Paralyzed Man Regains Some Use of Legs

Through Radical Cell Transplant Surgery
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Darek Fidyka

A paralyzed man in Poland is moving again due to a pioneering treatment involving the growth of new nerve pathways in his spinal cord. The therapy is said to have given Darek Fidyka, 40, the ability to use his legs — even though he sustained a spinal cord injury nearly four years ago.

Professor Geoff Raisman, chair of neural regeneration at University College London’s Institute of Neurology, led the United Kingdom research team. These doctors lay their claim to 40 years of research stemming from the olfactory bulbs, responsible for our sense of smell, in the brain. “The olfactory bulb is the only nerve tissue in the brain that can be regenerated,” Raisman says, “We believe that this procedure is the breakthrough which – as it is further developed – will result in a historic change in the currently hopeless outlook for people disabled by spinal cord injury.”

All those involved in the research are keen not to raise false hopes in patients and stress that the success will need to be repeated to show definitively whether it can stimulate spinal cord regeneration.

Fidyka said walking again is, “…an incredible feeling.” He adds: “When you can’t feel almost half your body, you are helpless. But when it starts coming back, it’s like you were born again.”

 Watch the detailed video describing Fidyka’s innovative procedure by clicking here.

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Study Discovers Hot Website Topics: Sex, Dating, Relationships

sex.hush.hushInformation about sex, relationships and fertility after SCI proved to be the most highly viewed subject areas for visitors to FacingDisability. com. In fact, two out of every 10 website visitors viewed videos on marriage and children, intimate relationships and sex and fertility.

A year-long analysis of nearly 100,000 website visitors who viewed over 300,000 pages revealed that 21 percent of them watched videos that pertained to social life, fertility and family relationships. Most frequently viewed videos answered these questions: What About Sex and Dating? What’s the first thing to know about having sex after a spinal cord injury? Can women still get pregnant after a spinal cord injury? What are common psychological obstacles to sex for men after a spinal cord injury?

Highest views were of videos with answers by expert Diane Rowles, MS, NP, who specializes in SCI rehabilitation. Fully one of every 10 visitors to the website checked out her videos.

These findings were presented by Stephanie Lollino, Executive Producer of FacingDisability.com, at the recent annual meeting of the Academy of Spinal Cord Injury Professionals. Her presentation concluded with a brief montage of answers to the question “What sex advice and information was most helpful?

“Their answers underline the fact that there is still a lot of work to be done,” said Ms. Lollino.

 To see the full presentation click here.

 

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What Recovery Means to a Former Olympic Swimmer

Gold medalist Amy Van Dyken-Rouen says she’s a better person for what happened to her. On June 6th this past spring, the athlete was off-roading with her husband, former Broncos punter Tom Rouen, when her ATV slid off the road and down a six-foot drop. Fortunately, Van Dyken-Rouen survived. She had sustained a spinal cord injury that left her with paraplegia. Click here to see the video.

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Amy and her husband Tom Rouen — click to view her recovery story

The shocking news of her spinal cord injury hit media around the world with headlines like, “Former Olympian Paralyzed After Accident,” and “Decorated Olympic Swimmer Severs Spine.

Although most reports have described Van Dyken-Rouen’s injury as a severed spine, her physician at Craig Hospital in Denver, Colorado, Dr. Mark Johansen explains, “Severed really isn’t an accurate term. Her spinal cord is severely damaged. Some of the nerves may have been separated, but there’s still architecture in there, so it’s not completely severed.”

Most of Amy’s therapies involve regaining as much strength as possible in her upper body so she can learn how to take care of her lower body. She recovered by reverting to her Olympic discipline. “Except this time, instead of going for a gold medal, I was working to get my life back,” she says.

These days, the athlete has a peppy, positive outlook. She has taken some steps with the assistance of an exoskeleton apparatus that stabilizes her legs enough to walk with a walker. And she is working with a specialized therapist who administers muscle activation therapy in the paralyzed areas of her legs and hips. “I worked with him after shoulder surgery during my training days as an athlete, I figured maybe this could help me – and in turn help others,” she says.

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FacingDisability Featured in Exceptional Parent Magazine

Website Connects Parents Caring for Children with Spinal Cord Injury

blogParents need all the support they can find concerning children with a spinal cord injury (SCI). This summer, FacingDisability.com gave parents one more way to find it by placing some important resources behind the eyes of readers of Exceptional Parent Magazine.

In the article written by Stephanie Lollino, executive producer of FacingDisability, readers find very specific resources on topics such as, first days after injury, coping with new feelings, the future of a child’s education and job and even touches on marriage and family. The advice of Sarah Klass MSW, and director of spinal cord injury service at Shriners Children’s Hospital in Chicago, is highlighted in the article.

“I think that there’s a lot of hope for parents, Klass tells readers. “…to know if their child does sustain an injury, they will have a high quality of life, and can do so many things in the world that they always had hoped they could do.”

The creative leader of FacingDisability.com and president of The Hill Foundation, Thea Flaum says, children with SCI are just as resilient and capable as able-bodied kids that sustain injuries. “They need extra encouragement from everybody in their lives – including teachers, doctors and caregivers. They can grow up to lead full and successful lives.”

There are several informational pediatric videos on FacingDisability.com that highlight specific questions covering topics parents have when raising or caregiving a child with SCI.

Do you have a story to share? Upload it now on our new video app.

 

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Intimate Photos of Wheelchair Users Cast Sex in a New Light

How do people with spinal cord injuries really feel about their bodies when it comes to sex and intimacy? Graham ­­­­­Streets, founder of an online specialty group called the Mad Spaz Club, came up with a unique idea to help people understand.

BSECRET.WCHy using pictures with thought-provoking graphics written on the skin of men and women in wheelchairs, Streets shows the intimate and sometimes dark secrets of both the disabled and those they love.

Streets was injured in a motorcycle accident 18 years ago. “I was intelligent charismatic and sexy-fit,” he says. “It is hard to see guys like me [in the hospital], knowing I stand to lose it all– my work, business, six pack abs and positive attitude… And in looking at the other 45 patients in the ward I soon realized I was in for the fight of my life.” Inventing the interactive website, www.Streetsie.com helped him do just that.

As a man with quadriplegia himself, Streets created the pictures to illustrate that “…life in a wheelchair raises many deep emotional thoughts and feelings regular people never have the benefit of hearing or have to contemplate.” He says that partners and lovers of wheelchair users often have thoughts they don’t express, and questions “they don’t feel comfortable asking.

Streets took it a step further by opening the topic up to the website’s subscribers. He says: “A spinal cord injury resulting in paraplegia or quadriplegia invokes many heartfelt emotions and secret thoughts. You don’t have to talk about it,” he says. “Just write it on your skin and take a photo. Or send us your photo with what you would like written on it. You do not need to be disabled to make a submission. We have had a tremendous response to the concept and to the stunningly beautiful images in the collection so far.”

You can see the entire collection here and learn how you can submit a photo here.

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Roger Ebert’s TV Producer Creates FacingDisability.com

“Life Itself,” the highly acclaimed new movie about the life and work of movie critic Roger Ebert, was just released to theaters nationwide. Thea Flaum, the producer who created the landmark television series with Ebert and Gene Siskel, is featured prominently in the film.

image6_0002 Thea Flaum is also the creative leader and driving force behind this website, which she launched three years ago. A spinal cord injury in her own family made her aware of the need for information and support for families facing spinal cord injuries.

She came to her work on FacingDisability.com following a 35-year career as an award-winning television producer. So it is not surprising that she would create a website based on videos as a resource.

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Paralyzed Man Uses Brainwaves to Move Hand

His thoughts create movement

Ian Burkhart, 23, recently became the first person with quadriplegia to move his wrist and hand using the power of his brain and an experimental new device called Neurobridge. According to its scientist-developers at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center and the Battelle Memorial Institute, the system works through “…an electronic neural bypass that reconnects the brain directly to muscles, allowing functional control of a paralyzed limb.”

You can see a video of the technology that helped Ian Burkhart move his hand here.

Burkhart is the first of five potential applicants in a new clinical trial to test the device.

“It’s much like a heart bypass, but instead of bypassing blood, we’re actually bypassing electrical signals,” said Chad Bouton, research leader at Battelle. “We’re taking those signals from the brain, going around the injury, and going directly to the muscles.”Ian.group

The Neurobridge technology starts by implanting a tiny microchip in the brain that transmits brain activity to a specialized sleeve, which communicates movement signals to the paralyzed limb. For Burkhart, brain signals bypassed his injured spinal cord in order move his hand.

“I’ve come to accept the fact that I’m not able to move my arm and hand,” Burkhart says. “To be able to fulfill the hope that I will be able to again someday, really motivated me for the future and gave me a lot of hope for what life would be like.”

Bouton calls this “…an important first step and a new day for those who have disabilities. It’s really a day forward.”

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“I Am Not Your Inspiration”

Straight Talk The World Needs To Hear

Ir901909_9171593s surviving a life-altering injury inspirational? Or is it simply survival? When a person overcomes a difficult situation, the results may seem amazing to others. When people with a spinal cord injury encounter someone who says, “What you’re doing every hour of every day – living in a wheelchair and making it through – is inspiring to me,” what they often hear is surprise and pity. After all, how can all the everyday things people do be inspiring just because they’re being done while in a wheelchair?

If more proof is needed that the people with disabilities should be viewed the same way as everybody else, Australian comedian Stella Young, lays it all on the table. During a recent TED Talk, Young explained how she was given a community achievement award in her small town as a teen – just for living there. It was then that she began to think about how different she really must seem to others.

“It speaks to this kind of assumption that people with disabilities are brave because our lives are horrible,” Young says in a separate interview. “And that’s not true at all.” Her straightforward explanation sends home the message that as a society it’s not healthy, or realistic, to label all people with disabilities as inspirational.

You can see her informative, and refreshingly funny Ted Talk here:

What “inspirational” comments annoy you?

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What Gets Under Your Skin?

Wheelchair Users’ Pet Peeves

Wheelchair photoAs you know, navigating the world in a wheelchair means you will inevitably encounter a lot of well-meaning, but annoying behaviors. Here are the ones that wheelchair users tell us are their top five pet peeves.

Seeing the Wheelchair– Ignoring the Person in It
Please don’t ask their companions what the person in the wheelchair wants, such as: “What does he want to eat” or “Where does he want to go?” Despite the fact that he’s sitting down, his hearing, brains and vocal cords work just fine. It’s rude to treat the person in the chair as though he is invisible.

Helping Without Asking
Don’t rush to help. Always wait to be invited, even if you see someone appearing to struggle. Most wheelchair users are much more comfortable with managing day-to-day activities on their own. Even if it’s hard, most would rather do it themselves.

Hands Off the Wheelchair
Please avoid touching, rocking, tapping or leaning. Many people regard their wheelchairs almost as an extension of their bodies, as well as a lifeline to freedom. After all, you wouldn’t just go up to a stranger on the street and put your arm around them or tap them on the knee.

Take a Seat Yourself
Find a chair and sit down so you are eye-to-eye when you are having a conversation with a person in a wheelchair that lasts more than a few minutes. It’s awkward and uncomfortable for the person to be looking up at you all the time; it doesn’t feel like a conversation between equals.

No Parking, No Kidding.
This is probably the number-one pet peeve of wheelchair users. It’s infuriating to see an obviously able-bodied person taking up a handicapped space. And that includes the striped space at the side, which is marked off to make it possible to lower a wheelchair lift. Spaces marked handicapped can be few and far between. If you see someone using one for his or her own convenience, speak up. It’s anti-social behavior, like spitting in the street—only worse.

Got a pet peeve of your own to add? Tell us about it in the space below.

 

 

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“Quadriplegia” or “Tetraplegia”

What's the Difference?
Click here for an Interactive Spinal Cord Injury Map.

Click here for an Interactive Spinal Cord Injury Map.

Actually, there isn’t any difference in meaning.  Both words apply to paralysis of all four limbs.  And both terms are used interchangeably these days.

The difference is in the derivation of the words.   The word “Quadri” means four in Latin; the word “Plegia” means paralysis in Greek.  So the roots of the word “quadriplegia” which means paralysis in all four limbs, come from both Latin and Greek. It combines two different languages.

The Greek word for four is “Tetra.”  Combine that with “plegia” and you have a word with Greek roots for both halves.  The British have always used the term “Tetraplegia” for four-limb paralysis, so they are not combining Latin and Greek words.

Such distinctions are important to the English, but Americans don’t seem to mind.  Although there was a movement in the 1990’s to try to adopt “tetraplegia” in America, it never really caught on outside of the medical literature.

That’s why most Americans still continue to refer to “quad rugby,” for example, and why the word “quadriplegia” remains in common use.

Incidentally, since “para” is the Greek word for two, and “plegia” is Greek for paralysis the word “paraplegia” all comes from the same language of origin—Greek.

 

 

 

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