Tuesday, June 25, 2019

More Research in Louisville, KY

This is a pretty exciting article about more of the results coming out of the University of Louisville.  Researcher Susan Harkema is doing some great work there.  I appreciate her tenacity and her general attitude about SCI research.  She seems to recognize not only that even the smallest changes are worth tracking, but also that they have the potential to change lives for the better in big ways. 

Saturday, June 15, 2019

6 Years Later: SCI, PhD, and Video Montage: 6 Years in 6 Minutes

Today is the sixth anniversary of the car accident that caused my spinal cord injury, and therefore marks six years since the beginning of my recovery story.  This spring also marks a happier milestone: in May, I had the privilege and blessing of graduating with my PhD in Classics from Yale University.  I began the PhD program the year before the accident and was visiting family over the summer when a distracted driver rear-ended our car.  Thank you to everyone who has helped along the way to graduation — most especially to those at Yale University, Yale Classics, and BiofitKC.  I'm excited about the next stage of my journey: working with Cordical LC; continuing recovery along with research, writing, and speaking; and hoping to encourage others.  The best is yet to come!

To follow my journey so far, see this montage uploaded today to YouTube:
6 Years in 6 Minutes: Spinal Cord Injury and Path to PhD

Monday, May 27, 2019

Cordical's AccessiRep: Working to Solve a Repeated Problem

Ever since my injury, I have worked hard to get back on my feet.  But unfortunately, regular pedometers and trackers don’t measure much of my activity, if they register any of it at all.  When I was first beginning to walk regularly, charting progress became more and more important.  I counted steps to judge distance and improvements, but with a spinal cord injury, it’s difficult enough simply to focus on taking steps, much less count them at the same time! 

Fixing that situation has been one of the goals of Cordical, a technological start-up founded by me and an extremely talented computer scientist, who happens to be my brother.  Together, we designed AccessiRep, a step counter and activity repetition tracker.  I can launch the application on my phone and put it on a walker, and the app will track my motion and count my steps for me.  It registers activity on a chart and will count aloud if desired.  We are excited to release AccessiRep on Apple’s App Store for $2, and hope that others will see the app’s potential for use in many settings, with disabilities or not.  Since this is our initial release, we also would like feedback on user experiences as we look forward to improving AccessiRep and making it even more personalized and adaptable.

AccessiRep is not a therapy device so much as it is a fitness tool.  Its present features include calibrating for different levels of sensitivity to support multiple types of activity detection, a graph showing movement duration and intensity, private access to past results, and an optional audio counter that will count your exercise repetitions out loud as you work.  Basically, AccessiRep can be put to work for many creative purposes and programs.  In many ways, it’s been a game-changer for me personally.

To learn more about Cordical, follow this link to our website, and to see more on AccessiRep or to purchase the app, follow this link to the App Store

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

A Note on Locomotor Training

This study on locomotor training (LT) caught my eye because I was able to have a few sessions of this type of training soon after my injury, but was released due to lack of improvement.  LT involves being supported in a harness (often above a treadmill) and having manual assistance at standing and stepping, among other things.  My limited experience with it was before I began walking with a walker and braces all of the time.  (That was not possible at the time I was released from LT, but you can see videos on my YouTube channel.  Hopefully they will encourage others not to give up.)
But back to this study.  Eight centers gave 120 sessions of this training apiece to people with SCIs — and saw positive changes.  As the study concludes, "Delivering at least 120 sessions . . . improves recovery from incomplete chronic SCI."  The hope is that if insurance permits more LT early on, then there will be fewer hospitalizations and complications later. 
Even better is to see what the results actually were.  I came across a write-up published by Kate Willette, wife of one of the participants.  Apparently many of the people in the study did not have "significant improvement" until at least 60 visits, with some seeing nothing until after 80 visits.  She explains that the study involved 69 people with ASIA C or D injuries, meaning that they have some muscle function below the site of injury (the ASIA scale is best left for another post, but can be used as a common shorthand for how much function or ability someone has after a spinal cord injury).  Of those 69 people, 42 could not walk at all at the beginning; at the end, 20 of the 42 were able to manage with rolling or standard walkers, crutches, or canes. 
All of this is pretty amazing.  More than that, although it again shows how slow and tedious recovery can be after an injury like this — and frequently needing external help or equipment — it is not necessarily impossible.  The people who took part in the study had incomplete injuries and were at different stages in their recovery, but many of them did see improvements.  More to come!

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Post-Injury Effects of Pre-Injury Fitness

At least one study is showing how important an active lifestyle before injury is for recovery after injury.  I don't have any information about the medication rehabilitation mentioned at the end of the article, but the rest of the study certainly makes sense.  If you have more muscle memory before an injury, it seems to help with rebuilding or retracing neural pathways afterward.  It would be interesting to see more here on statistical differences for exercise types — i.e., when possible, actively or passively retraining post-injury with the kinds of exercises you used to do pre-injury.  At any rate, from what I have seen (and not just in my own case), active or assisted exercises are essential elements for muscle return. 

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Thursday, March 28, 2019

3D-Printed Scaffolding

3D-printed implants for scaffolding to repair spinal cord injuries.  It sounds a bit like science fiction when you hear that this technology can be printed in minutes, but scientists are doing it

Friday, March 15, 2019

Adam Gorlitsky Update

Adam Gorlitsky has made the news before for his long walks with a ReWalk exoskeleton.  It's nice to see that he's still going, and planning on completing the Los Angeles Marathon later this month

Friday, March 8, 2019

Ongoing Recovery of Robert Wickens

This is just a really nice article to see about the ongoing recovery of Robert Wickens, injured six months ago. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

iPS cell trial

A big topic in the news this week: Japan has approved trial stem cell therapy/ treatments for humans with spinal cord injuries.  The cells are "induced pluripotents" stem (iPS) cells.  A Nature.com article explains that "IPS cells are created by inducing cells from body tissue to revert to an embryonic-like state, from which they can develop into other cell types" (David Cyranoski, "'Reprogrammed' stem cells to treat spinal-cord injuries for the first time").  This means that your own cells are used in the procedure.  Researchers from Keio University will conduct the trial with four people who have recent spinal cord injuries. 
This is the first clinical trial of its kind for spinal cord injuries (not for iPS cells).  One worth watching!

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Video Update, Feb. 2019: Assisted Heel Slides

This video shows a new sort of exercise for me: assisted heel slides from a sitting position.  Position makes a big difference in muscle response.  That's why it is so important to vary exercises while standing, sitting, or lying down.  That's also why it is important (I think) to have as much active physical therapy as possible.  Your brain and body adjust to static situations, and your nervous system easily adapts to doing less work.  Hence therapists say "use it or lose it."  If the muscles are working, if the nerves are trying to trace new pathways, then it's time to find innovative ways to encourage more improvement. 
Easier said than done.  It isn't easy for anyone with a spinal cord injury to go through this process alone.  Not everyone has returns to encourage, and certainly not everyone has a way to follow up with therapy or exercise.  Thank you to all those who are helping me take advantage of the good changes!

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Video Update (January 2019)

An update: this video is from January 2019.  I couldn't do heel slides last year, so this is a nice way to start off the new year.  It also indicates that more muscles are returning even as others are strengthening. 

Nerve Transfer Research

A new option for restoring arm function: nerve transfer surgery.

Monday, January 21, 2019

SCIs and Internal Clocks

This particular study on circadian rhythms might explain itself.  Or at least, it might explain why it's being posted in the middle of the night.

Friday, January 18, 2019