Progress for Andy Scott comes in bits and pieces.
The Powell, Wyo., man underwent experimental stem cell surgery in Europe six months ago in hopes of healing his partially severed spinal cord.
Scott, 23, is a quadriplegic. After the surgery, in which Scott’s own stem cells were harvested from the base of his nose and packed around the injury on the back of his neck, he went to the Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan Center for Spinal Cord Injury Recovery in Detroit.
He’d been there for just a couple of weeks when physical therapists propped him upright in an adult-sized walker. He was 6 feet, 4 inches tall – a full four inches taller than he had been when he was paralyzed during a high school wrestling match in 2001.
Staff at the rehab center said standing up in the walker was the first step toward walking again. Other paralyzed patients in Detroit take steps on their own with support from the walking devices.
But after about two weeks of standing, a bone-density test revealed Scott’s left hip was dangerously weak.
“They didn’t want to stand me on it,” he said. “It’s partly because I don’t stand up near as much as regular people. That makes bones weaker. And part of it is just not enough calcium.”
Scott began taking calcium supplements and exercising other parts of his body. After five months at the rehabilitation center, he has better balance, more muscle tone in his arms and a stronger back and belly.
“It’s hard to tell if it’s from the surgery or the therapy,” Scott said.
One noticeable change that he does attribute to the surgery is more feeling in his left leg.
In December, Scott flew home to Powell for the holidays. Another bone-density test early in the new year will determine if he’s ready to go back to Detroit for more therapy.
When he does go back, he plans to spend at least three more months there.
“I don’t regret doing any of this,” he said. “In the long run, it’s only going to help me.”
By DIANE COCHRAN
Of The Gazette Staff