Saturday, December 24, 2011

Paralyzed Rutgers Player on Cover of Sports Illustrated

Growing up as a kid, Eric LeGrand dreamed of seeing himself on the cover of Sports Illustrated. He could have never imagined it coming like this, however. LeGrand, the former Rutgers defensive tackle, collided with an Army player in October of 2010, suffering a spinal cord injury, two fractured vertebrae and paralysis. Doctors thought he’d be on a respirator the rest of his life.

Instead, LeGrand continues to amaze them. He’s been working in rehab and, on Oct. 29, was able to join his teammates on the field in a motorized wheelchair. That moment was named the best sports moment in 2011, an award that was voted on by fans, and a photo from that day graces the cover of Sports Illustrated this week.

Click to see interview with Eric LeGrand

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Stud #1 Ranked High School Wrestler Paralyzed

Stunned Alleghany County residents are rallying around their star wrestler, Luke Hampton, who suffered a severe spinal cord injury on Saturday while wrestling in a tournament at Hibriten High School in Lenoir.

Hampton, 17, one of the state's top-ranked wrestlers and a senior at Alleghany High School, has been at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center since Saturday, after breaking his C5 and C6 vertebrae, according to Derrick Calloway, Alleghany's wrestling coach.

"The way they broke, it severely damaged his spinal cord," Calloway said.

According to, a website about wrestling, Hampton was the state's No. 1-ranked wrestler in Class 1-A at 182 pounds.

Calloway said Hampton charged his opponent early in the match on Saturday morning but lost his grip and went head-first into a padded wall.

"When I saw it, I thought maybe a concussion or he just hit his head," Calloway said. "Right when I got to him, I knew immediately it wasn't good."


Friday, November 11, 2011

Wheelchair Access? There's an App for That

An online service that provides transit directions in several cities is now giving New Yorkers an option to avoid stairs.

HopStop partnered with Fit Pregnancy magazine to identify stations and routes that have elevators and other features for wheelchairs and strollers. In some cases, that could mean taking buses and avoiding subways. Or it could mean getting off the subway a stop or two early.

HopStop offers transit directions in more than 50 cities, mostly in North America. Travelers enter their starting location and destination just as they do when seeking driving directions at Google and other sites. HopStop then offers the best ways to get there by public transportation.

The stairless option is currently available only in the New York area. HopStop plans to add other markets this year.

Get the App

Monday, October 24, 2011

New York Mayor Says Wheelchair Users Not Welcome

Mayor Bloomberg says new handicapped-accessible taxis wouldn't just be inconvenient for able-bodied riders - they'd be downright hazardous to their health.

Bloomberg said the modified suspensions and larger interior spaces of disabled-friendly cabs would cause injuries and spur lawsuits against taxi owners.

"The suspension is a lot worse, and it's harder to get up and pay the cab driver and get in and out and that sort of thing," Hizzoner said during his weekly radio show on WOR.

"I think you're going to see [lawsuits] about people getting up, trying to get to the front, across the divide. You know, there's so much more space between the backseat and the divider, you're going to have people getting hurt," he said.

Bloomberg drew the ire of disability advocates Wednesday when he complained that accessible cabs would be uncomfortable and inconvenient for able-bodied riders.

He was pushing back against efforts by the U.S. attorney's office and other advocates to make cabs more accessible.

Champions for the handicapped ripped Bloomberg's remarks yesterday.

Assemblyman Micah Kellner, a Manhattan Democrat who was born with cerebral palsy, called them "preposterous."

"He seems to be floundering here, literally making things up as he goes along," Kellner said.

"Clearly, the mayor is living in his own world," Kellner added. "The Americans with Disabilities Act is very clear: Everybody gets service, and this is public transportation."

Gov. Cuomo has warned that the push by the feds to expand handicapped cab access could doom Bloomberg's livery cab bill, which would authorize 30,000 livery cars in upper Manhattan and in the other boroughs to pick up street hails.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Wheelchair Video Game Available Free

A Spanish company has created the first, that I know of, video game that puts the gamer in a wheelchair.  Would this be fun?  Maybe...

You can download a copy here and try it for free.



Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Spinal Cord Injury Cure Takes Another Step Forward

Scientists reported Wednesday that for the first time they used cloning techniques to coax human eggs to generate embryonic stem cells containing the genes of specific patients.

The step, published in the journal Nature, marks a long-sought, potentially pivotal advance toward the goal of creating genetically matched embryonic stem cells that could be used to treat many major diseases.

The scientists so far have only managed to produce genetically abnormal cells useful for research, but they were confident they could overcome that hurdle.

“This work for the first time demonstrates that the human egg has the ability to turn a specialized cell into a stem cell,” said Dieter Egli of the New York Stem Cell Foundation, who led the research.

The research sidestepped fears that scientists had moved closer to human cloning by producing the cells with non-viable embryos. But the experiments nevertheless have raised a new set of ethical concerns in a field already rife with ethical, moral and political quagmires.

The research was possible because for the first time scientists paid women for their eggs for human embryonic stem cell research, stirring worries about women being exploited and putting their health at risk. At the same time, the researchers made the cells by producing and then destroying mutant embryos, whose moral status immediately became a matter of sharp debate.

The researchers who conducted the work and others hailed the advance as an ethically defensible, potentially highly significant advance that could lead to producing large numbers of patient-specific cells that could cure widespread suffering.

“Cell replacement therapy would dramatically change treatment and potentially even cure debilitating disease and injuries that affect millions of people suffering from these diseases,” said Susan L. Solomon, who heads the foundation. “There really is a moral imperative to alleviate suffering.”


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Tragic and Captivating Story of Danny Cox

Follow the story of Danny Cox as he chronicles his spinal cord injury starting from Day 1.

More here but watch all of the videos first:

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Bridge to Spinal Cord Injury Cure

Scientists restored breathing function in mice by bridging a spinal cord injury and regenerating lost nerve connections to the diaphragm.

More testing is necessary, but researchers are hopeful their technique will quickly be used in clinical trials.

Restoring breathing is the a top priority for people with upper spinal cord injuries, researchers say. Many rely on ventilators to breathe, which can be inconvenient and potentially dangerous.

“We use an old technology peripheral nerve graft and a new technology enzyme to restore breathing to nearly normal,” says Jerry Silver, professor of neurosciences at Case Western Reserve University and senior author of a study published in Nature.

Using a graft from the sciatic nerve, surgeons have been able to restore function to damaged peripheral nerves in the arms or legs for 100 years. But, they’ve had little or no success in using a graft on the spinal cord.

Nearly 20 years ago, Silver found that after a spinal injury, a structural component of cartilage, called chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans, was present and involved in the scarring that prevents axons from regenerating and reconnecting.

Silver knew that the bacteria Proteus vulgaris produced an enzyme called Chondroitinase ABC, which could break down such structures. In previous testing, he found that the enzyme clips the inhibitory sugary branches of proteoglycans, essentially opening routes for nerves to grow through.

In the new study, the researchers bridged a spinal cord injury at the second cervical level using a section of peripheral nerve and injected Chondroitinase ABC.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Hero Remembered

On Sept. 11, 2001, Mike and Evelyn Benfante of Verona got a call from their son, Michael, who was working in the World Trade Center. He said he was walking down a smokey stairwell, after “some kind of an explosion,” and was leading others down. Assisted by a colleague, he was also carrying a woman in a wheelchair, with 68 floors to go. After he hung up from his father, he pushed on as the firefighters were walking up toward the flames. While his family watched on television, both towers collapsed.

They finally and miraculously heard from their son, almost two hours later. “I saw horrible things that can’t be unseen or unremembered, but I also saw remarkable acts of helpfulness, selflessness, and generosity. That’s what I focus on to get through the memories,” explained Michael Benfante, Jr., almost 10 years after the attack.

The tragedy, escape and years of wrenching personal challenges are the subjects of Benfante’s new book, Reluctant Hero, A 9/11 Hero Speaks Out About That Unthinkable Day, What He’s Learned, How He’s Struggled and What No One Should Ever Forget, published by Skyhorse Publishing. Raised in Montclair, now living in Bloomfield with his wife, Joy, and their four-year old son, Benfante explained how impressed he was with the composure of those trying to escape through the stairwell. “People were watching out for each other, helping each other, being kind to one another, in spite of the worst attack on American soil taking place all around them,” Benfante added.

When he got to the 68th floor, Benfante left the stairwell to determine the situation when he noticed some women huddled in a group. As he called for them to get out of the building, they parted and there he saw a woman in a wheelchair. After offering to help her, she accepted but Benfante soon discovered her motorized wheelchair was too heavy to carry.

Call it karma, fate or a guardian angel, but nearby, Benfante noticed a lighter-weight evacuation wheelchair. After strapping her in, Benfante and his colleague John Cerqueira returned to the stairwell and started the descent through what was now a more crowded and hotter experience. A little more than 90 minutes later, after more doors and windows were blown in from the collapse of the south tower next door, Benfante, Cerqueira and Tina Hansen, the wheelchair-bound woman, exited the stairwell to a waiting ambulance outside.

Hansen started crying and motioned to Benfante to give her a hug. “I hugged her, gave her my business card and asked her to call me to see if I retrieved her motorized wheelchair,” Benfante continued. “That’s when I realized I was so focused on escaping that I never asked her name. When I turned around, the second tower began to collapse. We got out five minutes before the building came down.”


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Wheelchair Accessible Housing: How to Connect

When their father died in May, Holly Smith and her two sisters thought his home in the Heritage Hunt active-adult community in Gainesville would sell quickly to someone looking for a wheelchair-accessible property.

George F. Smith Jr., a career Army officer, and his wife had bought the spacious new home — with its wide hallways and doorways and its one-level living — in 2005 because it backed onto a golf course and they both loved to play golf. But after he received a diagnosis of ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, in 2009, the house was adapted for wheelchair use. The Department of Veterans Affairs paid for about $40,000 in changes, including a front ramp, alterations to the master bath and a lift on the rear deck, Holly Smith says. “The adaptations . . . made all the difference to his comfort. He might have had to go into a hospital or nursing home if the modifications had not been made.”

The house was listed at $589,000 this summer. But the family hasn’t had a single offer. They’ve struggled to connect with buyers who need the special features or who value them for possible future use. The ideal buyer, Holly Smith says, would need “a home with features like these, to save the expense and the waste of having these features removed if the new owners aren’t handicapped.” Smith and her Long & Foster agent, Amanda Scott, have concentrated on finding ways to connect with such buyers.

The experience has led Smith to wonder about the market for such homes: how others have sold and how people with disabilities find the right home. Smith, a London magazine editor, said she found just one Web site dedicated to the topic:, run by a paralyzed veteran in Dallas. It appears to be the only site devoted to selling adapted houses nationally, according to real estate associations, accessible housing specialists and organizations for the disabled.

Jackie Simon, a Gaithersburg real estate agent who has built a reputation for linking interested buyers with accessible housing, finds houses and clients mostly through direct-mail advertising aimed at those in the accessible-housing field; local chapters of associations of disabled people, such as the National Multiple Sclerosis Society; and other interested groups, such as special-needs lawyers and occupational therapists. “Many times when I have the listing, I don’t have the client,” she says. “And when I have the client, I don’t have the listing.”


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Bionic Legs

"1, 2, 3 stand," said John Greer's physical therapist.

It's providing hope.

"In over 20 years I never walk and for the first hour I got up and walking it's pretty incredible," said John Greer.

We met John and his wife Chris Greer last November.

They are paraplegics raising an able-bodied child in Dylan.

Both were involved in traffic accidents as young adults.

John is a Castle High School graduate. He was 19 when the truck he was riding in flipped.

Chris is from the United Kingdom and was on the back of a motorcycle when it crashed. She suffered a broken back. She was 20.

They haven't walked since, until now.

"I'm always optimistic so I would think that one day I would bust out of these braces I'd be running and somebody will say run Forest run!" said John.

Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific is one of the 10 leading rehab hospitals in the country. It has partnered with Berkeley Bionics to conduct trials on eLEGS Pro, a wearable, battery-powered exoskeleton that allows wheelchair users to stand and walk.

"Within these four walls we have really one of the best rehab center in the world," said Berkeley Bionics CEO, Eythor Bender.

John and Chris were the first to try it.

"To actually move and take steps, yeah indescribable and it's been a long time since I've done that and it's almost like being a baby again when you retrain yourself," said Chris. "You know to shift your weight and starting all over again but amazing, amazing feeling."


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Diving Injuries Increasing

Lynne and Julian Lamoureux have been through a nightmare.

The parents of three from Dwight, Ont., spent the last month in Toronto by their son’s hospital bedside.

Bradon Lamoureux, 23, was swimming with friends on July 21 in the Lake-of-Bays area when he dove through a Hula Hoop headfirst into about a metre of shallow water. Bradon’s chin hit first and he severed his spinal cord and damaged his vertebrae from C3 to T1, leaving him a quadriplegic.

“We’re taking it day-by-day,” Lynne, 53, said. “He has a little bit of shoulder movement. We’re hoping to strengthen his diaphragm muscles so he can breathe on his own.”

Bradon is one of seven young people in their 20s and 30s who have been treated at St. Michael’s Hospital for diving-related spinal cord injuries since May.

Dr. Michael Cusimano, a neurosurgeon and director of St. Mike’s Injury Prevention Research Centre, said during the past decade there was only one diving-related spinal cord injury per year.

“For the nine years before this year we only had nine patients and for three years we had none. Now this summer we’ve had seven catastrophic spinal cord injuries, which have rendered young, healthy people quadriplegics and changed their lives drastically,” Cusimano said.

“It’s very tragic and alarming and our staff as well, have to deal with patients trying to get their lives back together again. Young people think they are invincible and it’s not going to happen to them,” Cusimano said.

Cusimano said the increase in diving-related spinal cord injuries could be related to the warm weather we’ve been enjoying, and unwise choices.

“Unfortunately, the vast majority of diving accidents are preventable. People need to know the risks and we need to raise awareness that this problem is happening,” Cusimano said.

“There’s a large number of people who underestimate the depth of water or are unfamiliar with the depth of water. People should jump in feet first or walk in and see that there’s no rocks or sharp objects and that the water is twice the height of a diver with a minimum of nine feet,” Cusimano said, adding alcohol and swimming also do not mix.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Look Younger and Pee: Is Botox for Me?

Urinary incontinence in spinal cord injury patients could be treated using Botox, new evidence suggests.

Allergen Inc has announced that the Irish Medicines Board supports the use of this treatment to treat urinary incontinence in spinal cord injury and multiple sclerosis patients.

Many patients with these conditions have neurogenic detrusor overactivity, meaning their bladders contract during the filling stage, when they should be relaxed.

Injecting Botox into the bladder muscle causes the involuntary contractions to subside, increasing bladder activity and cutting urinary leaking incidents.

Douglas Ingram, chief executive officer of European Allergan, said: "For many people with spinal cord injury or multiple sclerosis, gaining effective control over their bladder and staying dry can be a significant step towards improving daily functioning and overall quality of life."


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Trading Places

Standing room: Some buses missing half of seats
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Some Port Authority riders have been surprised to board buses this week and find all of the seats missing from the front.

The authority has modified 22 buses to serve next week's 31st National Veterans Wheelchair Games, which is holding ceremonies and events at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown, and venues on the North Shore and in Oakland, Fox Chapel, Jefferson Hills and Whitehall.

Spokesman Jim Ritchie said some of the buses have been needed to fill service in recent days because half of the fleet is going through semiannual inspections and bus shuttles have been needed during work on the Light Rail Transit system and closures of the Monongahela Incline.

The modified buses are being used for regular service only as a last resort, he said.

The wheelchair games are presented by the Paralyzed Veterans of America and Department of Veterans Affairs and hosted by the Keystone Paralyzed Veterans of America and VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. Nearly 600 athletes from 46 states, Puerto Rico and Great Britain will compete from Monday through Saturday.


Disabled Can Do Any Occupation Given the Opportunity

Wheelchair Guy Robs $70K from Bank

Police are searching for a gunman who robbed a bank in a wheelchair disguise.

Detectives say the man rolled into AmTrust Bank near Chandler Boulevard and 40th Street Tuesday morning.

The suspect demanded money from a teller at gunpoint.

The teller complied and he placed the cash it in what appeared to be a laptop bag.

The suspect got away with $70,000.

He was last seen getting out of the wheelchair and running away from the bank.

According to police, witnesses said he may have driven away in a newer model red Ford Taurus.

He was wearing a long-sleeved pinstripe shirt, a tan Fedora hat with a red and blue stripe, jeans and black boots.

The suspect is described as a Hispanic man, about 5' 7" to 5' 9" tall. He has a slim build, weighing about 180 pounds and in his late 20s to early 30s.

Surveillance images have not yet been released.

Anyone with information is asked to call the police or Silent Witness.

Gunman in Wheelchair Robs Phoenix Bank of $70K:


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Lady Gaga Now in a Wheelchair

Miley used a stripper pole for on sex appeal but Gaga uses a wheelchair
She has been criticised for her use of religious symbolism, slammed for some of her song lyrics and had animal rights groups up in arms over her meat dress.

But Lady Gaga might have pushed her critics over the edge last night after she came on stage in Australia in a wheelchair.

The able-bodied star has caused outrage among disability groups after she wheeled herself on in front of 1,000 people at the Sydney Town Hall.
Artistic or a wheely bad joke? Lady Gaga comes on stage in a wheelchair during her concert at the Sydney Town Hall in Australia last night

Artistic or a wheely bad joke? Lady Gaga comes on stage in a wheelchair during her concert at the Sydney Town Hall in Australia last night

Six songs into the ten song set, Gaga went off for a costume change and came on in a wheelchair wearing a PVC mermaid tail before launching into her single You And I.

But although her fans went crazy for the performance, it was met with disapproval from some disability organisations and advocacy groups.

In a statement to RadarOnline, Jesse Billauer, founder of the Life Rolls On Foundation, fumed: 'I haven’t seen Lady Gaga’s performance, but respect her artistic expression as an artist.
Outrage: But this was not the first time Gaga had used a wheelchair as a prop - and she wasn't the first star to do so either

Outrage: But this was not the first time Gaga had used a wheelchair as a prop - and she wasn't the first star to do so either

'Since this isn’t the first time she has used a wheelchair in her performances, I invite her to learn more about the 5.6 million Americans who live with paralysis.

'I extend a personal invitation to Lady Gaga to attend one of our Life Rolls On events where quadriplegics and paraplegics surf, skate, and snowboard, so she can see how much is possible beyond a wheelchair.

'Maybe that will be most shocking to her of all. They, like me, unfortunately, don’t use a wheelchair for shock value.'


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Breathing Restored in SCI Rats

Neuroscientists reported on Wednesday they had made inroads against spinal injury by restoring breathing in lab rats whose key cervical nerves had been severed.

The technique has yet to be tested on humans, but if it works could ease one of the biggest problems for people with catastrophic damage to their spinal cord, they said.

Damage above the fourth cervical vertebra in the neck invariably interrupts breathing. The patient has to be put on a ventilator, and this carries a recurrent danger of respiratory infection.

Under normal circumstances, the rate and depth of breathing are controlled automatically by nerve cells in the brain stem.

To do this, these neurons in turn control specialised motor cells located from the third to the sixth cervical vertebrae.

These cells develop farther down into the so-called phrenic nerve, which causes the muscles of the diaphram to relax and contract and the lungs to fill and empty.

A team led by Jerry Silver, a professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Ohio, report on an experimental way of bridging damage in the key cervical area.

They injured rats' spinal cords at the second cervical level to paralyse one-half of the diaphragm, and grafted in a tiny section of peripheral nerve from the rodents' limbs, attaching it both before and after the damage site.

The idea was to use the peripheral nerve as a bridge on which the precursor cells for the phrenic nerve could grow.

The technique had been tried before but was hampered by molecules which build up at the site of spinal cord injuries and inhibit regrowth of nerves.

To get around this, the researchers injected an enzyme called chondroitinase ABC at both ends of the graft to degrade the inhibitors and open up avenues in the scar tissue through which the nerves could -- hopefully -- grow.

After three months, tests showed that between 80 and 100 percent of breathing function had been restored, a performance that was maintained at the six-month mark.


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Tongue Piercing Aids Spinal Cord Injured

CHICAGO — Martin Mireles says his mother was not happy with his tongue piercing: It didn’t fit his image as a former church youth leader.

But as Mr. Mireles told her, it was for research. Paralyzed from a spinal cord injury since he was shot in the neck almost two decades ago, he was recently fitted with a magnetic stud that allows him to steer his wheelchair with his tongue.

Now he is helping researchers at the Northwestern University School of Medicine here in a clinical trial of the technology, being financed with almost $1 million in federal stimulus funds.

Mr. Mireles, 37, tested the equipment one recent afternoon by guiding a wheelchair through an obstacle course lined with trash cans. Mouth closed, he shifted the magnet to travel forward and backward, left and right.

The study was one of about 200 projects selected from more than 20,000 applicants.

“There was a ‘wow’ factor here,” said Naomi Kleitman, a program director at the National Institutes of Health and an expert on spinal cord injury research. “This is kind of a cool idea. The question is: Will it work well enough not to just be cool, but to be practical too?”

A quarter-million Americans have severe spinal cord injuries, and experts estimate that there are about 10,000 new injuries each year. Millions more have some form of paralysis from an array of conditions, including stroke, multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy.

Wheelchair users do have several options now, including the “sip and puff” technology, used by the actor Christopher Reeve before his death in 2004, in which the chair is steered by breathing through a straw.

But Maysam Ghovanloo, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, wanted to create a technology that would be more aesthetically pleasing — without a straw obscuring the face — and more intuitive for users, with better control and greater flexibility.

After working on the tongue drive system for about five years, Dr. Ghovanloo is now conducting the clinical trials with Northwestern, the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and the Shepherd Center in Atlanta.

To operate the system, the user wears a headset with sensors that pick up magnetic signals from the tongue ring. Moving the tongue to the mouth’s upper left corner, for instance, moves the wheelchair forward. (The researchers hope that in the future, touching each tooth could signal a different command, from turning on the television to answering the phone to opening a door.)


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Scores of wheelchair users washed away by tsunami

Poor wheelchair access killed many

OTSUCHI, Iwate Pref. — At least one person in a wheelchair was washed away by the March 11 tsunami in the coastal town of Otsuchi, Iwate Prefecture, because the path to the designated evacuation shelter didn't have a ramp despite repeated requests by residents to create one.

Following the incident, the municipal government said it will overhaul its disaster prevention plan.

The shelter was a temple at the top of 40 steps. Tsui Takashimizu, 92, was washed away after she was stranded at the bottom of the steps, according to her son, Akio. He said the tsunami arrived too quickly for him to help his mother.

The tragedy highlights financial problems at cities with aging populations. Despite repeated requests in 2008 and last year for an alternative route to another designated evacuation shelter, the municipal government said it couldn't afford the project.

The area has many elderly wheelchair users. According to witnesses, several other elderly disabled people were also swept away near the temple as they waited to be carried up.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Look Mom, No Stem Cells

A new study is giving hope to millions who are paralyzed as the result of spinal cord injuries. The results of a new treatment challenge the conventional thinking that signals from the brain are needed for walking.

It might be a small step for 25-year-old Rob Summers, of Portland, Ore., but it's a giant leap for the five-and-a-half million people with spinal cord injuries.

Five years ago, "Early Show" co-anchor Chris Wragge reported, the elite athlete had dreams of becoming a major league baseball player, but was struck by a drunk driver while standing outside his home.

"The car then drove off, leaving me there with nothing and no help, no hope," Summers said.

Doctors told Summers he would never walk again. He was paralyzed from the chest down.

Summers said he was told, " 'You'll never take a step. Nothing."'

But his life changed after meeting Dr. Susan Harkema, of the University of Louisville. He became the first patient to take part in an experimental therapy for his type of paralysis.

Summers' injury disrupted the nerve pathway that normally triggers walking. Researchers implanted an electrical stimulator at the base of the spine that -- along with special exercises -- enabled his legs to move without input from the brain.

Having gone four years without any movement in his lower body, he was standing on his own in just three days -- a breakthrough that could change the future treatment of paralysis.

Summers said, "It was absolutely an incredible feeling."

Now, he can even take a few steps on a treadmill.

The results of the research have been published in the medical journal Lancet. The research was funded by the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, which was established after the late actor suffered his spinal cord injury.

The foundation's Susan Howley says, "These are early days, this is a first step, we have a very long way to go, but I think the implications are enormous. And I think Christopher Reeve would be very, very pleased."

And on "The Early Show," Rob Summers said he went into the therapy with "an open mind and a strong work ethic."

"I was optimistic from day one," he said.

Summers said when he regained some movement in his lower extremities it was "incredible."

"After not having moved anything for four years, and being able to stand, it was the best feeling I've ever had," he said.

Dr. Susan Harkema, who spearheaded the effort for the experimental therapy, said on "The Early Show" she was surprised how early Summers responded to the treatment.

She said, "It was gratifying to know that decades of research by many scientists had reached a point where it might help people with paralysis."

Harkema said Summers was a good candidate because he had no motor activity in his limbs.

She explained, "A lot of scientific decisions went into (our decision). ... We trained him intensely to make sure that there wasn't any possibility of recovery before we took this next step."

Since the therapy began, Summers said his life has changed.

He said, "Now I can stand. I've gotten my confidence back to just go out in the public, and be out in the world again. As well as I work on standing for one hour a day, as well as voluntary movement. I can move my toes, ankles, knees and hips, all on command. And that's just an amazing feeling to be able to get that back."

Summers said his next goal is to stand and walk "completely normal(ly)"

He said, "I'm working towards that every day."

Harkema said there's a long road ahead.

"There's technology that needs to be developed, and more research, and testing it in other people," she said. "But it just opened up a whole new set of opportunities."

Going mainstream with these therapies, Harkema said is the goal.

"That's what we're working towards," she said. "An important aspect is that there's knowledge we have now that can make incremental changes in people's lives. And so we need to start there, and then just continue to learn more about the circuitry and how we can take advantage of it to improve function and people's quality of life."

Wragge asked, "The doctor said you'll never take another step again. What did you tell him?"

"I said, 'I'm going to walk,'" Summers said.

Wragge said, "And you're doing it."


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Spinal Cord Injury Leads to Rugby

There I was, flat on my back in intensive care at Harborview Medical Center with a 35-pound weight screwed to my skull keeping the pressure off of my two shattered vertebrae and severed spinal cord. Now what?

"Have you ever heard of Murderball?" The sweet-voiced, redheaded nurse asked me through a slight grin.

I was injured Memorial Day Weekend of 2007 while diving into Lake Chelan. A mound of sand under the water broke my fall and my C6 and C7 vertebrae, severing my spinal cord and leaving me paralyzed from the chest down and without the use of my fingers.

Fast forward through three years of rehabilitation and adjustments to my new life on wheels and there I was, strapped into a mass of metal and rubber, about to embark on an experience that would change my life forever.

Murderball, also known by the more marketable name of quad rugby, is a fast-paced, full-contact sport that is played by quadriplegics and others with various disabilities, the only requirement being significant impairment to at least three limbs.

It is a highly competitive, sometimes violent sport that is played in specialized reinforced wheelchairs that are built to take a serious beating - which they most definitely do.

Four players from each team pass a volleyball back and forth on a basketball court and score by crossing an 8-meter goal line at the opponent's end of the court. The defensive team tries to prevent the scoring at all costs; by ramming and hooking and, if they hit them right, even toppling opposing players.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. After 13 hours of surgery to stabilize my crushed spine, I spent four weeks in intensive care and eight more in inpatient trauma rehab. Three months after I rolled into the hospital on a stretcher, I rolled back out in a 600-pound power wheelchair.

The next two years were filled with rigorous physical therapy as I tried to regain enough strength in my arms to perform basic tasks needed for independence. At 22 years old, adjusting to my new life proved to be extremely difficult at times.

I never imagined that even the simplest tasks could be so challenging. The first time I put on my own pants was an exhausting cross between a wrestling match and a balancing act. Sometimes it was such a struggle that I debated the importance of wearing pants at all.

Once I decided pants were a necessity, I found out how hard it is to turn a doorknob when you can't move your fingers, or reach that ice tray in the back of the freezer. And I had never before noticed how many steps there are in the world.

More than a year after my hospital stay, I was finally able to trade in my power wheelchair for a much more manageable - and stylish - manual one. This gave me the freedom and self-confidence to resume some of my favorite activities, like sampling the beer at the local watering hole.

I got involved with quad rugby after a chance encounter with Jeremy Hannaford (who stole my handicap parking space at that very watering hole). He also suffered from a significant spinal cord injury and happened to be one of the captains of the Seattle Slam, Washington's only sanctioned quad rugby team.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Paralyzed rugby player's brilliant surgeon: "90% is in your head"

Taieri teenager Austen Haig remains positive, despite a serious spinal injury suffered in a club rugby match last month.

Haig (19) injured his spine while playing hooker for the Taieri Colts side at Peter Johnstone Park on April 16, and is now in Burwood Hospital, in Christchurch.

His prognosis is not clear yet, and his mother Helen says it could be six to eight weeks before the exact damage, and whether he can walk again, are known.

But good news had come over the past couple of days.

"Yesterday [Sunday] he managed to move his right foot, just wiggled it a bit. Then today they managed to get him out of bed and into a wheelchair for half an hour and that will be gradually increased this week," she said from Christchurch.

Haig, an accounting and chemistry student at the University of Otago, injured his back five minutes into the game, when he was hit at a breakdown.

An ambulance was called and Mrs Haig, who was not initially at the game, also came racing to see what had happened.

"It looked pretty awful. His body was lying there and his legs were all skewed off to the side."

Haig was taken to Dunedin Hospital where it was discovered he had dislocated his C6 vertebrae and his spinal cord had been crushed.

Through the use of weights on a halo brace, the dislocated vertebrae was put back in place at Dunedin Hospital. He was flown to Christchurch Hospital the next day, where his C5 and C6 vertebrae were fused together.

It would take another few weeks before the swelling of hids spinal cord came down, and there could be a clear prognosis.

"We're just at the waiting stage at the moment but the good thing is the spinal cord is still intact."

At the moment, he was a tetraplegic but Helen Haig said her son's attitude had been amazing and he kept everyone thinking positively.

"He mentioned to me how he is keeping everyone together. His attitude is just great, just thinking totally positive. There is none of that 'poor me' sort of stuff.

"He's telling me we can get through this. When he had the first operation the surgeon said that 90% of the recovery is in your head and he has remembered that."


"Insurance" money runs out on quad

ROBBINS, Ill. -- Rocky Clark sometimes dreams he's running track, racing around the oval as he once did, his heart pumping fast and his long legs a blur as he crossed the finish line.

Just thinking about it makes him smile.

Some nights, though, he has another recurring dream, this one pure fantasy. He sees himself in white shorts and track shoes, running again, then stopping, kneeling in prayer before a church door, somehow unable to make it inside.

When he awakens, Rocky Clark inhabits a world largely confined to four walls. Surrounding him are glass-encased autographed footballs and cherished memories of his glory days: Blue-and-gold ribbons. Trophies. And giant varsity letters from Eisenhower High School, his alma mater.

Clark can do little but swivel his head. He can't move his arms or legs. More than a decade ago, he was paralyzed from the neck down after being tackled in a high school football game. After nine months in rehab and a hospital bill approaching $1 million, he went home.

As a quadriplegic, his long-term prospects were slim. And over the years, there have been regular hospital stays and health scares – no surprise, considering Clark's fragile condition. He has just one working lung. His right lung is partially paralyzed; certain infections could kill him.

And yet Clark has endured. His doctor credits top-notch, round-the-clock home health care paid for by the school district's $5 million catastrophic health insurance policy. But that's run out, so the nurses and money are gone, replaced by his mother, growing financial pressures and a new sense of foreboding.

Rasul "Rocky" Clark beat the odds. And now he wonders if he's paying a price for his survival.


A week before his injury, Rocky Clark vowed to his mother that he'd strike it rich as an athlete one day and buy her a house.

Annette Clark remembers her son as an acrobatic kid who mastered back flips at age 7, ran too fast for a spanking and was always throwing balls and rocks – the inspiration of his nickname, bestowed upon him by an uncle. He took up track, football and baseball and excelled at all three, collecting ribbons, trophies and medals.

"I love awards," he now says. "It's a need thing."

On a warm September night in 2000 just four plays into the game, Clark – a high school junior and running back for Eisenhower's Cardinals – was grabbed by the shoulder and tackled. His head hit the ground. At first, he recalls, there was silence.

"When I started coming around, I heard a bunch of ringing," he says. "My whole body was vibrating, like a spring. I felt cold air. I tried to get up, but I couldn't."

Clark's neck had been broken in two places.

He spent about nine months at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, wondering if his injury was some sort of cruel payback for something he had done in his 16 years.

"I said to myself ... `Maybe there was something I said I shouldn't have said. Maybe there was something I did that I shouldn't have done,'" he recalls. "I didn't do anybody wrong. I didn't get in trouble. ... I prayed every day. I didn't go to church all the time ... but I was good."

"Then," he says, pausing for a breath, "I realized things happen. Life doesn't always give us what we expect. I've got a spinal-cord injury, but there's nothing wrong with my brain. I've got a strong spirit and courage. You've just got to learn to deal with it."

Clark finished high school, donning cap and gown and having a friend wheel him across the stage so he could accept his diploma. He took some college courses, but a full-time schedule proved too difficult. (He'd like to return, but can't afford it.) He became a volunteer coach at Eisenhower, attending games.

All of it was made possible by the care provided through the district's insurance policy. And Clark says when the $5 million policy ran out several months ago, he assumed it would be renewed.

But it was not.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Pedal to the metal for spinal cord injury research

A plan to funnel a $3 surcharge from every moving traffic violation — an estimated $11 million a year — to a spinal cord injury research fund cleared a key California Assembly hurdle Tuesday and could be approved by lawmakers by the end of summer.

Assembly Bill 190 — renewing the so-called Roman Reed law, named after a former Chabot College football player paralyzed during a tackle — was approved 4-3 by the Assembly’s public safety committee. It will go to the appropriations committee next month, then to the full Assembly and the Senate.

“This is by far the biggest step. It will be another two months for everything to play out,” said Reed, who runs the Roman Reed Foundation in Fremont. “We’re going to pass this.”

State legislators in 2000 agreed to fund spinal injury paralysis research through the state’s general fund and renewed the legislation in 2005. In all, the fund overseen by University of California, Irvine, has provided $14.6 million over 10 years to 120 projects.


Friday, April 29, 2011

Cells go free - cure just around the corner

A federal court has given the Obama administration the go-ahead to continue funding embryonic stem-cell research.

The controversial 2-1 decision Friday is a victory for supporters of federally funded testing for a range of diseases and illnesses.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia lifted an injunction imposed last year by a federal judge, who said all embryonic stem-cell research at the National Institutes of Health amounted to destruction of embryos, in violation of congressional spending laws.

Legislation passed in 1996 law prohibits the use of taxpayer dollars in the creation or destruction of human embryos "for research purposes." Private money had been used to gather batches of the developing cells at U.S.-run labs. The current administration had broken with the Bush White House and issued rules in 2009 permitting those cells to be reproduced in controlled conditions and for work on them to move forward.

Obama officials have been at odds with many members of Congress over whether the the NIH research actually causes an embryo's destruction, as prohibited by the Dickey-Wicker Act.

Two scientists had brought a lawsuit to block further research. But the three-judge panel concluded in its 21-page ruling, "the plaintiffs are unlikely to prevail because Dickey-Wicker is ambiguous and the NIH seems reasonably to have concluded" the law does not ban research using embryonic stem cells.

The ruling does not deal with separate research on adult stem cells, which remains permissible under federal law. The plaintiffs have the option of now taking their appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court for review. The issue at this stage deals only with the lifting of the injunction allowing funding to continue for embryonic stem-cell research. The larger constitutional issues are still being debated at the district court level.

The government had argued that an extensive list of research projects outlined by the National Institutes of Health would have to be shelved if the court had not acted and granted a stay.

The field of embryonic stem-cell research has been highly controversial, because in most cases the research process involves destroying the embryo, typically four or five days old, after removing stem cells. These cells are then blank and can become any cell in the body.

Embryonic stem-cell research differs from other kinds of stem-cell research, which don't require embryos.

Some scientists believe embryonic stem cells could help treat many diseases and disabilities because of their potential to develop into many different cell types in the body.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Wheelchair dude ruse, kicked off nude cruise

A wheelchair-bound passenger who was debarked from a charter cruise in February on Celebrity Century after declining to hire a nurse has responded to a number of claims levied by the cruise line and charter company.

James Keskeny, 66, of Pinckney, Mich., has multiple sclerosis and is confined to a wheelchair. On Feb. 18, he was ordered off a Bare Necessities Tour & Travel nude charter cruise in Guadeloupe, where he had to pay $1,500 for travel arrangements home. Keskeny said he paid in excess of $4,000 for the cruise. The story was first reported by the Oakland Press, a Detroit area news outlet.

On Monday, Celebrity Cruises confirmed the details to Cruise Critic, saying in a statement that the debarkation was necessary because Keskeny needed help getting into and out of bed and using the bathroom (where he suffered a fall) — "special assistance above and beyond what is provided to our disabled or wheelchair-bound guests." Bare Necessities founder Nancy Teimann agreed that Keskeny's needs were extensive: "He needed help every time he had to get out of bed and go to the bathroom, every time he needed to take a bath."

On the third day of the cruise, Celebrity officials told Keskeny he would have to hire a private-duty nurse at his own expense if he wished to remain on the 10-night Southern Caribbean cruise. He declined and was debarked the next day.


Now that you can see it do you still want it?

The U.S. Supreme Court turned away an appeal by Chipotle Mexican Grill on Monday and left intact a federal appeals court ruling in San Francisco that said a nearly 4-foot barrier in a waiting line denied wheelchair users the right to see the food they were ordering.

The barrier "subjects disabled customers to a disadvantage that non-disabled customers do not suffer," the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in July in a case from San Diego County. The ruling came on the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires businesses to treat disabled patrons equally and remove unnecessary obstacles.

Maurizio Antoninetti said in his lawsuit in 2005 that a 45-inch barrier at Chipotle restaurants in San Diego and Encinitas blocked his view of the counter, where customers can inspect each dish, choose their order and watch it being prepared.

Chipotle said it met wheelchair users' needs by bringing them spoonfuls of their preferred dish for inspection before ordering. But the appeals court said that doesn't match "the customer's personal participation in the selection and preparation of the food."


Saturday, April 9, 2011

First human stem cell guinea pig revealed

In the six months since scientists announced they had infused a drug made from human embryonic stem cells into a partially paralyzed patient’s spine, the identity of the recipient has been shrouded in secrecy.

Recently, rumors began circulating in Internet chat rooms that details about the closely guarded experiment were finally about to be revealed.

Now, a 21-year-old Alabama nursing student who was paralyzed from the chest down in a car crash in September has come forward to identify himself as the volunteer.

“I was the first patient,” Timothy J. Atchison of Chatom, Ala., said in a telephone interview with The Washington Post on Wednesday evening. “I’m doing well.”

Atchison, known as T.J. to his family and friends, was a student at the University of South Alabama College of Nursing when his car crashed on Sept. 25, which, Atchison noted, was the birthday of Christopher Reeve, the actor who suffered a devastating spinal cord injury.

After undergoing emergency treatment at a regional medical center, Atchison was transferred to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, which specializes in spinal cord injuries, for rehabilitation. It was there that he agreed to let doctors inject him with the drug — more than 2 million cells made from stem cells into his spine, he said.

“I feel really good about everything,” Atchison said. “I’ve got a positive attitude. I’m trying to live life to the fullest right now.”

The experiment is the first carefully designed attempt to study an embryonic stem cell therapy. It is seen by supporters and opponents of embryonic stem cell research as potentially pivotal to the future of the research, which proponents say could revolutionize medicine and critics denounce as immoral.

The trial is primarily assessing safety, but doctors are also testing whether the cells restore sensation and movement.


Thursday, March 31, 2011

Stem cell therapy outsourced

Deepak Singh, a 34-year-old businessman in Mumbai, India was shot, injuring his spinal cord and causing him to lose all sensation and movement in his lower body. Three years later, he saw a doctor who claimed to cure spinal cord injured patients with stem cell therapy. Singh proceeded with the treatment, but had no improvement. He later realized that he had been scammed and had been injected with an unidentified fluid labeled stem cells. For seven years he remained paralytic and bedridden. In late 2009, he opted to try stem cell therapy again (from a different doctor), having embryonic stem cells injected into his spinal cord. This time, he had improvement, which is quite astonishing given the seven years since his injury.

In 2010, the FDA authorized the Geron Corporation to begin embryonic stem cell trials for use on patients with spinal cord injuries. The study is centering on acute injuries, despite trials at different centers internationally that have shown positive results in chronic spinal cord injuries. Seven centers around the country will participate in the trial, including the Shepherd Center in Atlanta. Many scientists welcomed this milestone.

Prior to this, the FDA had not approved human trials with embryonic stem cells. The FDA has finally recognized the evidence supporting that stem cells hold promise and are safe enough to test in humans.

Dr. Dennis Lox, a Tampa Bay area physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist who also specializes in regenerative medicine, notes that he tried to get patients enrolled in the Shepherd study, but due to the long duration of the patients’ injuries, he was unsuccessful.

Dr. Lox has utilized stem cells and regenerative medicine techniques such as platelet-rich plasma to help patients with acute and chronic musculoskeletal injuries, using their own (autologous) stem cells for transplantation.

Dr. Lox heralds the initiation of U.S. stem cell trials in humans as the beginning of new era in which previously incurable disorders now have potential for cure.

Dr. Lox notes that researchers internationally are moving forward with numerous stem cell trials. For example, Italian researchers have shown that corneal burns, resulting in blindness, have been cured with stem cell therapy. Therefore, it seems only natural that spinal cord injuries also be studied and given a trial. Dr. Lox points out that if the stem cells are autologous (derived from the patient’s own tissues) there is little chance of any harm coming to the patient – a blind patient cannot become more blind, and likewise, if one is paralyzed, the hope of regaining use of their affected limbs is a very potent force in motivation to find cures for previously-thought incurable disorders.

Dr. Dennis Lox references the case of Rusty Leech, who sustained a spinal cord injury in 1998, leaving his lower body paralyzed. Leech traveled from the U.S. to India in early 2008 for embryonic stem cell therapy. Five months after the therapy, Leech was able to stand up without support and was able to ambulate with braces and a walker. He has since returned to India for additional stem cell therapy.

There had been numerous other instances of patient’s reporting improvement after stem cell therapy and it is time that independent larger scale clinical trials be implemented in spinal cord injury patients.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Quadriplegic Doug Smith's new song

A new song composed by Petersburg native and pianist Doug Smith, called “If I Could Fly,” will be heard by the public for the first time today.

The instrumental — produced, arranged and mixed by Alan Crossland, owner of Route 1, Acuff Studio — is heard within a music video that will precede every movie shown at the Science Spectrum’s Omni Theater, 2579 S. Loop 289.

That includes today’s much anticipated premiere of heralded documentary “Tornado Alley.”

Smith remains confined to a wheelchair.

That has not changed since being diagnosed as an incomplete quadriplegic after rolling his 2004 Toyota Tundra truck on rural FM 789 in the middle of the night on July 25, 2007, then hanging upside down in the truck cab for hours until being found.

Gaining use of even a few fingers demanded an excruciating amount of time, not to mention will power, but Smith said, “There was a point when I got so burned out on my physical therapy and the occupational therapy. What ended up bringing me back was my piano.

“Mentally, physically, spiritually, I credit the piano. There has to be some sort of paradox in the thing that almost cost me my life also ending up saving my life.

“When I wrecked my truck,” he explained, “I was a selfish person, chasing the music business dream.”

Smith first became excited about “If I Could Fly” in 2009, stating in an A-J interview then that parts of the composition “just give me feelings of flight.”

At the time, Smith said that he had rehabbed himself to the point where he “can play three-note changes fairly well, and four-or five-note changes awkwardly well.”

He noted this week that what has improved is his ability to compose. Even when he could not move a finger, said Smith, “New music kept coming to me. My brain never stopped working.

“My hands are not what they used to be. I’ll never be able to play ‘Passion’ or ‘West Texas’ again. But now I play in a different way. I’m able to at least get a melody out there, and then surround myself with great musicians.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Human spinal cord injury cure w/ stem cells begins clinical trials

StemCells, Inc. (Nasdaq:STEM) announced today the initiation of a Phase I/II clinical trial of its proprietary HuCNS-SC® human neural stem cells in chronic spinal cord injury. This trial is now open for enrollment, and will accrue patients with both complete and incomplete degrees of paralysis who are three to 12 months post-injury. The trial is being conducted in Switzerland at the Balgrist University Hospital, University of Zurich, a world leading medical center for spinal cord injury and rehabilitation, and is being led by Armin Curt, MD, Professor and Chairman, Spinal Cord Injury Center at the University of Zurich, and Medical Director of the Paraplegic Center at the Balgrist University Hospital.

Dr. Curt stated, "The launch of this trial is truly a landmark event for the field of spinal cord injury research. For patients facing a lifetime of paralysis, the prospect that neural stem cell transplantation may one day help restore some degree of function offers new hope. What is particularly exciting to me is the innovative design of this trial. Within the setting of one trial, we will progress from the most severely injured to less severely injured. In addition to our primary focus on assessing safety, the design of the trial will afford a very real near-term opportunity to observe possible benefits to the patient, which may include improved sensation, motor function, bowel or bladder function. I am extremely pleased to be involved in a study that is breaking barriers in the search for a treatment that could lead to improved quality of life for injured patients."

Stephen Huhn, MD, FACS, FAAP, Vice President and Head of the CNS Program at StemCells, Inc., added, "Dr. Curt is an internationally renowned expert in spinal cord injury, and we look forward to working with him and his team of experienced investigators at Balgrist. Our HuCNS-SC cells have shown significant promise in preclinical studies for restoring lost motor function, and we are excited to take this important first step toward our goal of developing a neural stem cell therapy that could offer similar benefits for patients living with paralysis. We plan to enroll the first cohort of patients with complete injury this year, and will then transition to patients with incomplete injuries early next year."

About the Trial

The trial is designed to assess both safety and preliminary efficacy. The trial will enroll 12 patients with thoracic (chest-level) spinal cord injury who have a neurological injury level of T2-T11, and will include both complete and incomplete injuries as classified by the American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) Impairment Scale. The first cohort will be patients classified as ASIA A, or patients who have what is considered to be a "complete" injury, or no movement or feeling below the level of the injury. The second cohort will progress to patients classified as ASIA B, or patients with some degree of feeling below the injury. The third cohort will consist of patients classified as ASIA C, or patients with some degree of movement below the injury. In addition to assessing safety, the trial will measure defined clinical endpoints, such as changes in sensation, motor, and bowel/bladder function. All patients will receive HuCNS-SC cells through direct transplantation into the spinal cord, and will be temporarily immunosuppressed. Following transplantation, the patients will be evaluated regularly over a 12-month period in order to monitor and evaluate the safety and tolerability of the HuCNS-SC cells, the surgery and the immunosuppression, and to measure any recovery of neurological function below the injury site. As the Company intends to follow the effects of this therapy long-term, a separate four-year observational study will be initiated at the conclusion of this trial. For information on patient enrollment, interested parties may contact the study nurse either by phone at +41 44 386 39 01, or by email at

Additional information about the Company's spinal cord injury program can be found on the StemCells, Inc. website at and at , including video interviews with Company executives and independent collaborators.


Striving to walk while planning to live

His tragic injury drew statewide attention when it happened last fall. The candlelight vigils and fundraisers that followed have subsided, but not Chris Norton's fight to return to his old life.

Steps: it is a relative term. One of many in the new life of Chris Norton. Chris says, "Sometimes it feels like if you try to go slow and easy it's really hard, once you kind of get in a rhythm, it feels really relaxed and easy."

Easy: that's another one. A term once simple to consider, and one that's not anymore. "I never knew how complicated walking was until now. All the different things that have to be in place..."

Healing a body from a spinal cord injury is much the same. It demands patience despite aggravation, strength from foreign limbs, and endless, minute, excruciating steps. He adds, "If I can just get my right, I wouldn't have to step over as much with my left. It would go a lot smoother."

Megan Gill, a Physical Therapist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota says, “That's the first question that even patients and their family ask, especially the neurosurgeon, after they come out of surgery is 'Am I ever going to walk again?' or 'Is my family member ever going to walk again?' so it's what a lot of people focus their whole rehab and their therapy goals on is the walking."


Walking unassisted is still a long way off. In the mean time, it's up to Norton, his family and his team of physical therapists to focus on progress. Again--it's relative, but it's real and here's an example:

Chris says, "It just feels awesome that you're making progress and everything is still going the right way. But then afterward, after I get on my elbows or do something new, I want to do the next step so it's always looking a step further."

"Rehab goes beyond just whether you can walk and whether you can get up and do the things that you normally did” Says Gill, “It's getting your life back and doing the things that you enjoy doing."

The new life in Rochester, Minnesota is rehabilitating Norton's parents, too. They've been here the whole time and have found some peace.

Chris’s Father, Terry Norton says, "This was a tragic injury, it was a tragic event, but we needed to prevent it from being a tragedy. To me, a tragedy is when nothing good comes out of it."


Thursday, March 10, 2011

We've got spirit, how bout you?

Cheerleading most dangerous sport

Cheerleading was at the center of Laura Jackson’s life since she began shaking pom-poms for a pee-wee football team in the third grade.

At 14, she dreamed of cheering in high school and then, maybe college. But on the day of tryouts for the freshman high school squad in Livonia, Mich., those plans were shattered.

That afternoon, as her turn arrived, she got ready to perform a back tuck, a challenging gymnastics move she’d learned just for tryouts. She eyed her spotter, a girl just three years older than herself, and took a running start across the gymnasium floor before launching into the flip.

She still doesn’t know quite what went wrong, but she didn’t make it all the way around; she smacked her neck against the ground, skidding so hard that a piece of her blond ponytail ripped from her scalp.

No one in the room realized how grave her injury was.

Her older sister, Jenna Jackson, also a cheerleader, says she watched the cheer coach and other teachers try to figure out what to do as Laura gasped for air, her face turning blue as she mouthed over and over, “Can’t breathe.”

Laura had broken her top two vertebrae in her neck, and the crushed bones kept pinching her brain stem, which made her heart stop and start, stop and start. And while several people in the gymnasium that day knew CPR, no one knew that it was something Laura desperately needed in that moment. “They thought because my heart was beating, I was OK,” Laura recalls.

Instead, she’s now a quadriplegic, unable to move a muscle from the neck down.

Cheerleading — not basketball, not softball, not even field hockey or ice hockey — is by far the most dangerous sport for girls . Cheer accounts for 65 percent of all catastrophic injuries in girls’ high school athletics, shows a recent report by the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research at the University of North Carolina.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Earth shattering Christ's Church paralyzes five

Five people have been left paralysed by the earthquake.

Back and spinal injuries have been the most common, says the ACC, which has received more than 280 injury claims for injured backs or spines.

Burwood Spinal Unit consultant Dr Raj Singhal said Christchurch Hospital saw three months of spinal injuries in one day.

Of five patients with spinal-cord injuries, four were paralysed and one had partial paralysis.

Another 18 to 20 people broke vertebrae, but nerves were not affected so they would walk again. Six or seven had to be operated on, while others were put in braces.

Singhal said one spinal-cord patient had spleen removed in a life-saving operation and had been transferred to intensive care in Wellington.

A woman had a "nasty fracture of the neck" and was transferred to Auckland with her daughter, who was also seriously injured.

The mother was able to move her arms and legs, which was "good news", Singhal said.

One patient was an incomplete tetraplegic and would probably walk again.

He said the injuries were suffered in several ways. One woman had a chimney fall on her, another had a crush injury and one was pulled from a collapsed building.

Spinal-cord patients would eventually return to Christchurch for three to six months of rehabilitation at Burwood's specialist unit, Singhal said.

Overall, Christchurch was lucky as the number of spinal-cord injuries could have been higher, he said.

An ACC spokeswoman said the corporation received 20 spinal-injury claims.