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Lamkin to battle paralysis in Miami Project

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Will Lamkin of Canton, a patient at St. Dominic’s Outpatient Rehab Center since 2008, will participate in a three-month clinical trial beginning in March 2011.

Lamkin is one of only 40 applicants world-wide accepted into the research program of The Miami Project, housed in the Lois Pope LIFE Center, a Center of Excellence at the University Of Miami Miller School Of Medicine. Admission is an honor bestowed on those who have demonstrated significant progress through their own determination and the hard work put forth by their rehabilitation teams.

In 1985, Dr. Barth A. Green and NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Nick Buoniconti founded The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis after Nick’s son, Marc, sustained a spinal cord injury during a college football game. Today, The Miami Project is one of the world’s most comprehensive spinal cord injury research centers. The Miami Project’s international team of more than 200 scientists, researchers and clinicians take innovative approaches to the challenge of spinal cord injury.

Lamkin, 27, came to St. Dominic as an incomplete quadriplegic as a result of a 2008 car accident. “Dec. 16 will be the two-year anniversary,” he said.

“After surgery, I was told I was not ever going to walk again,” Lamkin said. “The doctors came to see me and said the surgery went well, but that I was going to be in a wheelchair. I said, ‘OK, we’ll see about that.’ ”

Rachel Jacobson, senior physical therapist, and Wendy Barrilleaux, clinical coordinator of neurology service at St. Dominic’s Outpatient Rehab, admit they felt the prognosis for Lamkin’s full recovery was relatively low due to the severity of his injuries.

“Based on my experience, I felt he might get a little better, but I honestly was not sure if he would ever walk again,” said Jacobson. “That all changed after I began working with Will.

“He pushed me as hard as I pushed him,” she said. “Whenever I would mention something new that I planned to try during the next session, he would insist on trying it then. I quickly learned that in order to get him to focus on that week’s work, I had to stay silent about future treatment.”

Barilleaux added that while St. Dominic’s therapists often hear patients say “I will walk again,” the odds are not always in their favor, particularly for those like Lamkin with severe injuries. However, his determination to beat the odds and get out of his wheelchair played a big part in his recovery.

Lamkin works out daily at St. Dominic as well as at the Madison County Healthplex in Canton. “I do pretty much what everyone does at the gym – free weights, bikes … I’m aiming for Miami,” he said.

Two years after his accident, Lamkin is walking. He requires minimal assistance when walking, but he is able to stand up and walk around, something therapists say is a rare occurrence with someone suffering from his injuries.

It’s that strength of character that brought Lamkin’s application to the attention of officials at The Miami Project, who are selective in choosing applicants for the program.

St. Dominic’s therapists are optimistic that during the three-month clinical trials, Lamkin will not only discover solutions to his specific problems, including the effects of spasticity on his gait, but will bring information back to St. Dominic that can benefit their treatment programs.

“The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis is the world’s most comprehensive spinal cord injury research center; one that is dedicated to finding more effective treatments for, and ultimately a cure for paralysis,” said Jacobson. “We’re excited that one of our patients will be in the midst of some of the nation’s top researchers, clinicians, and therapists whose expertise relates directly to the problem of spinal cord injury and whose full-time focus is spinal cord research. Hopefully, we can share in the knowledge he gains and use it to benefit other patients with injuries like his.”

Said Lamkin: “I’m not going to stop. With the technology that is out there, there will be a cure for paralysis.”
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Will Lamkin’s treatment will be free as a result of his participation in the clinical trial. However, he will incur other expenses related to travel and living arrangements. A scholarship fund has been established for Lamkin, “Will Lamkin Will Walk,” at Merchants and Farmers Bank. For more information, call (601) 200-4920.

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