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Fundraiser aids injured woman

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A fundraiser to help offset costs of medical care for a South African woman recovering from a spinal cord injury will be held Friday, March 9, at the Hillcrest Country Club in Lower Burrell.

Douwne Muller, 19, of Cape Town, Republic of South Africa, suffered a spinal cord injury while on vacation with her family in March 2005. The injury caused a multitude of medical problems, forcing Muller to be dependent upon her parents and caregivers.

“Douwne has quadrapalegia and that won’t change,” Susan Kreinbrook, Muller’s Physical Therapist for her outpatient sessions, says. “We are aiming to educate her and her family members so that she can rely more on her self and her individual progress.”

Muller discovered a treatment using the new technology of robotic treadmills after watching an episode of Oprah, a talk show hosted by Oprah Winfrey. Winfrey interviewed Dana Reeves prior to her 2006 death. The wife of actor Christopher Reeves discussed advances in treating spinal cord injuries that she learned about while caring for her disabled husband.

Muller’s sister, a physician’s assistant for a Pittsburgh-based orthopedic practice, researched Rehabilitation facilities in the area and found the AutoAmbulator, a robotic treadmill that simulates walking patterns. The treadmill, in use at HealthSouth Harmarville Rehabilitation, has since aided Muller greatly in her recovery.

“There is a lot to work on and we are trying to do it in a timely manner before Douwne returns to South Africa,” Kreinbrook says. “But Douwne is very highly motivated, as well as her family, to work a lot at a team effort for her continued progression.”

Muller and her mother now reside with her sister and continue therapy on an outpatient basis. Taking great strides in regaining independence, Muller receives physical, occupational, hand and aquatic therapy.

Friday’s fundraiser will help offset medical costs for Muller, who is without health insurance, to cover her rehabilitation or equipment needs.

The dinner, concert and silent auction begins at

7 p.m. and features a traditional South African meal and a piano concert by the Westhuizen Duo. Cost for tickets is $50 per person.

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