Helping The Paralyzed Walk

Published: June 18, 2006  |  Source: kennedykrieger.org
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061906_edell_spinalcord_xlgNew Research Is Offering Hope

One doctor is taking a pro-active approach to muscle stimulation in patients who have damaged nerves. This remarkable treatment is helping some patients get back on their feet.

Doctor John McDonald is a neurologist on a mission to give paralyzed patients their best chance to walk again.

John McDonald, M.D.: “If you’re diagnosed with spinal cord injury, you’re pretty much written off. They tell you that it, it’s over, you know, you’re going to live your life in a wheelchair. We can change that.”
His innovative Rehabilitation methods have already changed Ali Ashai’s life. He was left paralyzed from the waist down after falling off a bridge.

Ali Ashai, spinal cord injury patient: “I remember waking up after the operation thinking I was going to be able to feel my legs and not being able to do that, and then I was a little worried.”

But Ali isn’t worried anymore; He’s walking.

Ali uses McDonald’s activity-based therapy approach. Part of therapy uses electrical stimulation. Special pads stuck to the skin send electrical pulses through still-intact nerve endings. This causes nerve cells to grow, creating new nerves. Coupled with bike riding to strengthen muscles, patients can see major improvements.

John McDonald, M.D.: “A major effort that we’re working on is using the concept of patterned activity in order to optimize someone’s ability to self repair their own nervous system and recover function.”

Researchers say, mimicking the muscle movements of certain activities like walking or cycling seems to regenerate stem cells and actually help patients’ bodies remember how to move. And surprisingly, some patients may be able to regain function years after an injury. Pretty amazing if the science continues to hold up.

Ali says, he is proof; he’s on his way to a full recovery, letting nothing stand in his way.

Ali Ashai: “Who knows even maybe in a couple of years I’ll run a marathon or something, you know? I’ll do whatever I can.”

The electrical-stimulation bicycle is also designed for home use, so patients can optimize their workouts three or more times a week. McDonald even helped the late actor Christopher Reeve regain some sensation and movement.

For more information please contact:

John McDonald, M.D.
Neurologist and Director
International Center for Spinal Cord Injury
Kennedy Krieger Institute
707 N. Broadway
Baltimore, MD 21205
(800) 873-3377
http://www.kennedykrieger.org/