What I became disabled due to a spinal cord injury in 1994, spinal cord injury treatment was extremely limited. In the acute phase of recovery, spinal cord injury surgery consisted of your spine being realigned and surgically fused. After you were medically stable, most people were transferred to a rehabilitation center for a period of three to six months. The spinal cord injury treatment consisted of physical and occupational therapy of whatever physical function your injury left you with. Then you went home or to a long-term care facility.
The doctors were very clear with me regarding the body function I would regain after sustaining a spinal cord injury. The only spinal cord injury treatment they could offer me were massive amounts of steroids, given within the first 48 hours of injury to stop/or shrink any swelling within and surrounding the spinal cord to ward off any additional damage.
There was one thing newly injured people watched for – “spinal shock”. Spinal shock was not a spinal cord injury treatment or spinal cord surgery. In simple terms, bruising and swelling within the spinal cord takes about six weeks to go away. Throughout this process, if you are going to get additional physical function back, this is when you would get it. After spinal shock wore off, what ever function you had, that’s what you were usually left to live with.
I am lucky. Initially, I needed a respirator, and I was able to come off of it. I had no feeling, no sensation, and today I can feel head to toe. I was paralyzed from the neck down, and I gained back movement in both arms and some of my torso. Coming off the respirator happened quickly, within the spinal shock timeframe.
The movement and sensation, however, came back painstakingly slow, over years worth of time. This is why one of the first things my doctors told me about the lack of spinal cord injury treatment was very little is understood about our spinal cord, meaning everyone is an individual and every recovery is unique.
Fast forward to April 2014. Due to the results of committed research teams for spinal cord injury treatment at the University of Louisville and the University of California-Los Angeles, some voluntary movement has been restored to four men who were told they would never move their legs again.
This finding, published April 15th, 2014, by the journal Brain, completely upends understanding of the spinal cord, spinal cord injury treatment possibilities, and could transform the lives of more than 1.2 million Americans who lack control over their lower limbs. I am one of them.
It’s important to be clear about this spinal cord injury treatment. It is not a cure. But it changes sustaining a spinal cord injury from a sentence of complete, permanent paralysis to one of immeasurable hope. Spinal cord injury treatment is upon us.
A device, the size of a pacemaker, is implanted below the spinal cord injury area. Electrodes run down the spinal cord and when turned on, electronic pulses send messages to muscles, making movement possible.
Eight years ago, Rob Summers became paralyzed from the neck down due to a spinal cord injury. He is now able to move his torso and his legs due to this groundbreaking spinal cord injury treatment.
There is improvement on the inside, as well as the outside. Bowel, bladder and sexual function are all affected when an individual sustains a spinal cord injury. With this new spinal cord injury treatment, all four men have had improvement in those areas.
The University of Louisville is in the process of picking four more individuals to participate in their next study from a database of 2,000 volunteers. The volunteers have to commit to moving to Louisville for two years. This spinal cord injury treatment involves time and intense physical therapy.
It’s amazing to me I just wrote an article about spinal cord injury treatment existing today. You can bet your bottom dollar I inquired on the how to get on the volunteers list as soon as I knew it existed!
When researchers and scientists say there’s no question this remarkable breakthrough in spinal cord injury treatment will benefit others with paralysis, you know something extraordinary has occurred.
From the bottom of my heart, as one of the 1.2 million people living with paralysis in America, thank you to the research team and everyone else involved in discovering a real spinal cord injury treatment. Particularly, thank you to the four men who were the pioneers of this initial study and all they had to endure. You paved the way for doctors giving the heartbreaking news to a newly spinal cord injured person to now be able to say, “There is spinal cord injury treatment available.”