Tag Archives: spinal cord injury rehabilitation

5 Unforgettable Facts About Diving And Spinal Cord Injuries

“The only safe dive is the one you never take,” claimed an infographic from Shepherd Center. Is it true that diving puts you at risk? How serious is the connection between diving and spinal cord injuries?

July is the number one month for diving injuries by a wide margin. Here are 5 facts you need to know to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.


Fact 1: Diving is the fourth leading cause of paralyzing spinal cord injuries.


According to Shepherd Center, diving makes the list of the top five causes of spinal cord injuries with paralysis. 89% of individuals who get hurt diving are male and 11% are female. Most individuals who are injured are between 20 and 29 years old.

Shepherd Hospital SCI Dive Accidents Poster


Fact 2: There are multiple ways to sustain an injury while diving.


There are multiple ways for a dive to end in injury or paralysis based on the location and structure of the spinal cord. The severity of disability depends on the level of the spinal cord where the damage occurs.

The vertebrae of the spine, separated by intervertebral fibrous discs, protects the nervous system’s spinal cord. It is possible to damage the spinal cord by injuring the vertebrae and discs or by injuring the spinal cord itself. “Severe damage to the cord and nerves emerging from the vertebral column will cause paralysis,” reported WHO.

Neck Injury Under Wave rotational Neck Injury Under Wave Verticle Compression & Hyperflexion

A user forum on Apparelyzed highlighted some of the many ways that diving can lead to a life-altering injury:

“My husband dove into a pool on Labor Day weekend. He is a C4.”

“My spouse dove into a sponge pit. He is now a C5/6.”

“[To me] dives must include anything headfirst, whether it be into lakes, swimming pools, the sea, trampolines or bouncy castles.”

“I made a conscious though foolish decision to launch myself from my patio roof into an above ground pool ten feet away. It was a calculated risk that turned ugly. C5/6 anterior incomplete, with all the bells and whistles.”

“I dove into a surfboard. C7 complete.”

Dumped on the seabed by a huge wave…C4/5 complete.”

“When you swim competitively, you dive into the pool at the shallow end from a racing block. I was goofing around and dove too deep and hit the bottom.”

“I dove off a 70-foot-high cliff and was fine. Then I dove into a shallow area (of water) from about 6 to 7 feet and hit the sand on the bottom, fracturing my spine at C5/6.”


Fact 3: Water can be deceptive, even if you are a good judge of depth.


Many individuals who sustained a spinal cord injury from diving echo the same lament: “I thought I had good perception skills. I thought I could trust myself to stay safe.” The truth is that water often appears to be deeper than it is, which can lead to devastating errors of judgment even for experienced swimmers and divers.

HelpHOPELive diving safety

Even experienced swimmers can misjudge depth

“The physics of what happens is unforgiving, as a diver can enter the water at 15 feet per second. Most of these accidents occur in water that is less than 3 feet deep,” explained Dr. Robert Bohinski in a PSA from Mayfield Clinic. “These accidents [are] completely preventable.


Fact 4: A single dive can alter your life forever.  


In 2014, Dillon Connolly was swimming with friends when he performed a simple dive from one area of the water to another. Storms had created a sandbar beneath the water, and the impact shattered Dillon’s C5-C7 vertebrae. What followed was “the longest year of Dillon’s life,” explained girlfriend Kerry Sheridan. “Immediate surgery, nearly a month of intensive care, three months of intensive physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and lifestyle adaptations.”

Dillon Connolly HelpHOPELive

Dillon shattered his C5-C7 vertebrae while diving

Dillon explained that being an experienced swimmer isn’t enough to protect you from a dive that can severely alter the rest of your life. “I swam my entire life competitively,” he explained. “It even paid for college. I broke my neck diving into a wave where the sandy bottom went from deep to too shallow. I tell everyone I meet who asks what happened to never dive unless you can see the bottom, and to tell their kids and friends, too.”

Dillon Connolly HelpHOPELive

Dillon with his girlfriend, Kerry, and dog, Reef


Cole Sydnor was 16 when a diving accident left him paralyzed from the chest down. “The average person may not understand the extent to which our injuries affect us ‘behind the scenes,” Cole explained in an interview. “Most people…are never exposed to what it takes for [us] to shower, dress, use the restroom, etc. Those are the hardest parts about living with a spinal cord injury.”

Cole Sydnor HelpHOPELive

Cole was 16 when he became paralyzed from the chest down

To add to the physical and emotional challenges, spinal cord injuries can come along with a host of pricey out-of-pocket expenses. “Any medical expenses deemed unnecessary by insurance fall on my family and it becomes their responsibility to make those purchases,” Cole explained. “My elevator, room and bathroom renovation, and truck were all expenses that our community rallied to help fund.”

Cole Sydnor HelpHOPELive

Cole’s community “rallied to help fund” his out-of-pocket needs

Today, Cole and his family are vocal advocates for swimming and diving safety with the No What UR Divin’ N2 campaign. “I’ve been able to raise awareness about spinal cord injuries and spread a message about the importance of diving safety to youth in my community,” Cole said.

Cole Sydnor HelpHOPELive

Cole and his family are now diving safety advocates


Jeff Granger Harris broke his neck diving into the ocean in 2007. “He ran in to jump over a wave like me and him had done 20,000 times,” explained Jeff’s brother, Greg. Jeff hit his head “at the right angle, at the right speed, at the right tilt of the universe” and became paralyzed. “Anything you’re used to doing, you can’t do anymore in Jeff’s situation,” noted Greg.

Jeff Harris HelpHOPELive

Fundraising helps Jeff expand his mobility options

Jeff will face lifelong physical and financial challenges because of a split-second dive. “This is the only life that I have and I’m going to make the best of it. HelpHOPELive allows you some of that ability through fundraising,” he said. Fundraising has helped Jeff to bridge the gap between what insurance will cover and what he needs for a fulfilling and engaging life.

Jeff’s incredible story will be highlighted in an upcoming video from HelpHOPELive. Subscribe to our YouTube channel today and be among the first of our followers to see it!

Jeff Harris HelpHOPELive

A new video tells Jeff’s story


Lauren Shevchek had been swimming competitively for over a decade. At age 19, she dove into a pool and fractured three cervical vertebrae. She lost feeling from her chest downward.

Lauren Shevchek HelpHOPELive

Lauren was a competitive swimmer before her diving injury

Lauren worked through months of inpatient rehabilitation to regain some of her independence. She is beginning to recover some feeling beneath her injury site, though she mostly only experiences those sensations as pain. As her mother, Janice, explained, “We have learned to celebrate any sensation, including pain, as a sign that things are reconnecting.”

Lauren and her family speak publicly about the dangers of diving in order to reduce the number of diving-related injuries. Janice explained why she is a vocal advocate for diving safety. “Teens in particular are shocked when I mention that paralysis is not just about walking. It’s about losing your ability to urinate and move your bowels on your own,” Janice said. “Once they begin to understand, they will never forget how devastating the injury is.”

Lauren Shevchek HelpHOPELive

Lauren speaks publicly about the dangers of diving even as an experienced swimmer


Fact 5: You can make a difference.


You have a responsibility to keep yourself and your loved ones safe from preventable diving-related spinal cord injuries. Here are a few things you can do right now:

  1. Educate yourself about safe behaviors and share what you learn with your loved ones.
  2. Always swim with a lifeguard.
  3. Enter water feet first, even if you do not plan to dive.
  4. Don’t dive at all to maximize your chances of preventing injury and paralysis.
  5. Take the Feet First Pledge! Save and share the graphic below or share it via Facebook or Twitter.

HelpHOPELive

“Have the conversations,” urged Janice Shevchek. “Share Lauren’s slogan with kids: ‘If you can’t see through it, don’t dive into it.‘ Never dive headfirst into water you can’t see through, no matter how experienced you are. And don’t ever act on a dare or try risky stunts. The consequences just aren’t worth it.

Voices of Hope: Celebrating Black History Month

February is Black History Month, an opportunity to delve into the unique challenges and triumphs experienced by African-Americans. Here are two client perspectives on coping with discrimination, holding onto hope and serving as a self-advocate for your health.


David A. Jeffers

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David (above, with his wife Yasmine and sons) became paralyzed while at the beach with his family in August 2011. His family began fundraising with HelpHOPELive a month later.


Have you personally experienced or witnessed discrimination?

I’ve experienced discrimination both as a result of being black and as a result of being disabled. I have been treated as uneducated and unintelligent. People often choose to talk to my wife instead of me and ignore me, even when I address them directly. Little do they know that the black guy in the wheelchair is an active father, husband and mechanical engineer who graduated with the third highest GPA in my major.


How have you served as your own advocate?

Honestly, I’ve had to fight for almost every service I’ve used and the assistance I’ve received, including public transportation, rehabilitation and making sure neighborhood amenities are accessible. I document my experiences on my blog. I would advise others who face a similar struggle not to take ‘No’ for an answer. You must be persistent. For several issues I encountered, it took months to find a resolution.


What does Black History Month mean to you?

I wish we didn’t need to have Black History Month. I wish the history books and school curriculums could reflect events as they happened with a reverence for all cultures, but until that happens, it will remain an important month to me and my family.


What do you associate with the word ‘hope’?

A catastrophic injury like mine is truly life-changing. I could have died. As a quad, your whole approach to life has to change. You gain a totally new perspective on life. Hope gives me the ability to survive and thrive. Without hope, me and my family would not be as healthy or happy as we are today. My wife and kids are my main motivation and they help me find hope.


David is currently fundraising for Lokomat training ($85 per hour) and exercise therapy ($35 per hour) to improve his mobility. He has noticed a drop in strength and energy level since he stopped therapy in June of 2015 due to financial constraints.


Alison Jones

Alison Jones and son Alerique Dariso

Alison (above, with son Alerique Dariso) was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease (PKD) when she was seventeen. She is seeking a living kidney donor so she can receive a life-changing transplant. Alison and her son started fundraising with HelpHOPELive in June 2015.


Have you personally experienced or witnessed discrimination?

I have had to seek numerous medical opinions to get treatment. Organ transplantation was never included in potential treatment options as my kidney function declined. I had to initiate the conversation myself. After speaking with other African-Americans, the majority knew people who were on dialysis or had died on dialysis, but only a small percentage knew someone who had received a transplant. In comparison, when I speak with non-minorities, I often hear, “A friend of mine had a kidney transplant. You are going to be just fine.”

The most painful racism I have experienced: one Valentine’s Day while my son was enrolled in a private preschool, he drew a picture of his “valentine,” who had blonde hair. His teacher pulled him aside and told him he couldn’t have a blonde valentine. That incident shaped my parenting and I began to prepare my son for discrimination and teach him that no one can limit his choices in life.


Any advice for other people who are facing the challenges of PKD?

For anyone living with chronic kidney disease or PKD, I strongly suggest participating in a support group. My greatest life strategies have evolved during support group meetings. Speaking with others who are experiencing similar health experiences is therapeutic and helps you to avoid depression.


What does Black History Month mean to you?

Black History Month is a reminder that generations of people have overcome insurmountable obstacles through diligence and continuous effort. Black History Month reminds me that giving up is not an option.

African-Americans make up a minority within the general population, yet we face higher rates of hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and obesity. All of these conditions can lead to kidney failure. One of the reasons I am looking forward to receiving a kidney transplant is so I can teach and advocate for early kidney function testing and proactive health behaviors to change current health trends.


What do you associate with the word ‘hope’?

I am so thankful to all of my loved ones who have supported me during this journey. To me, hope is another day of breath and opportunity. Every time God gives me another breath, I want to make it count, and that is living hope. After my life, hope will be there for more generations to strive to reach their highest level of potential and opportunity.


Alison is fundraising for uncovered costs associated with her kidney transplant preparations, including the cost of a lifetime of post-transplant anti-rejection medications.

Motivated By Love, One Family Launched The ‘Project’ Of A Lifetime

Paul Pickard founded Project Walk Atlanta in 2011 with his wife, Jeannie, and his son, Chris, who was paralyzed in a car accident when he was 18 years old. We asked Paul about spinal cord injury rehabilitation and his motivation for opening Project Walk Atlanta.

Project Walk Atlanta staff


What did you know about Project Walk when you founded Project Walk Atlanta?


Other than knowing that God placed it on our heart to build the facility in Atlanta, I really didn’t know that much about the PW network. When we founded our center, there was no research or due diligence before building. As crazy as it sounds, in the middle of a recession, we built PWA solely on faith, without a business plan.

What I know today about the four Project Walk centers — located in Orlando, Kansas City, Dallas and Austin — is that they are all very passionate about helping people with spinal cord injuries. These centers opened because there was a serious need in their community and their lives. Each center is filled with love and compassion for its clients.


Can services like the ones offered at Project Walk Atlanta significantly improve quality of life for people who have spinal cord injuries?


All human bodies require movement and some level of exercise. At a bare minimum, people with spinal cord injuries learn how to get their body moving to connect with their paralyzed limbs. Daily quality of life factors such as eating, scratching an itch, brushing teeth, etc. are addressed with our services by training the neuromuscular system.

Project Walk Sarah


What are some examples of modern spinal cord injury therapy equipment or technology used at Project Walk Atlanta?


We are fortunate to carry the entire suite of Restorative Therapy Functional Electrical Stimulation machines: RT600, RT300 and RT200. FES coordinates neuromuscular re- education by firing respective muscles in the same order as when a person moves. Some other exciting pieces of equipment:

-The locomotor treadmill is an innovative intervention that helps individuals with gait impairments. The technique is an activity-based therapy that works to retrain the spinal cord to “remember” the pattern of walking again.

Vibration platform training excites additional muscle fibers to become engaged, improves bone density, and increases circulation and aerobic capacity.

Tissue regenerative technology uses shock wave energy for tissue regeneration, reducing scar tissue around the injury point and activating the autonomic nervous system.

The Bioness H200 is electrical stimulation prosthetic for the hands.

Project Walk Nick


Which innovations or technological advances are you most excited about for the future?


Dr. Scott Bertrand’s core development and training devices are promising. Currently in use at his office in Georgia, this device uses rotational mechanics of an isolated muscle contraction on each side of your core to fully engage activity. Other devices that are promising involve body weight-supported gait training which measures speed, stride length, stride width, tempo and weight-bearing percentage to drive performance improvements. And, finally, a new device being made for clinical use is exciting: an EMG portable unit that will measure exact muscle activity, providing the user and the clinician the ability to discern appropriate techniques leading to neuromuscular activity below the level of injury for our clients.


Did your son’s injury influence your outlook on spinal cord damage, therapy, or life in general?


I find myself not complaining as much anymore because I really, really hate this injury with a passion. In a flash of a second, your entire life changes forever. It doesn’t creep up on you; it just annihilates your world.

Chris Pickard Jeanie Pickard Paul Pickard Project Walk Atlanta Georgia


Does Chris continue to make progress with his own rehabilitation journey?


Rehabilitation takes form in several ways. It is not only physical; it is also spiritual and mental. Chris has made great strides in all three.


What keeps your family moving forward?


FAITH, without a doubt. The strength that our faith in Jesus Christ has given us is the glue that has held us together. There were many nights spent crying, asking God for answers and even getting angry with God. We will never understand nor should we expect to. Without faith and prayer, this injury could become overwhelming at times.


Does your family’s personal experience give you unique insights to share with other families who come to Project Walk Atlanta?


You learn very quickly how to adapt to this injury. At Project Walk Atlanta, every client becomes part of a bigger family that shares and loves one another. We are there to pray with you or cry — whichever!

Project Walk Joe


Is cost a significant barrier to SCI rehabilitation for some families?


Cost is the biggest barrier. If you have a premium insurance policy, you might get reimbursed 75%. Otherwise, you have to rely on fundraising. Although we try to provide scholarships when we can, it is very important that we teach our clients how to fundraise. The average person has never asked for money or knows how. Although there are many online fundraising sites, I always point them to HelpHOPELive where they will get the best guidance to raise funds.


Based on your son Chris’s fundraising efforts with HelpHOPELive, what are some of the costs that SCI-affected families can expect to face 3 to 5 years after injury?


Medical supplies, housing adaptation, standing frames, FES bikes and vehicle modification are a few expenses that can be anticipated


What piece(s) of advice would you offer to someone who was recently injured? What would you tell his or her family?


The advice that I would give someone is to begin fundraising early. This injury is so devastating on families financially that most families can end up in bankruptcy. Everything is so expensive and most insurance will not pay for long-term therapy. Medicaid pays for catheters but won’t pay for suppositories. Go figure!


The PWA website notes: “Everyone needs hope. Without hope you can’t recover.” Do you think that hope or a positive attitude can alter the rehabilitation process?


Absolutely. Without hope, what do you have? Every person affected by spinal cord injury has or once had hope that he or she would recover. Unfortunately, most acute hospitals’ doctors knock the wind from your sail by making statements like “you will not ever walk again” or “get used to the wheelchair.” At the end of the day, only God knows what anyone’s outcome really is.

I know many people that were told they would never walk and now they are beginning to take their first steps, crawl or even walk again. It is that hope and the belief in themselves that helped them get to that point.

Project Walk equipment


Connect with Project Walk Atlanta on Facebook to learn more about spinal cord injury rehabilitation. You can follow Chris Pickard’s journey on his Campaign Page.

 

7 Myths About Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation

Families coping with a spinal cord injury have so many factors to consider, from immediate medical support to long-term care and financial planning. In the final installment of our series, Amy Bratta gives us 7 common misconceptions about spinal cord injury rehabilitation.

wheelchair art design mobility disability


Myth 1: Cost isn’t a factor after a spinal cord injury.


In most cases, injured individuals will need wheelchairs, lift systems, ramps and bathroom equipment before continuing to recover at home – and those are just the basics. Access to these resources is significantly impacted by insurance and a patient’s individual financial circumstances.


Myth 2: Young adults find it easier to deal with spinal cord injuries.


When it comes to spinal cord injuries, every individual is unique. Rehabilitation depends on social support, how the injury happened and a host of other variables. Age is not necessarily the leading factor that differentiates one patient’s experience following a spinal cord injury from another’s.

At Magee, we try to meet young adults where they are in terms of coping with their injury. We hold adolescent or young adult support groups. We’ve developed a young adult suite with tutoring, computer access, gaming, large-screen TVs and other comforts that provides a space where recovering young adults can spend their time. Specialty age-related counselors and coordinators are on staff to help adolescents return to school and work, or to pursue educational opportunities once back in the community or online.


Myth 3: Spinal cord injury rehabilitation ends once you leave the hospital.


When a person is admitted to inpatient rehabilitation, he or she is evaluated by a team of clinicians. Together, the person and team set goals and a plan to reach the goals. These goals stretch well beyond the initial inpatient hospitalization. We help patients and families create a therapy plan for what they can do now, with the movement they have, but we also help them to develop a long-term plan of care for when they leave the inpatient rehab environment. The end of inpatient therapy is not the end of spinal cord injury recovery! People can continue to participate in therapy at home or in outpatient depending on the circumstances.


Myth 4: Spinal cord injuries stay the same throughout an individual’s lifetime.


As an individual with a SCI ages, he or she will face new and different challenges or complications. In addition to the normal effects of aging that we all face, SCI-related complications may present themselves years after the injury itself. You may gain weight, increase or decrease your level of strength, or experience changes in your skin’s strength. Sometimes, these factors can be managed or minimized with foresight. But in other cases, internal developments may be out of your control. That’s why it’s essential to have a knowledgeable and dependable team to supervise your long-term health and rehabilitation.


Myth 5: Families can’t do much to support spinal cord injury rehabilitation.


Social support is a critical component. Our multidisciplinary team members are part of that support system. We encourage families to be actively involved in their loved one’s inpatient hospital stay as soon and as often as they can, as they will play a critical role in supporting the next phases of rehabilitation once their loved one is back in the community and out of the hospital.


Myth 6: Physical therapists can easily predict how each patient will progress.


I wish we had a crystal ball and could predict the future. We try to help patients understand what we see as their current potential and what we know might be possible based on the level of their injury. There is always room for hope. With spinal cord injuries, it’s never black and white. We tell patients, this is what we can see and anticipate right now. If those circumstances change, it’s time to reevaluate.


Myth 7: A positive attitude has little influence on how patients deal with rehabilitation.


A positive attitude makes a significant difference in helping someone to achieve the highest level of independence possible. This may sometimes mean a full recovery of physical function; other times it may mean using technology and equipment to lead an active and independent lifestyle. Mental toughness and motivation are keys to success in both of these scenarios.


Our myth buster is Amy Bratta, the spinal cord injury Therapy Manager at Magee Rehabilitation Hospital in Philadelphia.

An Inside Look At Spinal Cord Injury Physical Therapy

About 12,500 people will experience a spinal cord injury this year. How will physical therapy impact their lives? Amy Bratta, the spinal cord injury therapy manager at Magee Rehabilitation Hospital in Philadelphia, answers our questions about SCI rehabilitation.

Amy Bratta Magee spinal cord injury physical therapy sci rehabilitation philly philadelphia


What sort of social support is provided to individuals who pursue inpatient physical therapy?

Here at Magee Rehabilitation, we collaborate on a multidisciplinary team that includes clinical neuropsychologists and an extensive peer support program for patients and families with individual and group options.


What technologies are available to promote independence for people with spinal cord injuries?

We try to give people opportunities to try equipment that will enable them to be more independent in their homes and communities. We have an amazing “Smartroom” that shows some of this new technology. Identifying the best technology tools to promote independence depends on understanding an individual’s mobility level and the funding that he or she has access to in order to continue using the tools at home.

HelpHOPELive: We’ll be taking a closer look at some of these cutting-edge modalities in a future Blog post. Stay tuned!


Which spinal cord injury support initiatives are you most excited about?

We’ve started a pilot SCI “medical home” program for injured individuals. There are similar models for people with chronic diseases, but very few available for people with spinal cord injuries. It’s an attempt to follow people closely after they leave inpatient rehabilitation and transition back to the community. The medical home multidisciplinary team provides proactive support and services to minimize medical complications and promote optimal health after a spinal cord injury.

Spinal cord injury therapy is a fast-moving space in which professionals try to seek answers and tailor technological developments to individual needs. Stem cell research and other medical developments continue to give people hope that in the future we will have more answers than we have now.

Amy Bratta treadmill physical therapy sci spinal cord injury PT Magee Rehabilitation Philly Philadelphia


What is essential to success as a spinal cord injury physical therapist?

Collaboration is essential. We work closely on a multidisciplinary team to provide well-informed and complete support. We typically look for new team members who are self-motivated, willing to learn and invested in teamwork. There is a physical component to our work, but it is also very emotional. Working with individuals and their families after a traumatic injury can be an intense and rewarding experience.


What have you learned from the injured individuals you’ve worked with?

With each person that I’ve worked with, what stands out to me is the strength of the human spirit. A person going through trauma can and will deal with the outcome and move forward to the best of his or her ability. That applies to social and emotional transitioning as well as physical rehabilitation. Sometimes I truly feel that I’ve learned more from some of our patients than they have learned from me!

Ekso bionic exoskeleton sci spinal cord injury Amy Bratta Magee Rehabilitation physical therapy Philadelphia


When Penn State quarterback Adam Taliaferro was injured in 2000, he had surgery, followed by 7 months of in- and outpatient services at Magee. What was it like working with Adam?

Adam is an extraordinary young man who came in with very little active movement initially. He was always very present, highly motivated, mentally tough and positive, and he carried that attitude not only into his own care and therapy but into the lives of others who were struggling with similar injuries. That’s the beauty of being here: people going through similar experiences can be there for each other. Adam is an exceptional example of giving back while pursuing personal rehabilitation.


What’s your favorite part of your job?

I like that my job is very dynamic. Every day is a little bit different. You have to adapt, even if you think you have a plan! I meet some incredible people. You walk in the door and see what other people are dealing with, and suddenly your problems or issues seem completely insignificant by comparison.

My work inspires me and gives me perspective. I appreciate the opportunity to serve people who have been through trauma and injury. Every day when I come to work, I feel like I still have a role in helping people to receive the best care they possibly can. It can be a very emotional job – but for us, working in this field means entering a very special place where we can make a significant and lasting impact on an individual’s life.

Amy Bratta spinal cord injury sci physical therapy rehabilitation Magee Philadelphia


We appreciate your time, Amy! Visit the Magee Rehabilitation Hospital website to learn more about Amy Bratta’s work.

 

Ask A Professional: Spinal Cord Injury Treatments

Roughly 12,500 people are diagnosed with a spinal cord injury every year. Dr. Mark Eskander, a spine surgeon at Delaware Orthopaedic Specialists, offered insights on what spinal cord injury survivors can expect when they explore modern treatment options.

Dr. Mark Eskander

I heard about a breakthrough treatment. Will it heal my spinal cord injury?

Technology in this industry is evolving constantly, but not all of the ‘groundbreaking’ treatments featured in popular news will apply to spinal cord injury patients with permanent damage. Mainstream media is not always in touch with medical reality. However, there is incredible research being conducted right now in this space.

online news

Are new treatments being researched?

Aggressive cooling may help to reduce secondary acute injuries, but this path is a distant consideration. Stem cells may one day provide an avenue for spinal regeneration. There is also extensive research into advanced prosthesis technology that may provide a return to functionality.

research

Where can I find credible spinal cord injury information?

The American Spinal Injury Association is one of the most well-known organizations serving this patient population. Spinal cord injury groups are a great source for news and support.

How do I begin the SCI treatment process?

New procedures are not the right fit for everyone, so a frank discussion is a vital part of the process. Approach someone who you can trust on your care team, whether it’s a physical therapist or a spinal surgeon. Do your own research online to supplement the process. Some of my patients will discuss and share their personal experiences with others to illuminate their treatment options; that kind of personal connection can supplement your decision-making process.

laptop

I have had a lot of treatment setbacks. Should I give up?

Treatment and rehabilitation options have extremely positive outcomes for many. Improvement is always possible. Though the early diagnosis phase can be very laborious, it’s in your best interest to stay focused and positive with the help of your team.

confused

How do I know if surgery is right for my injury?

Depending on your response to treatments like injection or physical therapy, your care team will choose whether or not to explore other options. If you’re not a candidate for newer procedures, you don’t need to lose hope: many different procedures, old and new, have their own merits for individual patient needs.

doctor office

How can I mentally prepare for spinal surgery?

Always have realistic goals and expectations for surgery. Expecting to turn into your former self again is a classic setup for failure. Even if you are looking at improvement in the 80 to 90 percent range, you need to remain realistic. You can be dissatisfied if you go in to a treatment expecting a full recovery.

What does the recovery process look like after spinal cord injury surgery?

Spinal cord injury surgery comes with an intensive follow-up and care team collaboration process. You’re looking at ICU stays, possibly multiple surgeries, rehabilitation, specialized spinal cord injury physical therapy, home care with therapists, medical devices to manage day-to-day and, potentially, new devices to accommodate mobility needs.

therapy

Will these treatments be expensive?

Treatment can be a huge cost burden for spinal cord injury patients. Therapies and experimental trials can be both expensive and time-consuming. However, just because there’s a cost burden does not mean that treatment is not worth it.

cost

Will I be able to live a happy life post-injury?

Spinal cord injury patients can live happy and meaningful lives post-injury, without a doubt. These patients have been some of the nicest and most outspoken community members I’ve met in my practice. Modern technology and mobility equipment can improve quality of life and family ties can remain strong after injury.

wheelchair

What do you tell your patients when they prepare for treatment?

A positive mindset is huge. Have hope and get the resources to make it happen. Adjust your expectations for what you can and cannot hope to achieve, but face these realities early on, then start focusing on the positives.

positive

To learn more about Dr. Mark Eskander, visit his website. If you’re struggling to afford spinal cord injury treatment, learn more about your HelpHOPELive fundraising options.

Air Force Airman and Firefighter Refuses to Be Extinguished By Spinal Cord Injury

In July of 2014, a simple trip to the beach changed Air Force airman John Michael LeMoine’s life forever.

John LeMoine HelpHOPELive Air Force

John LeMoine in his Air Force uniform.

John was enrolled in a firefighting technical school in San Angelo, Texas. On a rare day off, John decided to head down to the lakefront with his friends to enjoy the early summer sun. While he and his friends were goofing around, John had to leap into the air to avoid a child playing on the shore. John managed to avoid harming the child, but as he fell, John landed on his neck and shattered his cervical spine (C-6).

John entered a state of cardiac arrest. Thankfully surrounded by his firefighting co-trainees, he was quickly transported to a trauma facility, where he remained in critical condition. Described as a fighter by his supporters, after spending three days in the ICU, LeMoine slowly recuperated from his near-death cardiac emergency. Within six weeks, John had committed himself fully to recovery from his spinal cord injury.

John LeMoine HelpHOPELive ICU

John spent three days in the ICU following his injury.

A C-6 spinal cord injury can cause patients to experience bladder dysfunction, uncontrollable blood pressure and heart rate, body temperature spikes, muscle atrophy, bodily pains and osteoporosis. The recovery process requires hospitalization, rehabilitation and ongoing medical costs that can total over $2 million over the course of a lifetime.

It took six weeks of intensive therapy before John managed to wiggle his left big toe.

At Shepherd Center, an Atlanta rehabilitation hospital, and Project Walk Atlanta, an exercise-based recovery facility, John began to make steady progress. Using the Lokomat, a robotic machine to stimulate movement in the lower extremities, John finally began to wiggle his toes. According to his rehabilitation team, the Lokomat offered John the best possible chance to regain the ability to walk – but the cost of using the machine would become prohibitive once John’s insurance allotment ran dry.

John LeMoine HelpHOPELive Lokomat

John needed extensive rehabilitation to regain mobility.

Thanks to donations to HelpHOPELive from friends and supporters, on March 4, Project Walk Atlanta reported that John was able to stand completely independently. Next to a picture of a smiling John, the Project Walk team noted, “He has put in a lot of hard work to get where he is now, and we are excited to see where he is going to go from here.”

HelpHOPELive John LeMoine stands

John stands on his own for the first time since his accident.

John is looking ahead to a life of continued selflessness. As supporters note on John’s HelpHOPELive Campaign Page, “His wish is to remain in the Air Force and continue to be [an] airman, and if at all possible, to somehow go toward the fire again.” John’s accident could not eclipse his desire to serve. “If anyone knows the heart of a fireman, you know that they are the most selfless people in our lives,” his supporters confirm.

John receives continual support and encouragement from his “Air Force family,” his friends and “even strangers who have given us support and strength from the beginning,” notes his Campaign Page.

HelpHOPELive John LeMoine nephew

John pursues recovery with support from nephew Jake…

John LeMoine HelpHOPELive niece

…and niece Lily.

John’s supporters have thanked donors for “the outpouring of love and support” they have received so far. “Every one of you have helped us meet our goal for John’s continued therapy,” they note. “We have all learned so much about ourselves and the goodness of people…These donations will allow him to strengthen his ability to walk again and meet those financial challenges.”

John LeMoine HelpHOPELive family

John’s family and supporters thank the community.

John is looking to friends, Air Force peers and family for continued support as he makes major strides in his recovery.

You can give John your support by reaching out on Facebook or on Twitter and following his recovery at helphopelive.org.

If you or someone you know is struggling with the medical costs associated with a spinal cord injury, reach out to us at helphopelive.org. Our team can help you to fundraise online and in your local community to offset your uninsured medical expenses.