especially when they are near food.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Move the Stroller So the Disabled Chick Doesn't Kill Herself

Transit priority seating pits baby strollers against wheelchairs

Lyle Attfield couldn’t just sit by and watch. As he tells it, he was sitting on a bus when the driver denied service to a man in a wheelchair waiting at a stop.

The priority seating was full, taken up by parents with strollers.

“(The bus driver) didn’t want to ask the strollers to move and technically, that’s in their mandate,” said Attfield, who has been lobbying B.C. Transit to enforce its rules for years. “If you keep pushing the disabled out, they stay inside and the suicide rate goes up. It all comes down to human rights.”

On this day, however, Attfield took matters into his own hands.

After arguing with the driver, he got off the bus and sat down on the front bumper in protest. Eventually a police officer ended the standoff and gave Attfield a $115 ticket for disrupting bus travel.

On June 21, a provincial traffic court judge upheld the ticket, but Attfield plans to appeal to the Supreme Court.

“This has got to stop,” said Attfield, who has a disability but does not use a wheelchair.

B.C. Transit’s policy suggests wheelchair users have priority.

“Strollers must be collapsible,” according to information posted on its website. “When the wheelchair positions are required by another customer using a wheelchair or scooter: the customer should fold the stroller, move to another available seat and store the stroller between the seats.”

Compliance with the policy, however, is left to the discretion of the customer.

“As a public service, we cannot deny service to customers that in are in compliance with our rules,” according to information from the public relations department.

“Transit operates on first-come, first-served basis. In reality, we have found that most of our customers are willing to offer their seats for people with disabilities or mobility challenges.”

Joanne Neubauer, however, thinks enforcement of the stroller-folding recommendation is needed.

“We think the bus drivers need to be doing their job,” she said.

As vice-president of the Action Committee of People with Disabilities, Neubauer uses a wheelchair and relies on the bus to go everywhere. She’s also been left waiting at the curb many times when strollers are parked in the priority seating.


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Take the Spinal Cord Injury Quiz

Take the following quiz to test your understanding of spinal cord injury and its causes.

1: Firearms are a leading cause of spinal cord injury.

2: You don’t have to have direct trauma to your neck to actually break the vertebrae and injure the cord.

3: Helmets will help prevent spinal cord injuries.

4: Spinal cord injuries can paralyze you, but not kill you directly.

5: Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injury in people under the age of 65.

6: If you suffer an injury like a fractured cervical vertebrae (neck bone) that can lead to a spinal cord injury, you may not have any pain or symptoms right away.


1: TRUE — If you’ve ever seen pictures of EMTs and paramedics working on a gunshot wound victim you may also have noticed the patient often is immobilized on a long backboard with a cervical collar, even when there appears to be no injury to the neck or back. The force of a bullet going into the torso creates a strong energy wave and, in some cases, a sudden and extreme increase in heat. This pressure and heat can cause severe damage to surrounding bone and tissue even without direct contact from the bullet. Patients are kept immobile on a backboard until spinal injuries are ruled out.

2: TRUE — For example, hitting your head on the bottom of a pool can cause direct trauma to your forehead, but the force is transferred back to the cervical (neck) portion of the spine and can result in a breaking of the vertebral bone and a stretching, tearing, or severing of the spinal nerves that are supposed to be protected within the vertebral bones. This also factors in with injuries sustained when diving into the surf and not knowing there’s a sandbar or shallow water beneath; diving into a lake or river and not realizing it’s shallow or that there are rocks, pilings, old cars, or other obstructions hidden below the surface; or body surfing on a day when the surf is rough and the waves are breaking close to shore. The latter are known as “dumpers” because they “dump” you hard onto the sand.

3: FALSE – Helmets protect your head and, depending on the type, your face, too. They do little to nothing to protect your spine.

4: FALSE – If the spinal injury is up high enough on the neck, you will not be able to control your breathing. If you are in the water when this occurs, death may occur even faster, especially if you are face down and nobody realizes you cannot roll yourself over. Many sufferers of spinal cord injury do die of secondary problems, months or years later.

5: TRUE — Being thrown from a car greatly increases the risk of spinal cord injury. Even low-speed accidents can cause spinal injury if no seat belt was worn. Insist that everyone (including you) wear a seat belt, and don’t drive with anyone who has been drinking alcohol.

6: TRUE — It’s not uncommon to have EMTs and paramedics immobilize a person at the scene of an accident based solely on what we call the mechanism of injury. Even if symptoms are not present, a cervical bone fracture may be present. This broken bone could move and slice the spinal cord or there may be a contusion (bruise) on the spinal cord that may not result in numbness or paralysis until the swelling increases minutes to hours later. If the pre-hospital medical personnel suggest you go to the hospital to have your neck/spine checked out, do so. There may be indications of this type of injury of which you are unaware.

More than half the 11,000 people who suffer spinal cord injury each year are between the ages of 15 and 29. Most of these tragic injuries are the result of sports injuries, diving, car accidents, and gunshot wounds. Older adults tend to suffer spinal cord injury more often from falls.


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Motorcycle for Wheelchair User

The Mobility Conquest, a sleek motorcycle trike designed for the wheelchair-bound, will make its debut July 4-9 at the National Veteran’s Wheelchair Games in Denver.

We are excited to participate and sponsor the Veterans Wheelchair Games. We look forward to helping our service men and women reconnect with their passion for riding motorcycles.

The Conquest offers stylish freedom for the wheelchair-bound driver with challenges from the waist down who wants to still enjoy the thrill of riding a cycle on the open road. The Conquest offers convenience, maneuverability and safety to a driver. It also offers independence as entry into the trike is easy with the driver remaining in his/her own wheelchair and gliding up the built-in, rear ramp. The trike then safely locks into place for a smooth ride. The Mobility Conquest is dedicated to providing handicapped persons who have a love of the road and desire to reconnect with the sport following disability.

The trike is fully road and track tested and complies with U.S. safety standards. A BMW engine allows the trike to accelerate to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds. Six hand-controlled forward gears plus reverse and keyless entry are standard on all Conquests. Each trike can be tailored to individual needs and other options are also available. An added benefit: each trike can comfortably accommodate a passenger. Uniquely designed front and rear suspension help to avoid any changes to driving or handling due to the increased weight of a passenger. Another benefit is that a service animal may also ride along. 

The Conquest Motorcycle
The Conquest Motorcycle

Friday, July 2, 2010

Catch a Wave and You'lll be Sitting on Top of a Chair

Summer at the Jersey Shore usually comes with a dip in the ocean. It's refreshing, fun and potentially treacherous.

It left Paul Haynes a quadriplegic, and 21-year-old Madeline McNichol with a broken neck.

"I was in so much pain," said Madeline.

"I thought I was going to die," said Paul. He was just standing in waist deep water in Ocean City to cool off, when a powerful wave changed his life forever.

"I didn't think it had the strength that it did to pick me up because I'm 6-5 and I weigh 250 pounds. And believe me I was picked up like a rag doll and drove me straight into the ocean bottom," said Paul.


In an instant, this hard working New Jersey family man was paralyzed and just barely alive.

"He looked at me and I said it's going to be okay. Sorry and he rolled his eyes back like ya know, gee I don't know. It was pretty traumatic," said Jeanne Haynes, Paul's wife.

Paul survived and now depends on his wife and a wheelchair for everything.

"I didn't think it was possible," said Paul.

"The oceans a dangerous place," said Nancy McNichol, Madeline's mother. She's relieved her daughter is home and able to move, after the accident less than two weeks ago.

Every summer the family goes to Wildwood Crest. Madeline has dived into the ocean hundreds of times. This time her head slammed into a sandbar.

"The waves are rough. The water gets very shallow very quickly. The tides change. The sandbars come in and they go and it's not, it's not as safe," said Madeline. She knows she's very lucky.