Monday, November 25, 2019

Ryan Straschnitzki's Progress and Electrical Stimulation

Sharing exciting videos about an experimental spinal surgery and an ongoing recovery story.  Ryan Straschnitzki was one of the Humboldt Bronco hockey players injured in a very serious bus accident in Canada last year.  Fourteen people were injured; sixteen were killed.  Ryan sustained a spinal cord injury in the accident and has been diligently pursuing physical therapy since then.  Recently he underwent surgery in Thailand to have an epidural stimulator implanted in his spine.  The device is designed to stimulate nerves below the site of his injury.  The results are pretty incredible, as you can see from these videos: when the stimulator is turned on, he's able to move his leg, and therapists are now helping him work on taking steps.  Please keep Ryan Straschnitzki in your thoughts and prayers for continued progress.

As for the epidural stimulator technology, it's been in the news multiple times in the last few years.  I thought readers might be curious to know more about what it entails.  I am not a medical doctor and have not tried this technology, but according to reports, the internal stimulation process goes something like this: surgeons place a device called an implantable pulse generator (IPG) in the user's back or elsewhere in the body, and connect that device to electrodes put on the tissue around the spinal cord.  They can program electrical currents sending signals to the IPG and, from there, to the electrodes.  "The idea, in very basic terms, is to stimulate neurons" when the electrical stimulation is activated, as reported by a CBC News article (see here for the complete article).  If you're interested in learning more, Wings for Life's site features more details and an info graphic.

There is a non-invasive version of electrical stimulation that has also seen some amazing results.  This technique, known as transcutaneous stimulation, involves placing the electrodes on the skin of the user's lower back and then activating the electrodes with external electrical stimulation.  An NIH news release notes that by the end of one study, the users "were able to move their legs with no stimulation at all and their range of movement was — on average — the same as when they were moving while receiving stimulation."  (Click here to read the full 2015 NIH release.)

All in all, these strategies have the goal of reactivating dormant nerve pathways or creating new ones altogether.  Life-changing outcomes.

NB: For more, you can read my older posts on related studies happening at the University of Kentucky: September 2018, January 2018, and November 2017.  Thanks to Susan Harkema and Claudia Angeli for their work in Louisville!

Monday, November 11, 2019

In Remembrance and Thanks for Our Veterans

"In Flanders Fields"

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

- Major John McCrae, 1915

Friday, November 1, 2019

Paralyzed Officer Stands for National Anthem

A good story that has drawn attention this week: fourteen years after sustaining a spinal cord injury, Officer William Weigt was able to stand for the National Anthem and present the American Flag at the Special Olympics Arizona this week.  Officer Weigt is also a veteran of the United States Army.  Thanks to him for his service!

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Video: Truck Transfer with Unlocked KAFOs

Getting in and out of a truck with KAFOs.  This is an older video with classic braces which I don't use anymore, but since there aren't many videos about everyday life with KAFOs/ long leg braces, I hope this upload will help others who are figuring out vehicle transfers.

At release from rehab, before leg braces and still in recovery from extensive upper body damage, I was told that it would take 4-5 people, a slideboard, and a bedsheet for me to get in and out of a truck.  Much healing and many steps later, what a major difference from the initial prognosis.

(Note: This video is from almost two years post-injury, with both KAFOs completely unlocked at the knees.)

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Supporting Ben Abercrombie

An update on Ben Abercrombie's progress as he returns to Harvard University while working at recovery from cervical spinal cord injury.  Please keep up the thoughts and prayers for Ben and his family. 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Aggie Recovery Story

SCI recovery story: an Aggie walks again after paralysis.  (To find out what an Aggie is, you'll have to look up Texas A&M University.) 

Friday, October 4, 2019

Exoskeleton Update

A big story on all of the news outlets this week:
"Paralyzed man able to walk with mind-controlled exoskeleton suit"

From applications in medicine to industry to the military, exoskeletons are big news right now.  This interesting review, "The Human Exoskeleton comes of age," was released only a few days before the story of a new mind-controlled exoskeleton came out.