Wednesday, December 27, 2017

An Update on Andrew

Last year, I passed on Andrew Little's request for Christmas cards.  Andrew is now nine years old and has been paralyzed from the neck down since he was 15 months old.  In 2016 his grandmother sent out a general call for Christmas cards.  Andrew received over 50, 000 cards, letters, and packages that year!  Here is a 2017 follow-up on the story.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Exoskeleton Technology

Exoskeletons appear in the news more frequently as they become more advanced.  In this article, a graduate used an Ekso model to walk across the stage at his graduation: “Paraplegic FIU grad uses exoskeleton suit to pick up diploma."

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Kicking Again

I’m again thankful to have many good and recent developments to report.  One of the most promising changes is that I have begun to regain the ability to kick(!), even when sitting.  This sounds small - and is right now - but it is a big step towards function: foot-tapping, knee extension, and general control of the lower legs.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Some Thoughts on Silk

Here's an interesting story about a relatively new line of research.  According to a study conducted by the new founders of Oxford Biomaterials, silk produced by a certain type of silkworm (Antheraea peryni) can be used to provide a surface for spinal nerves to regrow.  The silk disappears over time so that no surgery is required to remove the material.  With other researchers working to urge nerve regeneration, having a surface where new nerves can develop becomes more imperative.  And on that note, avoiding repeated invasive surgeries is no small thing, either.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Kay Ledson's Walk Across America

An update on Kay Ledson’s walk to promote activity-based therapy for spinal cord injuries.  She began in California (Sept. 22, 2017) and is on her way to Washington, D.C. (March 18, 2018).  She’s now made it to New Mexico.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Video Update

A short video update.  I’ve been noticing gains of many types, some of them visible here: lifting at the knee, kicking forward, pulling back, and other basic movements.  Each one of them is growing stronger and involves slightly different muscle control.  The video does not really do them justice.
A good way to come into Thanksgiving week!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Veterans Day

Thank you to our veterans - for your service and all of your sacrifices.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Good Changes

After several years, I’ve recently started some official physical therapy to help focus on lower-body muscle gains.  I am very thankful to be able to report ongoing positive developments.  Not the least of them is that I can hold myself on my knees and also balance on hands and knees without help.

These abilities may seem small right now, but they all involve muscle groups well below the spinal cord injury site.  Much more to come!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Standing on One Foot

Standing on one foot without any help?  This man did, four years after the accident that left him with a spinal cord injury.  After years of training with epidural stimulation, Andrew Meas has been “able to extend his knees, reach a standing position, maintain a standing position without assistance, and even stand on one leg" (to quote from Michelle Star's "Science Alert" article).  The unexpected result is that he has done all of these things without active electrical stimulation.  This is motor function recovery.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

"Never Give In"

Almost 76 years ago, on October 29th of 1941, Sir Winston Churchill delivered a speech emphasizing the importance of persistence.  A famous quotation from his address goes,

“[N]ever give in, never give in, never, never, never, never - in nothing, great or small, large or petty - never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.”

These words came to mind when I read about athlete Chris Whyte, who was told he would never walk again after a spinal cord injury.  This year, he participates in the Baltimore Running Festival for the third time.  Six months after his injury, he walked the course; the next year, he jogged; and this year, he has been planning to ride his bicycle and escort Kennedy Krieger’s hand-cycling team.  Stories like those of Chris Whyte (and Team Kennedy Krieger) are encouraging and deserve to be told.  Crossing that finish line requires immense effort and diligence.  It’s harder than it looks.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Journey Forward Walk

Here's an article about an annual event held by Journey Forward, an exercise-based therapy center.  Their clients who are recovering from spinal cord injuries have the opportunity to participate in a mile walk together as part of a fundraiser for others.  As you can see from this video of the 2017 walk, there are many different levels of walking ability represented here, with promise of more returns to come.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Running Marathons

Many years after the car accident that caused his spinal cord injury, (former) quadriplegic Alan Robinson walked over 15 hours on Sunday.  He was completing the Chicago Marathon - his 20th marathon since the accident.  Never give up!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

A Balancing Exoskeleton

News of an exoskeleton in development: a device that enables walking without crutches for balance.  Another indication of how much coordination is required for everyday mobility!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Two Stories of Forgiveness

Two recovery stories have come up recently.  In each case, a bicyclist sustained a spinal cord injury in 2016.  A year later, each man is walking again and has become friends with the person who caused his accident.  In North Carolina, Dean Otto has celebrated his return to running by participating in a marathon with the driver who hit him, and in Tennessee, David Francisco is back to playing music.

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Problem of Denial?

I wanted to highlight this mother's efforts to help her son and form a network for others in similar situations.  Kay Ledson and her son Josh Wood have fought his cervical spinal cord injury for years, and he is walking again.  She is about to begin a walk across America to promote SCI awareness and activity-based therapy.  To quote from an article in The San Diego Union-Tribune:

"Doctors diagnosed him as a complete quadriplegic who would never get out of bed again. . . .
'I got really angry,' she said of her meeting with the doctors. 'I told them ‘you don’t know me and you don’t know my son. My son will walk again.’ And the doctor said ‘that’s the problem with moms like you.’ '
"The problem, as Ledson has written and spoken about worldwide, is that moms like her never give up hope for recovery and she spent every day for years working the muscles in his limbs until he was able to move them himself. Today, he walks with a cane, snowboards, rides a motorcycle and is married with a young son."

Unfortunately, Ledson's encounter with her son's doctors is not unusual.  Traditional medicine does not have a positive view of SCI recovery.  Most of the time, the outlook is harmfully limiting: you are encouraged not to believe that you can recover or improve beyond a set expectation.  If you deny a prescribed outcome of "you'll never walk again," you are often seen as if you deny having an injury at all.  Yet the two types of denial are profoundly different.  Saying that there can be improvement after an injury is a far cry from saying that there is no injury.  As Ledson and her son have shown, denial of the negative limitations can be a healthy attitude.  Every injury is different.  Individual outcomes are also different.  That shouldn't be denied.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Stacy Kozel Completes the Pacific Crest Trail

Following up on a post from April 13, 2017: congratulations to Stacy Kozel on completing her hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, 2650 miles.  She hiked the entire way with bilateral C-Braces (state-of-the-art, computer-controlled KAFOs designed by Ottobock).

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Nanoparticle Infusion

After a spinal cord injury, inflammation and scar tissue can be among the most damaging after-effects.  They can further hinder nerve signals and keep the body from healing.  In this study, researchers injected mice with biodegradable nanoparticles to help prevent the secondary nerve damage.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

September 5th

Did you know that September 5th is Spinal Cord Injury (Awareness) Day?  In fact, September is National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month.
Please observe day, month, and beyond by not getting a spinal cord injury and by promoting SCI prevention!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Update, August 2017

This recent video shows more progress working without KAFOs or AFOs!  I try to vary types of exercises each day and include some walking with braces and some without.  On the road to functional mobility, I'm encouraged by the increased muscle response.  An exciting development is the gradual albeit inconsistent return of sensation below the injury site. This past few months I have noticed more and more temperature awareness, and even the feel of fabric.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Nick Walls Sets Records

Expect more good news to come for this teenager from Alabama.  Last year, Nick Walls sustained a spinal cord injury in a four-wheeler accident.  To quote from the article: “His doctor told him he would never walk again. ‘That's when I said in my head right after he told me that, I said 'I'm sorry, but you're wrong.’ Nick remembered. That motivation and faith pushed him forward. He uses basketball to stay active. After last year's competition he trained harder and leaned on his faith for strength. He lives by a few simple words: ‘Philippians 4:13 'I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’’”  Since being injured, Nick has not only set multiple records in Track and Field throwing events, but is also learning to walk again.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Compare and Contrast

Sometimes it can be a very healthy habit to look at how far you have come.  This newly-posted video was taken on August 12, 2014.  Almost fourteen months post-injury, I was practicing walking with long leg braces (KAFOs), and just beginning to work with one of the braces unlocked.
Today I’m working with modular Allard braces, with an AFO on one side and minimal knee support on the other.  They require much more muscle function.  I never could have managed with this bracing type three years ago.

Monday, August 7, 2017

A Short Note on Neuron Research

More work being done on sensory and motor neurons.  As this study shows, research on nerve reconnection is gaining increased attention.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

130 Steps

Congratulations to Jamie and Shevon Nieto!  Jamie has spent the last fifteen months fighting a spinal cord injury.  On July 22nd, he achieved his goal of walking his bride down the aisle at their wedding. A distance of about 130 steps goes a long way.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Retraining the Brain

This scientific study indicates that re-routed nerve cells are able to reach muscles below the site of a spinal cord injury.  Rats treated with rehabilitation and serotonin regained reflexive movement in their hind legs.  Even though the spinal cord did not heal, other areas of the brain found new ways to work around the damage.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Another Approach

For many people, therapy after a spinal cord injury ends when insurance runs out.  The general belief is that there simply is not much recovery after a SCI.  If the expectation is that rehabilitation brings very little functional return, why pay for it?

Cayden Hoth’s story is a good case for thinking differently.  Cayden was paralyzed almost two years ago.  With support from the Falling Forward Foundation, he has been able to pursue therapy consistently since he was injured.  Falling Forward was started by Sam Porritt, who has worked hard to recover from his own spinal cord injury in 2011.  Like Sam, Cayden is back to walking again, and is even swimming and bowling.

How much more improvement could there be if the narrative were different and acknowledged that we don’t know individual outcomes, and that sometimes recovery is possible?  Thank you to the Falling Forward Foundation for helping Cayden’s family to find out.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Another Kind of Exoskeleton

A different type of exoskeleton today: Noonee's "chairless chair," designed for anyone who spends long days standing.  Basically, this is an external seating support with a long-lived battery.
Especially interesting to me is the fact that this exoskeleton represents a passive system.  It's wearable and does not hinder regular walking.  It also does not promote muscle atrophy.  The more an exoskeleton can respond to the user's movement and abilities, the less it takes away from normal muscle function or use.
The Chairless Chair is not a therapy tool.  I do not intend to promote it as a medical breakthrough or a rehabilitation device.  But technological advancements like these are worth watching.  Something to pay attention to as exoskeletons develop!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy Independence Day

Happy Fourth of July!
Statistics from 2009 say that about 42,000 of the ~250,000 Americans with SCIs are veterans.
It is an ongoing sacrifice of personal independence for many of the veterans dealing with SCIs.  Please take time today to say thank you.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Aaron Baker's Recovery Story

Here’s a link to an article by Laquita Dian, co-founder of C.O.R.E. (Center of Restorative Exercise) and mother of walking quadriplegic Aaron Baker.  The story of Aaron’s ongoing recovery is worth the time.  For more on C.O.R.E.'s exercise fitness program, see here.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Summertime SCI Prevention/ Emergencies

Summer is the biggest season for spinal cord injuries, with July being the peak month for SCIs.  They can’t always be avoided, but some can be reduced.  For instance, there are more diving accidents in the summer.  Learn more about SCI prevention and symptoms here.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Four Years Later

Four years ago today my family’s car and our lives were turned upside down by a texting driver on the highway. On June 15, 2013, I woke up to a seemingly normal day. The next morning, without motion or sensation below the waist. Since that time, I’ve come a long way, and truly have much to be thankful for: I can walk with a walker and braces, and continue to regain feeling. I have had support from family and friends, met many wonderful people, and returned to graduate school. The past year has held many milestones. A few months ago I felt water droplets on one knee and a warm breeze on my legs, both sensations for the first time in years. I’ve finally begun to see quadriceps and hamstring function start to return, and have been able to work towards less bracing support. The critical next step has been regaining the ability to stand hands-free. Coming back from a broken leg, that has been a hard goal to achieve, but it’s closer than ever before. These improvements may seem insignificant, but they are huge.

A catastrophic spinal cord injury happens in a split second, and its impact is not small. It stops you in your tracks and changes most of your life. I won’t pretend that this has been an easy experience. It’s included everything from broken bones to heatstroke to chronic pain. At the same time, I am so grateful for the many blessings that I have and look forward to. The accident was a confirmation that I was already doing what I loved and striving to live with the future in mind.

If your life were to change in an instant, would you be ready? Do you try to appreciate every moment and realize how quickly everything could change? The truth is that there is a much bigger picture which extends far beyond what we see every morning and expect every night. Each breath, step, and decision makes a difference. Please take a moment today to pause, reflect on your priorities, and be glad for the small things you enjoy every day.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Video Update

Almost four years into recovery, I'm seeing ongoing improvement.  More of an update to come soon, but for now, here's a video from last week.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Devon Gales: "I'm on the way!!"

Football player Devon Gales suffered a spinal cord injury in 2015 and has been working hard to recover since then.  He recently began using an exoskeleton to take steps - may they be the first of many to come!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Recovery Story!

Another recovery story - the best kind to post.  Almost four years after his spinal cord injury, David Murphy is walking again.  Now he’s preparing to walk a 5K in a fundraiser to help others.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Paralyzed Graduates Walk Across the Stage

Congratulations to Sean Mahoney and Garrett Bazany!  These two 2017 graduates defied spinal cord injuries to literally walk across the stage for their diplomas.  

Monday, May 15, 2017

3D Printing Again (A.K.A., Return to the Third Dimension?)

A few weeks ago I posted on 3D printing.  Soon after that came this other example of the fascinating work being done with this technology.  Surgeons in India created a titanium implant to replace a young woman’s damaged vertebrae.  A ten-hour surgery saved this woman from either early death or a lifetime of paralysis due to tuberculosis!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Story of Patrick Rummerfield

It's always good to see stories about recovery and physical progress after a SCI.  One of the most outstanding and inspirational accounts is that of Patrick Rummerfield, called the "world's first fully functioning quadriplegic."  He spent many years in therapy after he was injured in 1974, and has had many notable accomplishments since then - on his feet and behind the wheel of a race car.  He walks, runs, and works to help others with spinal cord injuries.  Thank you to Patrick Rummerfield for not giving up and for continuing to share this encouraging story!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Does It Hurt? About SCIs and Pain

Did you know that a spinal cord injury can cause pain?  People who ask are often surprised to learn that a SCI in some cases means extreme nerve, musculoskeletal, and/ or other types of pain.  Neuropathy, or nerve pain, can be described as a relentless burning, stabbing, and/ or aching feeling that occurs just about anywhere in the body, depending on the level of injury.  Not everyone has it, but it can be debilitating.  I have had it consistently since my injury and can attest to how overwhelming nerve pain is.  It’s probably one of multiple reasons that the average employment rate after SCI is an estimated 35%.  Painkillers are not necessarily effective treatment for pain.  For me, medication (including morphine) never worked as a preventative.  Active movement has been the best help.  Since that’s not always possible for everybody, other ideas are B vitamins like B1, B6, and B12fish oil supplements such as DHA; essential oils; and diet changes.  Like the actual injury, it’s different for everyone.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Exoskeletons for Veterans

At the end of 2015, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs approved issuing ReWalk exoskeletons to certain paralyzed veterans.  So far 96 people have been identified as potential candidates for the ReWalk, but this article notes that it is possible that approximately 10,000 veterans could qualify to take an exoskeleton home.  

This is an exciting opportunity for those who are approved.  Having a ReWalk at home offers recipients the chance to improve their mobility and perhaps also their health, and possibly to avoid some of the many pitfalls that come with prolonged sitting.  It can mean progress towards recovery, or greater long-term wellness - more time out of the medical system and maybe even out in the community.  

It’s a small but hopefully meaningful way to help our veterans.  

Thursday, April 20, 2017

From the Third Dimension

Curious about three-dimensional printing?  3D printing has been an exciting development for many reasons, but here’s a very functional way to put a 3D printer to use: medical aids and orthotics.  The VA has begun to use the technology to design braces, splits, and assistive devices.  Printed titanium joints may be soon to come.  An industrial designer named Or Steiner has already drawn attention for creating lightweight KAFOs with a Stratasys 3D printing system - but he didn’t stop at the concept stage.  He actually printed personalized, functional bracing for a specific user.  If you weren't interested in 3D prints before, maybe this is a good incentive to learn more. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Stacey Kozel Sets Out Again

"From the Appalachian Trail to Pacific Crest, paralyzed Stacey Kozel defies the odds."  Great headline as Stacey Kozel begins hiking her way up the West Coast on the Pacific Crest Trail!  She's aiming to finish in September, almost a year after completing the Appalachian Trail.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Distracted Driving (Don't Do It)

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month.  If you've been following the news, then you may have heard that the deadly bus crash in Texas on March 29th was caused by a texting driver.  There are many victims of distracted driving (to name a few and to link to their stories: Xzavier Davis-Bilbo, Jacy Good, Pierre St. Brice).
It only takes an instant to have your life drastically changed by a distracted driver.  I was paralyzed almost four years ago by someone who wasn't watching the road and struck my family's car from behind.  Distracted driving is much more than a distraction to those who are affected by it.
Please don't text and drive - not just in April, but anytime.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Recovery Update/ Video

Stepping back again from research updates and the news . . .
Last year at this time I was recovering from a broken leg (not from a fall - a post for another time) and beginning to see some quadriceps return.  My newest video shows definite progress since then.  I'm using Allards modular braces, essentially Ankle-Foot Orthotics with a knee support on one side.  These are minimal knee braces.  I've also been able to raise the walker slightly.  Neither the lightweight bracing nor taller walker would have worked until recently.  Very good signs.
Oh - and in this video, I'm walking against a strong wind.  Not an easy task!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Cheering on Ty-Juan

Good for Ty-Juan!  For two years, this ten-year-old has been working hard at physical therapy to recover from a spinal cord injury.  Now he's taking steps.  Take a look at his progress.  It's much more difficult than it looks.  

Friday, March 17, 2017

A Note on Exosuits

Curious about exoskeletons?  This article is a worthy source, with links and basic information about emerging models and the companies designing them.  As you can see, some people are actually taking exoskeletons home now.

Tom Looby of Ekso Bionics makes a good point in the article.  Commenting on the Kessler Foundation's findings that exosuits help with walking "faster and farther," Looby states,
"Why do steps matter?  Repetition."  He explains that those who leave rehab with more capability may live healthier, longer lives, with reduced healthcare costs.

I think that "repetition" is a great answer for another reason: the prospect of unexpected physical recovery linked to rebuilding neural pathways or achieving more muscle memory.  And as more people can work with bionic legs and exoskeletons in unconventional settings, we have the chance to find out!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Older Work with KAFOs

During my time with heavy long-legged KAFOs (Knee-Ankle-Foot Orthoses), I saw increasing ability and strength over time.  I began with locked braces that did not allow any knee flexion.  The locks were eventually able be disengaged and later removed altogether.  One of the big signs of progress was being able to reliably step up a curb and then back down again without any help.  Hopefully these older videos from May 2015 will encourage someone else, too!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Two Be Continued? Two Studies, Two Treatments

Two links with two angles for SCI research:

One article describes the "Neuro-Spinal Scaffold," an innovation of InVivo Therapeutics.  Designed specifically for thoracic injuries and to be implanted immediately after the injury, a scaffold inserted inside the spinal cord apparently works against the development of harmful scar tissue.

The second article is about a limited stimulation treatment study conducted at the BioMag Laboratory (Helsinki University Hospital).  Successful ongoing application suggests that it may help with regaining movement, even two years after the injury.

A big point here is that the different methods involve very different time periods.  Scaffolding is being tried soon after the injury.  Stimulation, much later.  And both show some promise - hopefully similar updates to come soon.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

E-Stim, Again

Following up on the E-Stim Exoskeleton post from Feb. 16, about electrical stimulation (e-stim).  What is it and how does it work?

In rehabilitation, Electric Muscle Stimulation (EMS) is a way to urge muscle response.  Patches with wires are put directly on targeted muscles.  Electrical impulses are then sent from a machine in order to make those muscles contract.  E-stim can be a way to effectively build or maintain muscle tone.  There is another type of electrical stimulation called Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS), primarily used for treating chronic pain.  Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) is the therapeutic application of e-stim.  Some people use FES bicycles at home after a SCI.

The ability to use e-stim depends on precisely how and where an injury to the nervous system occurs.  Damage to lower motor neurons (LMN, as opposed to upper motor neurons) compromises muscle innervation, meaning that e-stim isn't necessarily an option for muscle rebuilding or maintenance.  With LMN trauma, again depending on the cause and type, voluntary muscle movement and reflexes are lost.  E-stim may not cause any muscle contraction if LMN damage is a factor.  (This has been the case for me so far.  One therapist said it was a 50/50 chance that e-stim would work after a SCI.  But keep reading.)

I've read in passing that e-stim must be begun very early on after the injury, and that if it is not utilized at all within the first two weeks or so, then those particular peripheral nerves quit firing in response.  Whether that's true I can't say.  In my limited experience, when they say it can't be done, it's still worth the try!  Studies on the use of FES for spinal cord injury rehabilitation are ongoing.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

TetraStem Press Release

A new topical treatment is making the news (albeit low-key) for its potential in spinal cord injury recovery.  TetraStem is created by Phillips Company and reportedly converts your own cells into stem cells.  According to the press release, which details the ongoing recovery of a young woman named Miranda, Phillips Co. is interested in finding others who would like to be involved in the trials process for TetraStem.
Research like this tends to take a backseat to traditional pharmaceuticals, in part because your personal stem cells belong to you and cannot be patented.
Something to think about!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

E-Stim Exoskeleton

Clinical trials at UCLA are putting together an exoskeleton and electrical stimulation (e-stim).  E-stim encourages the body to take part in helping the robotic exoskeleton, and allows for the potential to recover - meaning this sort of device may be more functional than traditional exoskeletons, because it will be useful for therapy, as well.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Recovery Video: Going Forward

A personal update: walking forward with only ankle sport-braces in this video.  I'm still working to drop long leg orthotics.  This has been the official bracing sequence: from bilateral locked KAFOs (Knee-Ankle-Foot Orthotics locked at the knee, as Franklin D. Roosevelt used) to unlocked KAFOs to modular KAFOs/ AFOs (Ankle-Foot Orthotics without locks and with very mild knee support).  In a past video, I showed walking backwards with the same combination of ankle support wraps.  Because walking in different directions requires different muscle groups, intervals of both have been an important part of recovery since the very beginning (see previous videos on my YouTube channel).  It's much harder than it looks!  

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A Recovery Story

Here's an encouraging article about a woman who is making rapid and sudden gains in her recovery - 17 years later!  Work with what you have whenever you can.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Benefits of Standing

Near and dear to my mind are the benefits of standing.  Research indicates that standing is healthy for everybody, leading to trends such as the standing desk.  Many sites such as EasyStand and provide informative research and links.  Being upright is especially important after long times of sitting or lying down, when blood pressure variations can be a serious and even lethal problem.  This is why rehabilitation after a spinal cord injury (SCI) begins with learning to sit up again, then moving to tilting tables or standing frames as possible.

With SCIs, standing is about more than exercise.  It involves helping with blood pressure changes, developing core strength, promoting bone density, decreasing nerve pain, enhancing psychological health, and more.  (How much would you miss eye contact at eye level?)

So why this is near and dear to me?  Released from rehabilitation, I had been told to expect nothing significant beyond some slight hip movement.  Personally, my progress looked like it was grinding to a now-or-never halt when therapy stopped.  Nerve and back pain, living logistics, and muscle memory were all big factors in looking for ways to be on my feet.  Trial-and-error included everything that seemed remotely feasible: pulling up against a stool, standing supported against the edge of a couch, etc.

Well, everything but the kitchen sink - that came on Jan. 1, 2014, when I began propping up against the counter with pillows and holding on.  The first time lasted for four minutes, with increasing amounts in daily intervals, growing to fourteen hours by that spring.  Hardly an easy or perfect solution (not for osteoporosis anyway; more on that another time), and probably not recommended - but it helped me, and I was regaining muscle control and taking supported steps by the end of it.  And by the summer, my knees were occasionally holding me up unsupported.
Recurring disclaimer: This site is never intended to give medical advice or claim that the kitchen sink is a standing frame to replace other techniques.  Standing with braces has also been a great part of my recovery (see video links below).  These posts are about sharing my story and encouraging others to think outside of the box for ways to pursue mobility and health.  Brainstorming, like standing, has its benefits!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Poikilothermia, Weather or Not

Playing Scrabble to pass a cold January evening?  
Here’s a word to pick up at least 25 points: poikilothermia (that’s 3+1+1+5+1+1+1+1+4+1+1+3+1+1).  

The first half comes from the Greek word ποικίλος (-η, -ον; poikilos).  Among other things, it means “various,” “changeable,” or “manifold.”  Related to the Greek θερμός (-ή, -όν; thermos), the second half means “hot” or “warm.”  Put the two parts together and you have a reference to variable body temperature, a medical issue often to be associated with spinal cord injury.  
Poikilothermia is one of the lesser-known side effects of a disruption to the nervous system and its signals.  Essentially, it’s the inability to regulate your own body temperature.  Depending on the level and severity of a spinal cord injury, it can mean that your body may not be able to sweat and cool down on a warm day.  On the other end of the scale, piling on blankets in front of a heater might not be enough to combat chilly weather.  Poor regulation of body temperature is no laughing matter, since a serious case may potentially lead to hypothermia or hyperthermia.  It also can be unpredictable and isn’t always linked to the reading on the thermometer!
People have different ways of fighting poikilothermia.  A quick search brings up a lot of ideas, but here are some tips.
For another Scrabble tip, convert the word to poikilothermic.  

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

About Spinal Cord Injuries

What is a spinal cord injury?  Here are some basic statistics and background information on what a SCI looks like and where it occurs.  Take a look at this article's image of the intricate nervous system.  An injury to the spinal cord affects much more than most people think!