31 December 2008

Wii Rehab Improves Balance And Mobility For Stroke Patients

Wii rehab improves balance and mobility for stroke patients at Trafford General Hospital in the UK. A Stroke patient held a fundraiser to raise enough money for a Wii, Wii games and a plasma TV. Fund raising is a great way to obtain the latest technology with minimal cost to your company or organisation! What could you do?

Fun and games, the key to rehabilitation
Thursday 18th December 2008

STROKE patients at Trafford General Hospital are enjoying rehabilitation - in the form of video games - to help their co-ordination, balance and physical mobility, thanks to fundraising by a former patient and his friends at Urmston Men’s Club.

Jim Cork, 69, from Urmston, used to be the compere at Urmston Men’s Club and was treated at Trafford General when he had a stroke in August 2007.

He wanted to help other patients on the stroke unit, so organised a fundraising evening last summer at Urmston Men’s Club.

The evening raised more than £1,400, enabling the purchase of a Nintendo Wii console and plasma screen for Trafford General’s stroke unit.

Wii is a computer games system that detects players’ movements and translates them into the action on screen.

Players can engage in virtual rounds of golf, bowling competitions and even boxing matches by using the Wii remote control to hit the ball, bowl or throw a punch.

It means stroke patients at Trafford General will be able to use Wii to aid their recovery in a fun way by having bowling or golf competitions with each other.

The Wii system will mainly be used during recreation time and will be in addition to the usual therapies provided to stroke patients.

The games can be played from either a standing or a sitting position, making them suited to patients of different ability levels.

Jim said: “The unit has given me a lot of help so I wanted to say thanks. I hope that patients on the unit enjoy using the Wii and that it helps them in their recovery.”

Stroke unit physiotherapist, Sjoerd Jorritsma, said: “We would like to thank Jim and his friends at Urmston Men’s Club for this fantastic donation, which will help patients recovering from stroke. As well as being fun, there is some anecdotal evidence that Wii has therapeutic benefits by encouraging people who have experienced stroke to be active and practise their eye-hand coordination, balance and concentration.

“These are all skills that can be affected by stroke but rehabilitation can help people improve and make as good a recovery as possible. Our patients will now be able to use Wii as an additional part of that rehabilitation.”

Urmston Men’s Club president, Peter Radley, said: “Urmston Men’s Club is proud of its efforts in supporting local charities, and particularly Trafford General Hospital, and we will continue with our support. We wish the stroke unit continuing success with its efforts for local people. Due to Jim’s high profile on our committee, it was fitting to offer our support on this particular occasion.”

Medford group seeks funds for new play area

MEDFORD - Members of the township's Fort Medford Playground Committee are looking to raise $100,000 to fund a planned handicapped-accessible play area on Gravelly Hollow Road.

The Medford Township Council committed $175,000 to the project this year. Those funds will be used to buy and install the equipment. More funding is required to install guardrails, fencing and parking spaces for the disabled, said Eowyn West, a member of the playground committee.

The total cost would be $275,000, West said.

The Fort Medford playground, which is in Bob Meyer Park, was closed from February to October because the wooden play equipment didn't meet the state's standards for handicapped accessibility.

The original playground was built in 1995 by community volunteers. Instead of replacing the old wooden structures, the township's Recreation Department decided to have handicapped-accessible equipment installed adjacent to the existing equipment.

The new equipment is expected to be installed in the spring. It will include a rubberized surface made of recycled material that can accommodate wheelchairs and walkers.

"It's multi-generational," West said. "People think 'playground' and immediately think that it's just for kids, but this is going to be something that seniors and adults can enjoy as well. It's also double-wide, so two wheelchairs can pass each other, and people in walkers can use it. It's going to benefit everyone."

Story continues below Advertisement West, who has a 7-year-old daughter with cerebral palsy, said in October that the new playground will allow children with disabilities to play and socialize with other children on the same play equipment.

All public playgrounds in the state are required to comply with playground safety codes administered by the state Department of Community Affairs. Under the codes, playgrounds must be accessible to the handicapped. Those standards include wheelchair ramps to access slides and climbing bars.

The playground committee will install plaques on specific playground components recognizing donors who contribute at least $1,000. It's also selling paver stones, which will be engraved and placed around the playground. They'll cost $150.

"It's nice to go out and be able to read names because it really makes you feel like you're part of something." West said.

The committee has raised at least $6,000. Those interested in donating can visit medfordtownship.com, write to the playground committee at P.O. Box 1103, Medford, NJ 08055 or contact committee chairperson Kyle Koszowski at (856) 988-1552.

Art Without Boundaries making a difference

Dayle Sundberg of Estelline works with residents at the Golden Living Center and the Estelline Nursing and Care Center earlier this month, spending 30 minutes with those who wanted to benefit from a unique therapy called Art Without Boundaries.

Through the simple acts of singing, movement , painting and storytelling, Dayle Sundberg of Estelline is helping individuals with brain disorders bring everyday, pleasurable moments into their life.

Sundberg has started the first South Dakota chapter of Art Without Boundaries after completing an extensive online course and doing her hands on training with founder and mentor Noell Hammer. This is the first chapter in South Dakota, but there are chapters in six other states.

Art Without Boundaries uses MnemeTherapy, a cutting-edge whole brain therapy for individuals with brain disorders or issues. "This is not art therapy," said Hammer, "but rather a way to speak to the brain in a different way."

Hammer and Sundberg visited the Golden Living Center in Lake Norden and the Estelline Nursing and Care Center earlier this month, spending 30 minutes with willing residents. The session started out with the singing of a familiar song, left-to-right body movement, the painting of a picture and ended with storytelling about the painting .

"I had no idea how it would affect my heart," Sundberg said of her experience with her first two patients. As she worked with a stroke patient who had difficulty speaking, by the end of the 30- minute session the patient was getting some vowels and sounds out and was able to say "I love you."

"Everyone was weeping for joy with the hope it gave," said Sundberg. "I didn't' realize how big of an impact it was going to be."

Hammer stresses that is not the artwork, but the process which strives to stimulate sustained attentive focus.

"Our goal is to provide a rewarding experience . We are not trying to cure the patients, but provide every day pleasure," Hammer said.

But during the process many of her clients over the past 10 years, ranging in age from 2-107 , have had incredible results, including amazing paintings, significant improvement in verbal skills, mobility, combativeness, spatial acuity and understanding instructions.

"The therapy is something I would have wanted to do with my mom but couldn't ," Sundberg said of her mom, who spent the last five years of her life with injury-related dementia. "It would have been wonderful to get a glimpse of her again."

Having a parent with a brain injury was one of the reasons Sundberg chose to complete the training and open an Art Without Boundaries chapter in South Dakota.

"It was a good fit for me as I love old people and have had experience working with dementia patients," Sundberg said.

Sundberg has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of South Dakota with a specialization in sculpture and also saw this as a natural progression for her art.

MnemeTherapy works on individuals with all types of dementia: Alzheimer's disease, Huntington's disease, Parkinson's disease, stroke victims, Pick's disease, (frontotemporal dementia), Lewy Body disease, and with younger children and adults with Asperger syndrome, pervasive developmental disorder, ADD, ADHD, autism, and cerebral palsy.

Caregiving institutions such a nursing homes and assisted living center, as well as private individuals with short-term rehab or disorders, are encouraged to make an appointment with Sundberg by calling her at 605-873-3030 or 605-769-0811 .

For more information about MnemeTherapy and Art Without Boundaries, visit http:// www.artwithoutboundaries.org or www.artwithoutboundaries.org/DS.html.

30 December 2008

New Procedure Reverses Scoliosis

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- A new procedure is stopping and reversing scoliosis in children -- without a brace.

Doctors at Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of New York-Presbyterian are using a novel procedure called spinal stapling to treat scoliosis in children under 5. The procedure is not only stopping progression of the condition, but reversing it. Until now, no treatment existed to straighten the spine of children with scoliosis.

"For the first time, we have a way to potentially reverse the scoliosis," Michael Vitale, M.D., chief of pediatric spine and scoliosis surgery at Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of New York-Presbyterian, was quoted as saying.

Spinal stapling is a two-hour, minimally invasive procedure during which doctors implant staples across the growth plates of the spine. It's available to children who are still growing and have progressive moderate scoliosis.

Normally, spinal braces are used to slow the progression of scoliosis in children with a moderate form of the condition. Dr. Vitale said braces can be uncomfortable and embarrassing for children and press against the stomach, making eating and playing sports difficult.

SOURCE: Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of New York-Presbyterian, 2008

Wii system helps local patients recover from stroke, disabilities

-BLOOMINGTON -- "Nice shot," David Wickenhauser said as Judy Erickson's chip shot made it onto the green. Wickenhauser then helped Erickson to select the correct club for putting.

Wickenhauser, 36, and Erickson, 56, weren't golfers on one of Bloomington-Normal's many golf courses. They are BroMenn Adult Day Services' clients recovering from serious illnesses. They were swinging a remote while walking around in front of a large-screen television in the family room at Adult Day Services, 202 E. Locust St., as other clients watched.

The Wii -- the popular video game system -- is being used as a part of rehabilitation with patients on the Acute Rehabilitation Unit of BroMenn Regional Medical Center in Normal and with clients at Adult Day Services.

Balance, coordination, endurance and fine motor skills are among body functions that may be improved through use of the Wii, said Rebecca Wheat, manager of Adult Day Services.

Erickson, of Bloomington, a GTE retiree recovering from a stroke, said playing the Wii has helped her arm strength and hand-to-eye coordination.

"You have to use your brain," she said with a smile.

But, mostly, the Wii is fun, she said. "I like doing it (playing the Wii) with David."

"It's just fun," said Wickenhauser, of El Paso, who suffered severe memory loss and lost his ability to walk without assistance after getting kidney cancer, a rare liver disease called Stauffer's Syndrome and encephalitis.

Wickenhauser said playing the Wii has helped him with concentration, patience, endurance and balance.

Erickson and Wickenhauser illustrate why BroMenn acquired two Wii systems several months ago and the subsequent success.

"We sometimes, as therapists, get a bad rap from patients who think therapy is work," said Paul Trumbull, a physical therapist and director of rehabilitation services at BroMenn Regional Medical Center. "The Wii makes therapy fun. It makes it easier for them (patients and clients) to participate."

Trumbull became aware of Wii systems being used as part of rehabilitation elsewhere in the country and began investigating.

He found that it was too early for any conclusive studies about the Wii in therapy. But therapists talked and wrote about the benefits their patients had experienced. In addition, the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago was beginning a course for therapists on how to use the Wii in therapy.

"For most therapists, it's intuitive that it would work well," Trumbull said.

The Wii requires players to move while playing a game being shown on a television screen. Players, holding a remote, mimic motions for the game, whether it's golf, bowling, tennis, boxing, dancing or a cooking activity. Characters on the screen represent the players and do what the players do, so the players can see the accuracy of their moves.

"We can vary the situations that the patients are in," Trumbull said.

Trumbull and other BroMenn rehabilitation leaders discussed potential benefits and decided to acquire two Wii systems last spring.

Adult Day Services already had a large-screen TV in its family room, so only had to spend about $400 for a Wii. The Acute Rehabilitation Unit received a $1,500 grant from Sam's Club for a Wii and a large-screen TV, which BroMenn put in the unit's therapy gym.

Acute rehab patients -- whose ages range from their 40s to their 90s -- are hospital patients who need more intensive therapy before returning home, Trumbull said. Often, they have had a stroke or a brain tumor, or have had orthopedic or spine surgery.

The Wii is used as a part of therapy in acute rehab three to four days a week, Trumbull said. About 60 percent of acute rehab patients are using the Wii. The typical patient stays in acute rehab for 11 days.

"One of the nice things about the device is you could find an appropriate way to use it with just about any patient," Trumbull said. "The bowling is most often used.

"I don't have any hard and fast data saying that people are getting better faster (because of the Wii)," Trumbull said. "But it feels as if they are. What I'm really finding is they're enjoying it."

Adult Day Services averages 20 to 30 clients each day. Most of the clients are older adults who want some place to go during the day for socialization and mental and physical stimulation while their family members are at work, Wheat said.

"A lot of our clients need help with fine motor coordination (using their fingers, hands and arms) because of a stroke or physical weakness that came with age or lack of use," Wheat said. Cutting up food and writing are among daily activities that become more difficult with fine motor weakness.

Wii helps because clients are moving their entire body without realizing it, Wheat said. Knowing where to stand and swing helps with balance and coordination, she said.

For example, during their Wii golf game on Dec. 8, Wickenhauser and Erickson walked around to get themselves into the proper position, clicked the remote buttons to select the right golf clubs and swung the remote to simulate a golf swing. They did that for about an hour.

"There's a lot of hand-to-eye coordination to get the characters to do what you want them to do," Wheat said.

"I would say a dozen or more of the clients use the system," she said. "The others benefit by watching it."

When he began using the Wii in the summer, Wickenhauser -- still undergoing rehabilitation for his life-threatening illnesses -- needed help standing and was frustrated with anything that required concentration.

"It (Wii) makes you use your brain," he said. "If you want to do well, you have to concentrate."

The Wii has helped Wickenhauser to improve his coordination and fine motor skills, Wheat said.

Erickson still uses a quad cane to walk but doesn't use it while she's playing with the Wii. "It's helping to improve her balance and endurance," Wheat said.

Another client, who was withdrawn, has become more sociable since playing the Wii, she said.

Wheat said the Wii is an example of therapists reaching out to people who may have played video games.

"We're trying to keep our programming up to date," she said.

Wickenhauser said playing the Wii reminds him of his teen years playing video games in the arcade at the mall and his college years when he worked and played golf at El Paso Country Club.

Then he laughed.

"I still can't putt."


What's a Wii?

For novices, here's a quick lesson on the Wii:

--Wii is the popular home video game system released by Nintendo in 2006. Nintendo said it chose the name because Wii sounds like "we," which emphasizes that the Wii system is for everyone.

--The distinguishing feature is its wireless controller, the Wii remote, which is used as a handheld pointing device to detect movement in three dimensions.

--Holding the Wii remote, players mimic motions for a game, such as golf, tennis or dancing. Characters on the television screen do what the players do, so the players can see how well they are performing.

SOURCES: Nintendo, Wikipedia

29 December 2008

Happy New Year 2009!

For the last thirty days I have been in my warm and cozy house, celebrating the Holiday Season. I’ve been snuggled up tight as I come down with something quite big. But despite the cold, flu, and croupy cough, I managed to enjoy every last minute. I decked my hall, gave gifts of the heart, and spread good cheer. I even manage to write a number of article’s in-between my convalescing.
Their are still three more days till January first. Till then, and even after then, I am going to continue to do the one thing I do so well. I am going to continue to spread my joy where ever I go.

The Lighting of the Candles

For the last couple of weeks, I have thought much of what I wanted to write for this holiday season. I thought of what I wanted to say and nothing really came to me till right now. Since I celebrate both holidays, and am Jewish, I began reflecting. I reflected on the here and now, and also the past. Additionally, I reflected on when I was a little girl, and how I use to love celebrating Chanukah. For some reason, lighting the candles brought me much peace.
Not only because there was something about the candles being lit that memorized me. But because of the prayers being said during the lighting, and my grandma teaching me in Hebrew what the prayers meant. It gave me a sense of my heritage and who I was. It made me have a sense of pride and dignity. It made me feel good about myself. It also made me wonder of all those many, thousands of years ago, and what all my people before me went through.
I thought about the story of the candles. I thought about how my people thought they would only have enough oil to last for one night. The miracle of the story was that the oil burned for eight days and eight nights. I guess you could say wow, huh! Its a beautiful story. It’s a story I will always cherish.
Although, I also remember as a little girl wanting to have a Christmas tree too. I remember during the holiday season, my elementary school would bring in the Booster Club, and the Shriners; as they would put on a huge Christmas gala for the children.
Although, my Mama Katie would sweetly remind me of my up-bringing, tradition, and customs. She and my grandma both would teach me about my legacy, my roots, and my background. They would speak in both Jewish and English to my sister and me. While we don’t speak it ourselves, my sister and I still understand the language and speak somewhat at time.. I guess you could say I have been blessed. Now I have the best of both worlds. 21 years ago, I married into a catholic family, of German decent. They not only speak their German dialect, but I understand a lot of what they are saying because of my mother and grandmother speaking it fluently in our house-hold. I also get to celebrate both holidays, now. I put up not only my dreidal an menorah, but I put up the most beautiful Christmas tree and decorations you could think of. I am not only reminded of the days long ago as the lyrics ring out in the Chanukah song. But I am reminded of who I am, how I want to share my gift of light, the light that shins forth from my being, and, I am reminded daily, that the gift of giving is not just one day out of the year. It is every day of the year. It is the hope and belief to carry on.

28 December 2008

With Wii bit of help, rehabbers doing fine

MANSFIELD -- He's 67 and recovering from a stroke, but Joe Lakes bowls, boxes and plays golf.

Since the Nintendo Wii was introduced into the occupational therapy program at MedCentral/ Mansfield Hospital, manager Trey Counts said patients have benefited in a variety of ways while enjoying familiar sports all year long.

"The Wii is being used more and more in the rehab setting," Counts said. "We have a lot of patients who have a history of playing sports and being active, so it's nice to be able to offer this to them," Nintendo says on its Website.

The Wii is an interactive videogame system.

"A distinguishing feature of the console is its wireless controller, the Wii Remote, which can be used as a handheld pointing device and detect movement in three dimensions."

Medical News Today reported Wii is being used for rehabilitation in hospitals around the country.

"You have to do the majority of the movements involved in the real-life activity," Counts said. "There are buttons involved, so it's not exactly the same as in real life, but it can become very engaging."

The occupational therapy department, which treats those with head injuries, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's, amputations, etc., currently offers 10 different games. Counts said they plan to offer the Wii Fit as soon as one becomes available for purchase.

"Everyone seems to be sold out of them," he said. "These games help the patients work on endurance, balance and range of motion. Some games involved cognitive skills, like sequencing, memory and keeping score."

Lakes said he had a stoke on Nov. 1, which impaired the left side of his body.

"I'm just starting to get feeling back in there, but I had to learn how to balance myself all over again," the Mansfield man said. "The Wii has been great for that. I've tried the bowling and the boxing. With bowling, if you lunge forward too much that can throw off your balance."

Lakes said using the Wii was not difficult.

"Plus, it adds a little bit of fun," he said.

Counts said he believes those as young as 3 and as old as 90 would easily be able to pick up the skills.

"We use these in the rehab stage and have gotten a lot of positive feedback," he said. "We can choose the games based on their goals, but also to get them back into their old habits. If they like to play golf, we can have them play the Wii golf game to get some of those skills back. It's fun, and they don't even realize they're working on balance and endurance. I mean they'll really get fatigued playing some of these."

Occupational therapist Charles Prinz said the Wii doesn't take away from other activities.

"This is just an addition here," he said. "It just makes things a little easier on us. A bowling simulation makes it easier because in the gym, we'd have to have one of our staff members there to set back up the pins and retrieve the ball. Now this frees up someone to do something else."

Prinz added the Wii is not forced on anyone.

"If someone doesn't like sports, then we wouldn't offer this to them," he said. "They'll spend anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour on here. Everyone really seems to enjoy it."

24 December 2008

We could not begin to repay what Claire House has done for us ... even if we had a million pounds

We could not begin to repay what Claire House has done for us ... even if we had a million pounds

EVERY mum treasures the bits of handmade Christmas crafts brought home by their children. But Hayley Smallman particularly cherishes the glittery snowmen and cardboard trees which she has displayed on a special shelf in her Aintree home.

“They are my Christmas decorations made by Holly and I’m so very proud of them. But then I am very proud of Holly.

“All my kids are special but we have been blessed to have her. She has brought so much joy to our lives and I wouldn’t change her for the world.”

Like every family the Smallmans have spent the past few weeks busily preparing for Christmas.

But Hayley accepts they wouldn’t be where they are without Claire House.

“Without them we just couldn’t function. That’s why I want to shout from the rooftops how wonderful they are.

“I could not repay what they have done for me if I had a million pounds. And the more people realise what they do and help support them, the more families like ours can be helped.”

Yet Hayley readily admits that, until a few short years ago, she hadn’t even heard of Claire House.

When Holly was born in December seven years ago Hayley and her husband Gary, a French polisher by trade, already had one son Joshua, now 10, and were thrilled with the arrival of their little girl.

But at eight weeks old Holly had a series of respiratory arrests.

“She simply stopped breathing. It was sheer panic and a totally surreal situation,” remembers Hayley, 32.

Doctors at Alder Hey hospital initially considered meningitis and, while Holly remained in intensive care, performed a series of tests on her.

It was discovered she had a rare metabolic condition and had suffered severe brain damage.

“It was as if someone had taken my life and put it in a washing machine on spin. If your child is ill you can make them better but we couldn’t do that for Holly.

“At the end of three weeks in hospital the decision was made to turn off her life support machine,” says Hayley.

“All the family came in to say goodbye and then Gary and me and Holly were taken to a small room and simply waited for her to fall asleep.”

But then a miracle happened.

“She simply turned her head, opened her eyes and looked at me. That’s when I knew we had a fighter.”

But in the coming weeks and months Hayley admits there were times when it was difficult to adjust to what life might hold for them.

“You have all these aspirations and hopes for your kids; I’d had this little girl and imagined her doing ballet lessons and us going shopping together and now we were faced with a very different scenario.”

Doctors warned her parents that she may not live beyond her second birthday.

“We decided to bring her home. If we only had a short time with her we wanted it to be as a family.”

But under her parents’ devoted care Holly has just marked her seventh birthday.

She has complex medical needs including epilepsy, cerebral palsy and chronic lung disease. She is also blind and oxygen dependant and is fed through a tube in her stomach.

Hayley admits there have been ‘dark periods’ where they have seen their daughter back on life support.

“We never know what the next day will bring. But no parent gets a handbook and this is the way life is now. Is all the hard work worth it? Yes, 110%.

“Hayley is so strong and so brave; I’m full of admiration for her.

“She can’t say ‘mum’ to me but she tells me all I need to know with her eyes. She loves water and Dora The Explorer and she adores her cuddles. When Joshua and her baby sister Ruby lie next to her Holly’s eyes simply light up; the baby takes her hand, kisses it and says ‘baba’ and she loves it.”

Hayley is frank about the difficulties faced in looking after Holly, a 24-hour-a-day regime dominated by rounds of administering medicine and feeds, hospital appointments and monitoring her well-being.

One parent also stays by her side each night to keep her comfortable.

“It is hard and as a couple it can take its toll. We can’t do a lot of things other families take for granted, either, like go swimming together.

“But we’re a strong unit and wouldn’t change things for the world. And we have the wonderful Claire House.”

Initially fearful of the word ‘hospice’ Hayley and Gary first visited Claire House some years ago.

“In my mind even the word conjured up the idea of dying but we went and it was wonderful. There’s joy in the air, not sadness.”

Now Holly attends Claire House regularly, enjoying the hospice’s sensory and arts and crafts rooms or experiencing an aromatherapy massage. She has also stayed there to allow Gary and Hayley a break and to spend time with their other children.

“We simply couldn’t cope without them. They operate a hospice to home service too which I used the other day. I had so much to do, so much shopping to get and was quite stressed by it all.

“The staff came to the house, took care of Holly and when I came home had even put some decorations up; that’s the sort of people they are.”

She is passionate that the service they offer should not be a luxury for parents like her and Gary.

“We don’t know how long we have Holly for so we try to cherish every moment. Claire House helps us do that.”

21 December 2008

Exercise with me

The World in Which We REALLY Live

Sometimes I wonder! I really wonder if our world and society truly understands us, or, if they whole-heartedly care! I seriously wonder and ask myself over, and over again, if they ever will? I ask you, what do you think? How do you feel? Have you ever experienced anything such as I have? would you be kind enough to write and share your thoughts with me for your support?
I will tell you honestly, that I have spent many a sleepless night; rocking myself to sleep with worry. I have cradled myself, saturated in tears, with a feeling of disgust , hurt, emotional pain, devastation, and deep despair of "how am I going to conquer the un-conquerable;" while staying positive, focused, and still reaching my goals of becoming productive in a world that doesn’t want to see me productive at all.
It is real hard! And, it is very unacceptable to me. It’s an inconclusive matter, that goes on and on. And never goes away! it is insupportable, intolerant, and very tedious and hard to endure. What’s more, is that no one truly see’s or feels it. These unhappy feelings come from a life-time of dealing with people who hold degree’s, and are professional experts which hold powerful, unyielding, torches that are resolute in inflexibility, uncompromising help, and unshakeable policies and procedures which cause their clients undo social, emotional, and economic grievances and hardships. These "experts" don’t realize the injury to health they cause us in body, mind, and spirit. It is an insult to our dignity, and a gross negligence on their part to the people who need a sincere hand up in order to make it in this life. It is awful, and sickens me! It is a dreadful limitation which they and society puts on us unfairly!
What if they invested their time in us? The truth is, that they and our society for the last thirty years or so, are so money hungry, and oriented, that they can’t nor will they invest their time in us; wether we are inflected with a physical disability or injury or not! They would rather make us a vegetable of the state, declaring us victims of society. And when we fight for our lives, they fight even harder with convenient cover-ups only to lock away the key and throw it away forever more!
It is as if we are only allowed to progress at a rate our experts are comfortable with. The idea that we could surpass there conclusions or evaluations is a huge jeopardy, unwelcome truth, and danger to them! These experts refuse to acknowledge that "We wish to lead normal lives." This is very frightening, treating, and harassing. We are intimidation to them as we and our healthy desires, despite our physical limitations, hound and plaque their physics. Yet we don’t have the kind of money others have, to help ourselves.
The thought of us taking action for ourselves, or surpassing their expectations of us, causes them great humiliation; which in return cause’s then to take drastic measures upon us. It also causes bodily retribution to us; the people who struggle to make it in this world the most. Because we have no other course, or financial funds to make our dreams happen on our own, we work, deal, and bend over backwards to be agreeable with then, with every breath in our being.
Although, since It goes against everything they have been taught to believe about us; with a sly, underhanded, and sneaky vengeance, they purposely cause strife and hardship upon us. It is ridiculous that I have had to spend a life-time (57 years) pleading for the right to exist in a world that really knows no kindness or equality!
The idea of achievement is used to channel our energy into pleasing those who think they know what we should be doing with our lives! We have to waste our precious time, time, and time, and time again, convincing them we are allowed to live our lives out as we see fit!
I know I have talked about this may times before; however this issue never gets resolved. It just gets worse. I have known other people in the disabled community, who face similar struggles. Yet social workers and explorers insist and demand, without contradiction, getting and emphatically being involved in every aspect of our lives, even if we say no or don’t want their help. They don’t listen. They don’t truly care, and they just keep on!
Yet, they won’t give us the right to choose, or have the chance to succeed. They won’t give us the dignity, the state or quality of being worthy, or the honor of respect; to choose our desired interest to cave out a perfect place for our own selves, same as they have been given the gift to do. Its all a double standard, and a hypocrisy. It is a convenient way to condemn and invoke as an accusation where the conflicts are manifested as truths in there behalf, and where our humanly rights have little justification of strength, or testimony of attribute to our human behavior in society.
They think they know everything we should and shouldn’t do. They put us in a place where we have to beg and plead, and then we are put on a merry-go-round hoping against hope for endless periods of time. I am getting real sick and tired of giving my all to get ahead in life, only to give these people the right to hold this kind of power and judgement over my life. Are you? This paternalism is the worst evil in the history of our lives. Somehow we must all help to change this. We have to put and end to it as I tried over thirty years ago. Lets speak out, not be shy, and lets speak out in unison, as one! Help me please, won’t you?

20 December 2008

Health Sense: Three important questions can reduce your risk of stroke

Strokes are both common and preventable: 80 percent of strokes are preventable. Recognizing the symptoms and acting fast to get medical attention can help save lives and limit ensuing disabilities a stroke victim may suffer.

In medical jargon, a stroke is a cerebrovascular accident (CVA) and it occurs when a blood vessel in the brain suddenly becomes blocked or bursts. When this happens, blood fails to flow to that area in the brain, cutting off oxygen and nutrients to the brain cells there.

With no blood supply, the brain cells and nerves will die and the capacities that area of the brain controls will be lost, temporarily or permanently. When strokes are severe the sufferer can become paralyzed, unable to speak, or even go into a coma, depending on where the stroke occurs and how much of the brain is damaged.

Strokes can strike anyone at anytime, regardless of sex or age. Typically, stroke symptoms start suddenly, within seconds to minutes, and in most cases do not progress further. On average, two million brain cells die every minute following a typical stroke, which increases the chance of permanent damage, disability or death.

Stroke is the leading cause of disability among adults in the world today and one of the leading causes of death after cancer and heart disease. Disability affects 75 percent of stroke survivors, which can hamper their ability to work.

"The effects of stroke often place a significant burden of care on the patient's family because the stroke survivor often needs assistance in everyday activities we take for granted -- walking, eating, going to the toilet, talking," said Dr. Keith Goh, consultant neurosurgeon at International Neuro Associates, part of Novena Medical Centre and East Shore Hospital in Singapore.

"In addition to physical disabilities, 30 to 50 percent of stroke survivors suffer post-stroke depression -- they may be irritable and withdrawn, have trouble sleeping, and their self-esteem may suffer. In some cases, depression can reduce motivation and worsen patient's condition," he said.

With the effects of stroke being so often drastic, it's good news that they can be prevented. Three vital facts about stroke can help those at risk prevent them from occurring. First, what are the risk factors? Second, what tests can be done to assess an individual's risk? Third, what can be done to prevent a stroke?

Risk factors

Stroke occurs more often in people who fit the following categories. Strokes are more frequent in men than women, more frequent in the over-50 set. Habits and lifestyle choices mark other higher risk groups, including people who are overweight; have high blood pressure or diabetes; smoke tobacco, drink alcohol, and are under stress; do not exercise; and eat a diet high in salt and fat. Anyone with a history of heart disease in themselves or their families has a higher risk of stroke as well.

Signs, symptoms and medical tests

If you have one or some of the following signs or symptoms, even for a short time, you may have experienced a stroke. These include: sudden loss of vision; weakness in the face, an arm or a leg; difficulty talking or understanding speech; or severe headaches, dizziness or loss of balance. Your doctor may advise testing such as computerized tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) which provide images of the brain so she or he can look for signs of a stroke. Often the doctor will also ask for an angiogram, to study the blood vessels, or a perfusion scan to assess the pattern of blood flow. Several blood tests are commonly ordered to assess the overall risk of stroke.

F.A.S.T is a simple test for detecting stroke symptoms early. This will allow for immediate and appropriate medical care, which can help prevent death from strokes, and reduce the severity of disability after one occurs.


Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?


Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?


Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Does the speech sound slurred or strange?


If a person has trouble with any of these simple commands, emergency services should be called immediately.

Stroke prevention

If you have any risk factors described above, your doctor will advise you on how to reduce the likelihood of a stroke. Regular medical check-ups to monitor and treat high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, high cholesterol and heart disease; leading a healthy lifestyle, regular exercises, stress reduction and not smoking will help to prevent an onset of stroke.

"Sometimes medication will need to be given, such as anti-platelet drugs or anti-coagulant drugs, to prevent blockage of a blood vessel. And if there are blood vessel abnormalities, which may lead to bleeding in the brain, then surgery may be needed," said Dr. Charles Siow, a consultant neurologist, also on staff at International Neuro Associates.

Everyone has some stroke risk. While some factors are beyond your control, regular check-ups and early detection can help reduce the likelihood and reduce the severity of any stroke you do experience. The Neurosurgery and Neurology Specialists of International Neuro Associates provides a stroke risk assessment consultancy service, where a panel of blood and radiology tests are performed to assess a patient's risk of stroke. Costing S$1,500 (US$1,015), the stroke risk screening package includes; MRI and MRA scans; blood tests (FBC, renal panel, HBA1C, lipid panel, CRP, PT/PTT); ECG; clinical assessment and consultation with a neurologist or neurosurgeon.

Surgery Offers New Option for Kids with Cerebral Palsy

The parents of Cassie Merrill first noticed something was wrong with their daughter at a young age.

Whereas most children begin sitting up on their own about 6 months and will learn to pull themselves up and walk by their first birthday, Cassie continued to crawl like a wounded soldier, dragging her legs behind.

“She was doing the army crawl,” her father, Dave Merrill, recalled recently from his daughter’s hospital room. “It was almost as if she didn’t realize she had anything from the hips down.”

When his daughter did begin walking, her ever-tight calf muscles forced Cassie to walk on her toes, throwing off her balance and posture. Before her second birthday, she was able to move about slowly with the aid of a tiny walker and, with some difficulty, finally took her first independent steps at the age of three.

Diagnosed with spastic diplegic cerebral palsy, Cassie, now 7, eventually grew strong enough to walk alone with the help of braces, physical therapy and periodic Botox injections to ease her rigid muscles.

But a surgery now offered in central Illinois is providing some welcomed treatment for Cassie and other young patients living with the ailment.
story continues below »

Dorsal rhizotomy

In late October, Cassie was one of the first to undergo a dorsal rhizotomy at the Children’s Hospital of Illinois at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center.

The operation, of which only a handful have been done in Peoria, involves selectively cutting some nerve fibers running through the spinal cord to reduce spasticity — the increased tension that tightens and shortens muscles. By turning certain nerves permanently “off,” the operation relieves tension in the legs and improves a patient’s ability to walk.

“In a child with spasticity, some of those nerves are hyperactive,” said Dr. Julian Lin, a pediatric neurosurgeon at the Illinois Neurological Institute at St. Francis. “This operation removes some of that.”

What is it?

Cerebral palsy is a lifelong neurological disorder caused by abnormalities during the brain’s development either in utero or within a year or two after birth. The disorder, of which there are several different forms, often causes stiff, spastic muscles in the legs and sometimes the arms and ultimately affects the body’s ability to move, balance and maintain posture and muscle control.

During the procedure, physicians sort through the nerve rootlets and stimulate each one electrically. By examining the response from muscles in the legs, doctor can identify which of the rootlets cause serious spasticity. Those rootlets are then cut, lessening the messages sent from the nerves to the muscles and reducing the tension.

Conventional treatment for cerebral palsy usually includes a mix of physical therapy and drugs to reduce tremors and spasticity and to help relieve muscle pain, Lin said. But those remedies could only go so far and rarely treat the underlying cause of the disorder.

Lin said the hours-long operation is fairly invasive and involves a painful recovery. Most candidates for the surgery will undergo a four to six week hospital stay afterwards, followed by months of physical therapy.

The results, however, are promising. A study published this month in the journal BMC Pediatrics examined the dorsal rhizotomies of 35 children five years later and found not only was muscle tone immediately reduced after the operation but it remained so throughout the years.

A few weeks after her surgery, Cassie’s parents already saw a difference in how their daughter positioned and moved her legs but noted, because nerves were severed, that she would have to retrain her muscles.

“Now her muscles have to relearn. Her whole body has to relearn proper gait and strength,” said Cassie’s mother, Pam Merrill. “To someone else who looks at her, they say that she can’t walk. Not yet, but she is going to have a lot better chance at walking upright and more securely now.”

The surgery has been offered for years in big cities throughout the Midwest, including St. Louis and Minneapolis. St. Francis now offers it to patients, a welcomed benefit for the Merrills, who live in Hudson in McLean County.

“I think how much better it is that she is right here, 50 minutes away,” said her mother. “For the family and child support, you can’t beat it by having it close to home.”

19 December 2008

Offering a guiding hand

A Eugene-based scientist is testing a robotic device intended to help people improve their handwriting

Sue Palsbo watches 11-year-old Mizuel Alfaro as he tries out a device that her company has assembled to help people with their handwriting.

Rehabilitation scientist Sue Palsbo, of Eugene, says the new generation of interactive video games, such as Nintendo’s Wii, can be a lot more than just fun and games.
The gaming systems can be powerful, yet affordable, tools to improve the lives of people with disabilities and people who are recovering from injuries.
“You go to hospitals now and therapists are talking about ‘Wii-habilitation,’ ” Palsbo says. “The games engage adults and kids to move their bodies in ways that you’re trying to achieve with exercises, but people get bored with exercises.”
So about five years ago, when Palsbo spotted a device for telesurgery at a medical conference, she thought it could be adapted to help people improve, or regain, their ability to write.
Palsbo began to work on her idea and, later, the Canadian software engineer who had programmed the telesurgery device told her about the Novint Falcon, an inexpensive, off-the-shelf gaming accessory that could be modified for her purposes.
That put Palsbo, a research professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., on the path to create My Scrivener, a system to provide repetitive motion training for people who have trouble with fine-motor control of their hands.
Typically, such practice is provided by a therapist working hand-over-hand with a student or patient, which is labor intensive, costly and inexact.
Palsbo hopes My Scrivener will be a less expensive and more efficient way to help a wide range of people, from children with disabilities trying to print more legibly, to Iraq war veterans relearning how to write after suffering from traumatic brain injuries from roadside bombs.
Palsbo’s initial focus is to develop an instrument that therapists can use with children in the classroom. She’s also working with a group from George Mason University, including Lynn Gerber, director of the university’s Center for Study of Chronic Illness and Disability, to explore how the technology might be able to help wounded Iraq war veterans.
“It does have good application for the school environment,” Gerber said. “But if you look at it more broadly, as I did, it’s capable of doing many more things.”
In one fell swoop, she said, the device could be used as a therapeutical tool, it could provide a therapist or clinician with objective measures of a patient’s progress, and it has potential as a diagnostic tool to identify abnormalities in brain function.
Palsbo’s path to develop My Scrivener also led her and her family to Eugene from Virginia two years ago. Palsbo said she had long wanted to live in the Pacific Northwest, and her family has been happy with Eugene’s cultural opportunities and easy access to the ocean and the mountains. They plan to stay in the area and grow their business, Obslap Research, here.
(Palsbo’s first choice for a company name was taken, so she quickly had to come up with an alternative. Obslap is Palsbo in reverse.)
Ultimately, “our hope is we’ll find an investor, and we’ll build the company here, and we’ll be a going concern,” she said.
Last week, Sue, the company’s CEO, and her husband Art, its CFO, showed off My Scrivener to the Robotics Club at Kennedy Middle School.
Many of the club’s 20 members took turns typing in their names, then grasping the Bic pen inserted in the device as it marched across the page, leaving each name printed neatly in blue ink.
“Even robots have better handwriting than I do,” cracked one of the middle schoolers.
It has taken two years for Palsbo, with $575,000 in funding from two Small Business Innovation Research grants from the U.S. Department of Education, to reach this point. And there’s still a long way to go before the invention will be ready to market next year.
“As a research scientist, I’m totally committed to evidence-­based research,” Palsbo said. “I do not want to put something out that looks really cool and really spiffy, but doesn’t actually improve fine-motor skills.”
Palsbo also recognizes therapists’ need for the system to include objective measures of legibility.
To create those, Palsbo plans to study the variability in the handwriting of typically developing children with good penmanship. Palsbo is recruiting 18 such children from the local area — three each from kindergarten to grade 5 — to spend about 20 minutes writing with My Scrivener during the winter holiday break. Each of those students will receive a $20 gift certificate from Smith Family Bookstore, Palsbo said. Families with children who are interested in participating may contact Palsbo at 505-7591.
Then, in February or March, Palsbo will begin research trials with 60 local children in special education classes, whose individualized education plans include a goal to improve handwriting. The kids will use My Scrivener for about 30 minutes a day for three weeks, she said.
Palsbo also will be seeking FDA approval of My Scrivener as a medical device.
“If scientific study can prove it’s safe and effective, that the therapists like it and can use it, then at that point we’d seek investors,” she said.
Palsbo has collaborated with numerous partners to create My Scrivener.
George Mason University filed the patent application and will license the intellectual property back to Obslap Research exclusively, Palsbo said.
Palsbo contracted with Oregon State University’s Mechanical, Industrial, & Manufacturing Engineering department to create the attachment to the Novint gaming accessory. The system’s software was developed under contract by the Eugene firm Lunar Logic.

Rehabilitation scientist Sue Palsbo, of Eugene, says the new generation of interactive video games, such as Nintendo’s Wii, can be a lot more than just fun and games. The gaming systems can be powerful, yet affordable, tools to improve the lives of people with disabilities and people who are recovering from injuries. “You go to hospitals now and therapists are talking about ‘Wii-habilitation,’ ” Palsbo says. “The games engage adults and kids to move their bodies in ways that you’re trying to achieve with exercises, but people get bored with exercises.” So about five years ago, when Palsbo spotted a device …

15 December 2008

Big names record for music therapy centre

A couple of New Zealand’s biggest names have recorded a classic song in a bid to help a special therapy centre in Auckland.
Anika Moa and Opshop have recorded the Dave Dobbyn classic “Beside You” to raise funds for the Raukatauri Music Therapy Centre.
It's New Zealand’s first music therapy centre, providing for special needs children of school age and younger.
It treats a variety of children who have mental disabilities. Its been found that music for many people, helps reduce a sense of isolation and creates new possibilities for participation in the world and a more creative life.
“(It) does amazing work helping children to communicate through music,” says Moa.
“I have always wanted to help kids using my music so when I was approached and asked to support this, I jumped at the chance. Recording and releasing a single was the obvious way to go.”
Opshop’s Jason Kerrison says the music industry is proud to support a charity that uses music to help connect with children who struggle to communicate through traditional means.
“It means a lot to us as artists and musicians to be able to raise the much needed funds,” Kerrison says. “The money raised through the sale of this single will go a long way in further funding much needed therapy.”
Singer and songwriter Hinewehi Mohi, her husband George and daughter Hineraukatauri, who has severe cerebral palsy, spent time at the Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy Centre in London in 1999.
They found music struck a chord for Hineraukatauri.
Upon their return to New Zealand, the family determined to establish a music therapy centre here. The dream was realised with the opening in early 2004 of the Raukatauri Music Therapy Centre, now in Eden Terrace.
For more information, please visit http://www.rmtc.org.nz/.

14 December 2008

Brave girl's bid to be able to walk

Amber Atkins, who has cerebral palsy, at the Footsteps centre where she has been getting intensive physiotherapy.

A wheelchair bound six-year-old girl with cerebral palsy has been making great progress in her bid to walk for the first time - thanks to the help of kind-hearted fundraisers.

Amber Atkins, from Mile Cross, recently had her third visit to the Footsteps physiotherapy centre in Oxford, which was made possible thanks to fundraisers in Norwich.

The centre uses advanced techniques to help children and adults build up their muscles and enable them to stand and walk on their own.

Determined for Amber to have the best resources to help her gain independent mobility, her parents Lyn and Jason looked into therapy in Poland, but it was financially impossible.

The Atkins then found out about Footsteps through their consultant and the family, which includes nine-month-old Millie, have recently come back from their third three-week stay at the centre.

Since starting Footsteps therapy, the family say the biggest difference in Amber has been how keen she is to do things for herself.

Mrs Atkins, 36, said: “After coming to our first session at Footsteps, Amber was sitting on the sofa, and all of a sudden we looked around and she had got herself off the sofa and onto the floor. This is something she would never have attempted before.”

Amber cannot as yet walk independently, but she gets around by 'combat' crawling. After trying a walking frame at Footsteps, Mrs Atkins got her one to use at home and now using her walker is all Amber wants to do.

Mrs Atkins added: “In addition to the therapy we get at Footsteps, the physiotherapists always give us helpful hints for things we can do at home with Amber. I can't praise Footsteps highly enough. Everyone comments on how well Amber is progressing, and we can't wait to go back.”

The family raised £5,000, enough for two visits to the centre, through a charity concert at The Talk in May and then were given an additional £3,000 by Terry Wickham, who runs the Evening News's Golden Years events at the UEA. They have already paid for another stay at the centre in February and plan to start fundraising again in the New Year.

Mrs Atkins said: “People have been so generous, we couldn't have done this without all their help and we can't thank them enough.”

The centre believes children with neurological disorders are not getting the physiotherapy they need on the NHS and last month it launched its own charity - the Footsteps Foundation - to raise £500,000 to help pay for families to visit the centre.

More information is available at www.footstepsfoundation.com

13 December 2008

Stacy Lewis swings for '09 LPGA card

Stacy Lewis failed to win enough money in LPGA-sponsored events in 2008, so she is at Q School trying to earn full-time playing status. "There's a lot at stake," she said. "But ... it's not like I'm never going to play golf again."

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Less than six months ago, Stacy Lewis stunned galleries and her foes with a 6-under-par 67 to take a one-shot lead into the U.S. Women's Open final round at Interlachen Country Club in Minnesota.

All of 23 and just 19 days after turning professional, Lewis charmed the news media with her candor, displayed poise and grit beyond her years on the course and flaunted a putting stroke the envy of all. Although the former NCAA individual champion from the University of Arkansas stumbled to a fourth-round 78 to finish in a tie for third, NBC TV golf analyst Johnny Miller, no less, labeled Lewis the next LPGA superstar.

SWINGMAN: Hardy ready for annual golf summit

Her ascension to such heights, however, ran into a slight detour that has taken her this week to the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament. The $162,487 she won in the Open did nothing in her attempt to secure full-time playing rights on the LPGA tour, because the Open is not an LPGA co-sponsored event.

Given six LPGA tour events she could play the rest of the year as a non-LPGA member in hopes of winning roughly $120,000 to earn her 2009 tour card, Lewis came up $35,000 short. So she had to book a trip to Florida to go through the rigors of Q School, where only 20 of the 140 players in the field beginning today at LPGA International will earn full-time playing rights on the tour for next season.

FIND MORE STORIES IN: Florida | Texas | Minnesota | University of Arkansas | Johnny Miller | Stacy Lewis | LPGA International | Interlachen Country Club | Kapalua LPGA Classic | Q School | Legends Course | non-LPGA | LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament
"It's definitely frustrating," said Lewis, who would have finished 59th on the money list if the Open currency had counted. "I competed with the best players in the world (in the Open), so knowing that I can compete with the top players helps.

"Playing in six other events helps, too. And I feel like I have been play-ing in qualifying school every week, basically.

"There's a lot at stake. But it's not life or death. It's not like I'm never going to play golf again. I've had that before."

Lewis spent more than seven years wearing a brace-like corset 18 hours a day after being diagnosed with scoliosis, a curvature of the spine, at the age of 11. But during her senior year in high school in 2003, she was told she needed surgery, and doctors had to fuse a rod and five screws into her back to straighten her spine.

When told she needed surgery, Lewis said she thought her golf-playing days were over. But she slowly returned to the course, and an outstanding collegiate career followed.

And she's in a good place right now despite being at Q School. Rested and eager after practicing three weeks in Texas, she also can call on good vibes from the fact she won her NCAA championship on the Legends Course, one of two courses in play this week at LPGA International.

And her back is just fine.

"I'm just ready to play," said Lewis, who last played in a tournament in October when she tied for sixth in the Kapalua LPGA Classic. "I just want to play. I feel good about my game, and it's good to be back."

Dream role for 'Nutcracker' star

Despite curved spine, Bryn Mawr student is a budding ballerina
By Jazzmen Tynes

At 13, Isabel Montague has played nearly every character in "The Nutcracker."

This year, she's the star in the Baltimore Ballet Company production Dec. 13-14 at Goucher College's Kraushaar Auditorium.

The Bryn Mawr School eighth-grader "is a very dedicated student here and she's worked incredibly hard," said Cem Catbas, half of the husband-and-wife team that runs the company, where Isabel studies.

While dedication is a given for any serious dancer, Isabel's work ethic has been severely tested.

At age 10, she was diagnosed with scoliosis, a medical condition in which the spine curves from side to side.

Determined not to let that derail her dreams of being a professional dancer and one day owning her own dance studio, "I worked harder to overcome the challenge," she said.

"My spine is curved in two different directions, so I have to sleep in a back brace every night," she said. "It's harder for me to balance when I'm wearing my pointe shoes, so it makes me work harder constantly.

"When the doctors told me, I thought, 'OK, I have it. It's just another thing for me to work on and overcome,' she continued. "I was determined not to let it affect my dancing. If you don't have that kind of determination, not just in dance, but at home, in school and in life, it's almost impossible to achieve your goals."

After a full school day, Isabel, of Sparks in Baltimore County, practices for about three hours a night, eight hours on weekends.

Despite the rigorous practice, she said, the hard work is worth a sore back and toes and late nights spent finishing her homework assignments before heading off to bed.

"You have to make sacrifices," she said. "I've performed in this play for so many years, it's an annual tradition for me.

"It's always been a part of my life and I can't imagine a year without it."

In the past nine years, Isabel has played numerous characters in Baltimore Ballet productions of "The Nutcracker," including an angel, a mouse, a gingerbread man and a doll.

"It was almost natural for her to play Clara next," Catbas said. "She's played so many parts already and she was our Clara understudy last year.

"It was almost expected that she'd get the part this year."

The performances sell out every year, but the thought of a packed house doesn't frighten Isabel.

"I've been at the studio so many times and I've seen all the dances performed before, so I have an idea of what it's supposed to be like," she said. "I'm a little nervous about doing some of the lifts, but overall I'm mostly excited."

Catbas said he's watched Isabel grow as a dancer in her years with the Baltimore Ballet.

"Recently, she's been helping teach the younger children," Catbas said. "She shows incredible control and talent working with the young dancers. I was impressed with her maturity and how well she handles them."

For 'Nutcracker' ticket information, call 410-337-6333.

Wheelchair users' football chance

YOUNG wheelchair users will soon be able to enjoy a game of football like other children.
Fareham Borough Council has successfully gained funding to launch a Powerchair Football project.

The scheme will provide specialist football training for young wheelchair users.

The Football Foundation – the UK's largest sports charity funded bADVERTISEMENTy the Premier League – has given the project £7,270.

A further £1,000 will come from the Well Being Fund and Fareham council will put in £1,000.

AFC Portchester is supporting the initiative and will be looking to form a Powerchair team as well as providing coaching at the sessions.

It is hoped the project will work with the Wheelchair Football Association and take part in Powerchair Football competitions.

Fareham councillor Connie Hockley, who is in charge of community matters, said: 'The Powerchair Football project is a brilliant scheme as it makes resources available to those who may not have previously had access to such equipment.

'This grant also enables us to qualify two coaches to provide specialist training in order to take part in Powerchair competitions.

'This will encourage participation as it promotes team sports within the community.'

The Football Foundation grant will pay for two qualified coaches, attachments for wheelchairs, four specialist footballs and hiring of training facilities.

Paul Thorogood, chief executive of the Football Foundation, said: 'I am delighted that the Football Foundation is funding Powerchair Football and I want to congratulate Fareham council, the Hampshire FA and all the partners.

'Football is our national game and the Football Foundation is dedicated to creating a level playing field to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to enjoy the sport.'

The project will be launched on January 21 at Portchester Community School.

Shailene Woodley: A TV Star's Secret Scoliosis

After two long years, the Secret Life of the American Teenager actress finally removes her brace, a report from Us Weekly notes this week. Shailene Woodley, 17, received her Christmas gift on December 3. According to the report that's the day the star of the ABC Family series - who at 15, was diagnosed with scoliosis (a severe curvature of the spine) - stopped wearing her back brace.

Shailene Woodley: A TV Star's Secret Scoliosis

Woodley, whose show returns January 5, spoke to Us Weekly and the weekly celebrity and entertainment magazine has a question and answer session with the young star. She tells the magazine she feels "Amazing and "can't wait to get back into Pilates. But the doctors still need to observe my progress, so I'm hopeful and positive."


Q: Describe what it felt like to wear the brace.

It's like wearing a tacky, disgusting, plastic corset for 18 hours a day. In the beginning, it was hard to eat or breathe. And I had to give up cross-country running. But I needed to have it on to realign my spine.

Q: Why didn't American Teenager viewers ever see it on screen?

I took it off for filming. My character, Amy, is pregnant, and I couldn't fit a prosthetic belly over the brace. But usually it wasn't for more than five or six hours at a stretch - more than doable.


Q: How did costars treat you?

A little differently at first. But once they saw I wasn't going to break, they relaxed.

Q: What's next?

I've lost most of my muscle mass, so I'm in the process of rebuilding it. An who knows, maybe someday I'll get to play a character who has scoliosis.

11 December 2008

Music therapist brings harmony to disabled children and adults

For 30 minutes every Thursday afternoon, the music room is quiet except for the tickling of small fingers on the keyboard and the occasional giggle.

It doesn’t matter that cerebral palsy has compromised Madelynn Legge’s motor coordination. For those moments, the 5-year-old from Scituate sits on the piano bench or nods her head to the rhythmic tunes of the ivory keys. Horn, slide whistle and kazoo, she gets moving.

Eve Montague has taught Madelynn since she was 2 to use music as a way to improve coordination, gait and balance.

For the past four years, certified music therapist Montague has been using song and sound to open the world to disabled individuals at the Duxbury campus of the South Shore Conservatory.

Montague, 48, of Pembroke, uses music to create an environment where her students can explore their own world with freedom and safety.

“Music has been a pathway for those with communication barriers to find their voice and express their needs and wants,'' Montague said.

Madelynn can’t talk and finds it hard to produce enough sound to laugh, says her mother, Melanie Legge.

“Most people take laughing for granted,'' Legge said. “For our daughter, laughing occurs when her father does a running cannon ball into the swimming pool for the sheer delight of hearing Madelynn laugh.

“Eve has this same effect on Madelynn.''

That effect was evident from the start when Legge saw her daughter stand on her own for the first time, mesmerized by Montague and her music, almost forgetting about her lack of balance.

Patient and energetic, Montague pours her heart and soul into the 30-minute session, Legge says.

Rhonda Carson says her son Billy, 26, born with Down syndrome, didn’t play the piano before he began working with Montague.

Carson says Montague has Billy pick out a few songs on the keys and he sings now with more rhythm.

“When Billy sings with Eve, you can hear them all the way down the hall,'' Rhonda chuckles. “She brings out the music in him.''

Before coming to the conservatory, Montague spent 12 years as coordinator of the creative arts department at the Massachusetts Hospital School in Canton, a nonprofit servicing children with neuromuscular, progressive diseases.

It was there she developed a performing arts program and a music therapy internship program.

Montague says, “I was excited by the idea that the power of music could transcend learning challenges and help individuals lead as independent lives as possible.''

Montague said music helps people relax and reduce pain and anxiety. It also guides them to work within structure and demands. Montague tailors her teachings to suit each student’s needs.

Madelynn, who could not speak or walk, has developed into a steady walker who can even run.

“Music has helped organize her motor patterns,'' Montague says.

And the joy is not all Madelynn’s.

“I have the opportunity to witness the power of music as it opens new learning channels for those who struggle with more traditional forms of learning,'' Montague said.

“Seeing growth as an individual becomes more confident, empowered and independent in their life-long learning – and knowing I may have opened some doors for them – is truly powerful.''

06 December 2008

New stapling treatment may help reverse scoliosis

Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of NewYork-Presbyterian is one of only a few hospitals in the country to offer spinal stapling, a new treatment alternative for young people with scoliosis, an abnormal curvature of the spine that is painful and can restrict breathing.
The Center for Early Onset Scoliosis, led by Dr Michael Vitale, sees about 400 patients per year under the age of 5 with the condition. Spinal stapling is one of a number of new techniques that promise improved outcomes.

Tens of thousands of children in the U.S. are diagnosed with scoliosis each year. When the curvature is moderate, spinal braces can be used to slow or decrease the chance of progression. Until now, however, there was no way to reverse progression and straighten the spine.

Spinal stapling is a two-hour minimally invasive surgery that involves implanting inch-long metallic staples across the growth plates of the spine. Made of a high-tech temperature-sensitive metal alloy, the staples are implanted using a camera called a thoracoscope with a very limited incision and minimal scar. The procedure is available to children with progressive moderate scoliosis (less than 30?) who are still growing (girls up to age 14 and boys up to age 16).

"Stapling not only stops scoliosis from getting worse, but can even correct the curve," says Dr. Michael Vitale, chief of pediatric spine and scoliosis surgery at Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of NewYork-Presbyterian and the Ana Lucia Associate Professor of Clinical Pediatrics and Orthopaedic Surgery at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. "While most children do well with spinal fusion, we are on the cusp of a new era in the treatment of scoliosis. For the first time, we have a way to potentially reverse the scoliosis. "

Braces can be uncomfortable and embarrassing for children, notes Dr. Vitale. The custom-made plastic corset is usually worn all but one or two hours a day, and its tight fit presses against the stomach, making eating and any sports difficult.

Spinal fusion, too, has its drawbacks. "We recently presented evidence that spinal fusion in young children can lead to significant issues in quality of life and pulmonary function over the long term," says Dr. Vitale, who presented the findings at the International Conference on Early Onset Scoliosis in Montreal. The study followed 27 patients who received spinal fusion, which permanently connects several vertebrae. After 10 years, their pulmonary function, measured by lung volume, and reported quality of life were significantly less than that of a healthy child.

"While stapling is very new," adds Dr. Vitale "it promises to have a major effect on how we treat young people with scoliosis." Additional therapies may include:

VEPTR. The Vertical Expandable Prosthetic Titanium Rib (VEPTR) straightens the spine and opens a larger space for the lungs and other internal organs to grow by placing a titanium brace between two ribs to push them apart. VEPTR can be expanded as the patient grows through an outpatient procedure.
Growing Rod. Attached to the spine and affixed to vertebrae at the top and the bottom, growing rods are expanded over time using a mechanism that allows the lengthening to be performed in a simple outpatient surgery. The approach minimizes spinal deformity, and most importantly allows lung development to occur to preserve a normal life span for the patient.

Scoliosis is a musculoskeletal condition that primarily affects children and adolescents, in which there is an abnormal lateral curvature of the spine, causing the spinal column to bend to the left or right. The name is derived from the Greek word "skoliosis," which means "crookedness." Scoliosis affects approximately 3 percent of the population. The Adam's bend test is performed to gauge the amount of curvature a scoliosis patient has. Scoliotic curve is said to exist when the angle of the curve measure is at least 10 degrees. Curves of more than 40 degrees are considered severe. Most patients are diagnosed between ages 10 and 15, although those with severe cases may be detected earlier. Dr. Vitale is a proponent of school screening of adolescents for scoliosis, and authored an informational statement on the subject that was published in the January 2008 issue of the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. His position is shared by American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), the Scoliosis Research Society (SRS), the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America (POSNA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).


Life’s rollercoaster’s

What a busy time of year it is for everyone, and I have to say I feel like I have been on one of life’s rollercoaster’s, going up down and doing somersaults. Although there has been pain along the way, the majority of time it’s been great. The last time I wrote I was being investigated by my Consultant for severe pain in my hip, I am please to say all the scans and test came back clear and I am currently receiving inter-differential treatment from my Physio, for Sciatica. We are hoping that after the course of therapy things will settle down, if not I have to go back and see my Spine Consultant to see if the metal is irritating the nerves. I have had one course of treatment and things seem to be ok so I’m hoping that things will have settled by the end.
Over the last couple of weeks I have had to cope with a lot of changes at work, firstly moving offices and then my manager leaving to start a new life in Lanzarotte (and I wish you all the very best if you read this). I like my new office because I am back on the ground floor and I don’t have to worry about getting stuck in the lift, and therefore my stress level is much reduced which is great for me. I also like it because I can get in and out on my own so therefore I am gaining back my independence, and as far as I am concerned I feel like I have the control back and because I have that I can give my full effort in my job with ease, because the environment is much better for me and it isn’t such a battle for me everyday. I know we battle in our everyday life for everything but it is nice that I don’t have to be doing it constantly I kind of got a little respite so to speak, a chance to recharge my depleting batteries.
Mum is doing great with her Physio so much that she is catching me up, and I am so pleased for her, its quite strange now to see us both doing our home exercises together, but I help her and she helps me. So far Mum is really well, so we think that we might have our first Christmas at home, this being the first four years and we can’t wait.
A couple of weeks ago Mum and I went to Middlesbrough shopping with the help of Shop Mobility I have got to say what a great service they provide with volunteers to push people around the shops. If it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t be able to manage. It turned out to be a great day, buying lots of Christmas presents and hitting the sales in Debenhams, mind you I think we both where a bit overwhelmed by the number of people barging shopping, you wouldn’t think there was a credit crunch. We had to wait 10 minutes just to get the lift; I have never seen so many people and queues out the door. I know Mum likes to be in the think of it but even I found it a bit much.
Well this morning we finally woke to see the last of the snow, nice to see it cleared up after the last week we have had, had a few wheel spins! I love being inside watching it but I don’t like it when I have to go out in it

A year after rare stroke, adjusting to ‘a new me’

Progress, frustration for paralyzed student Gabe Chesman, 22

Gabe Chesman says that in confronting other people’s stares, “You just have to have a sense of yourself.”

The phoenix tattoo on 22-year-old Gabe Chesman’s arm has become a symbol of his rise from medical catastrophe.

One year ago, when he was a senior at Drexel University pursuing a degree in communications, Chesman suffered a rare spinal stroke. The ensuing year brought him a fight for life, a struggle for mobility, and the necessary readjustment of the goals and dreams that accompany paralysis.

Last February, halfway through a grueling year of recovery and rehabilitation, Chesman was living at the Kessler Rehabilitation Center in West Orange. His wire-rimmed glasses were too large for his gaunt face; he was too pale, too skinny. He could speak only just above a whisper, and he exhausted himself after a brief conversation with a visitor. Although his sense of humor was apparent, there was also plenty of anger and frustration.

A recent visit with Chesman at his home revealed the results of an extreme makeover, down to the fashionable frames of his new glasses, acquired on a recent outing with his mother in an attempt, he said, at “a new me.”

This time, Chesman, paralyzed from about the chest down, can maneuver himself to a visitor, shake hands, if weakly, get his own drink from a device on the wheelchair, and speak at length about his life, all without growing tired. He has some arm motion and some wrist motion on his left side. On the right, the arm motion is more limited and there is no wrist motion.

Although anger and frustration are still regular companions, they take a back seat to humor and persistence in facing the day-to-day challenges.

He wrote recently in his blog, days from gabe, “Dealing with paralysis is hard, end of story. However, sometimes it seems better or easier to deal with. In reality, it’s a struggle where there are rarely good days, only not bad days.”

On what seemed a particularly “not bad day,” the color had returned to Chesman’s face. He had traded a hospital gown for an Oxford button-down and Ralph Lauren sweater vest. And he had finally completed all of his physical therapy and received his first clean bill of health just before Thanksgiving.

Gabe Chesman and his mother, Jamie, who said her son has “a promise of a future.”
Chesman depends on George Boateng, a full-time, live-in aide, to help him get out of bed and to shower, dress, and eat. Chesman can feed himself, he said, but he prefers not to because it can be so “messy.”

Chesman now lives with his mother, Jamie, in Springfield, in a house that has been renovated to accommodate his wheelchair — thanks in large part to donations from friends and family, as well as congregants at Temple B’nai Jeshurun in Short Hills. Together, they raised funds for home renovations, a specially equipped van, and Boateng’s services. Chesman’s father, who lives in Florida, is too far away to help with day-to-day tasks, although he did stay with his son recently while Jamie Chesman had to travel for business. They divorced over 10 years ago.

Chesman’s bedroom and bathroom were carved out of the kitchen; the dining room now serves as his office, where his computer is set up, and he spends most of his time in the den.

Chesman spent over an hour with NJJN, discussing how things have changed for him.

On being confined to a wheelchair, he said, “The initial shock has worn off, but there are still moments when I ask, ‘Why me?’ It’s a frustrating situation to be in.”

He can no longer do the kinds of things he once took for granted, such as walking around campus and making new friends or playing the guitar — he was part of a band in high school and used to compose his own songs. He has no interest in composing on the computer, he said, but continues to listen to music and see his taste evolve. Over the summer, he even went to an outdoor Radio Head concert at Liberty State Park with friends and, of course, his mother. Asked if it was strange to have her along, he pointed out that he always had such a close relationship with her that it is possible she would have come with them anyway. But only now would both find humor in the conundrum of where, in an outdoor field, to empty his catheter bag.

Now taking classes at Seton Hall University toward his degree from Drexel, Chesman said, “I can see people staring at me and saying, ‘What’s wrong with that guy?’” He said he tries to ignore it. “I couldn’t care less what other people think. It’s like moving into a new town. You just have to have a sense of yourself.”

His mother, who joined her son and a visitor in the family room along with the dog, Lottie, for most of the interview, said her son “has graduated from being sick, but that’s not a free ride to join society.”

There are constant difficulties, from navigating in crowded places, to managing in restaurants, to coping with the weather.

“How will he get to school if it’s icy, or if it snows and a wide enough path isn’t plowed?” Jamie Chesman asked.

There are so many immediate challenges that it’s hard for Chesman or his mother to visualize what his future may hold.

“I have no idea what I’ll be doing five or 10 years from now,” said Chesman. “I live in the moment. It’s all I really can do.”

Right now, he is concentrating on reinventing himself, from figuring out what to do with his spare time (write a blog, listen to Led Zeppelin, play tennis on a Wii with his mother) to considering whether his major in communications even remains appropriate, given his limited mobility and dexterity. If that weren’t enough, every time he thinks about getting a job, he wonders whether or not he will land one out of skill or pity.

“Psychologically, that plays on you,” said Jamie.

Financial catch-22
Finding a career path and a job is only one piece of a complicated puzzle.

“The problem isn’t what Gabe chooses to do. There’s a huge funding issue. If he finishes his degree and becomes a great contributor, there’s a catch-22,” said his mother, who works in sales for McWilliams Forge, an aerospace industry company located in Rockaway.

Chesman finished her thought. “I could either not work and get medical benefits, or get a job and be a regular person — but then we couldn’t earn enough” to cover his care and medical costs.

“I’d go bankrupt if Medicaid cuts us off,” finished Jamie.

Plenty of people have helped them get this far, she said. The donations from friends and organizations like B’nai Jeshurun were crucial, although not unlimited.

“People are getting tired; I’m getting tired,” she said. “People want to move on.”

But the Chesmans can’t. So they started www.daysforgabe.com, a website linked to the National Transplant Association Fund, where people can donate a day, a week, a month of care for Gabe. (Each day of care costs approximately $250.)

Their new life takes a toll on both of them. Jamie doesn’t go out as often as she once did, preferring instead to stay at home with Gabe. She does enjoy taking him out to a mall or wherever she goes, she said, but sometimes, “I just don’t have the energy.”

She also doesn’t take time to go to the gym. Although she received an exercise machine as a gift from a friend, she rarely makes the time to use it. “I yell at her,” said her son. “If I can work out twice a week at Kessler, you have to do it, too.”

In the meantime, Chesman is getting pieces of his life back. He and his mother spent Thanksgiving as they have for many years, volunteering at a soup kitchen and then heading off to visit with family. And he’s made at least one new friend in school.

“It was a little hard at first, making friends, but I got an e-mail someone sent: ‘I’m in your class. I think what you’re doing is awesome. If you need any help, please let me know.’” That helped, his mother said, not least because “it came from the cutest girl in the class.”

In October, Chesman started a blog (www.gabechesman.blogspot.com), where he records what it’s like, as he put it, “to look at life through a new pair of glasses.”

If they have taken anything from the experience, it’s that there are no guarantees in life. “A year ago, we were running on fumes; we were bewildered. We were still in shock,” said Jamie. “Gabe had been at death’s door. Now he’s here, thriving, ready to embark on what comes next. There’s a promise of a future.”

And for now, that’s enough for the Chesmans

Video game system valuable tool in rehabilitation

For patients on Unit 58 at the Foothills Medical Centre, rehab can be fun and games.

The unit, home of the centre's Tertiary Neuro Rehab Program, utilizes a Nintendo Wii video game system as part of its rehabilitation efforts for patients with brain and spinal cord injuries, those who have suffered strokes and others with different neurological diagnoses.

Andy Ganden, a recreational therapist on the unit, says the Wii is just one of many tools used for rehab but adds it's a valuable one.

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Font:****"There's therapeutic value to it," Ganden says of the innovative gaming system that responds to body movement, as opposed to other gaming systems that use a standard controller.

"We use it to reintroduce patients to previously-learned skills. It can help with eye-hand co-ordination, memory and retention. Plus, it has a nice competitive flavour to it but that's not the focus," adds Ganden.

Patients can play virtually any sport from tennis to bowling to boxing, as well as more rehab-focused games that sharpen cognitive skills, according to Kim Francis, a recreational therapist and clinical leader on the unit.

"A lot of patients are in wheelchairs and many have limited use of their hands and arms," she says.

"They can't play traditional video games because of the fine motor skills and dexterity needed," she says, twiddling her thumbs mimicking playing a conventional video game.

"We can adapt the Wii to meet different needs."

Take Jack Veldhuyzen, for instance. He was an avid golfer before he came to Unit 58 with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a serious disorder that occurs when the body's immune system mistakenly attacks part of the nervous system. It leads to nerve inflammation that causes muscle weakness, which continues to get worse.

The syndrome forced Veldhuyzen off the golf course but he was able to play many rounds of Wii golf with Ganden during his rehabilitation.

"It helped with balance, motor skills and with confidence," says Veldhuyzen, who recently played his first 12 holes of real golf since being released from the hospital.

"It lets you get back into doing things. It just helps prepare you to get back into normal life again," said Veldhuyzen.

That's what Francis and Ganden hoped would happen.

"It gives our patients a little bit of confidence in terms of if they golfed before, they can do a bit of golfing here, although it's a different kind of golf," Francis said.

"It's a game situation where they can have a positive experience without really putting themselves on a golf course where they might fail."

Francis says the mental boost that the gaming system provides is as important as the physical benefits. At a basic level, the video game gives patients an enjoyable thing to do during their lengthy hospital stay.

"The tertiary patients are here for a long time," says Francis. "It's not just a six-day stay. Institutionalization does happen. With stuff like the Wii, we can help temper it a little."

"As well," adds Ganden, "we can play games where we have teams and the patients learn how to work together and build social skills. It's like a virtual experience. It's good preparation for the real deal."

As valuable as the Wii has been for the patients, Francis says it's also been a positive experience for the Unit 58 staff.

"From a team-building perspective, it's been great," she says.

"We'll come in here during our lunch and compete against each other. We just have fun and we laugh. It's a byproduct I never would have thought of."

Chris Simnett works for the Calgary Health Region

04 December 2008


The other day, I wrote an article that mentioned some tools that I use personally to maneuver through life. One of the tools I use is to focus. I think about something of interest. Something I want to put my full attention to. Something that I feel real passionate about. And something that brings me much pleasure and joy in doing. Something that is gratifying and constructive and make me feel happy and content within.
Then I do two or three different things. The first of which is to decide what it is I want to take action on. This could be a mental thought, or a physical action. Then, I would make a list if I had to. I would write down all the things I had to do to attain and accomplish this goal. Checking them off as I reach my aim, desired results, or wishes.
Next, I would proceed clearly and carefully. Taking one baby step at a time. Putting one foot in front of the other, until I reach my attainable goal. Gradually and consistently, over a period of time, unchanging my course of thinking; I would keep my faith, and endue with all the endurance I inside myself to muster, to keep on keeping on. I would remain focused. I would visualize myself reaching these intents in my mind.
Third, I would say affirmations. I would believe in myself more than any other human being on this earth. I would believe with all my heart and soul. I would continue to believe no matter how long it took me to attain my hope. Plus, I would not allow anyone to sway me or tell me that I COULD NOT succeed or achieve! I would hold firm to my thoughts, and ground myself by being mindful and steadfast.
Forth, I would be aware. I would be conscious of all things happening in and around me. I would be sensible, alert, antiquated, and heedful. I would also practice being wise and hip, and very attentive to areas that would be beneficial to my growth.
Finally, I would read, learn, do anything I could to educate myself more on my intent and desire, and focus, focus, focus.

A Trip of Thanksgiving

Three weeks ago, I sailed the pacific seas to the Gulf of Mexico. I stopped in the ports of: Cabo San Lucas, Loreto, Guaymas, Topolobampo, Mazatlan, Sinaloa, and Puerto Vallarta. This was an unexpected trip, to a part of the world, I always wanted to see. My in-law’s got an incredible deal on a cruise, and asked if we would like to join them. So how could my husband and I pass up such a wonderful offer. So we said yes.
However, my imagination, could not prepare me for what I was truly about to see witness, and, or stumble upon. The MS Ryndanm, and all their crew, were about to treat me with much care, and take me on a trip of a life time.
As I traveled the 2,726 nautical miles of breath taking seas, my sea legs became one with the ocean floor, and, I was prompted to remember once again, of all the things I have been blessed with, within my life; and that I have been given a chance to glimpse, observe, and participate in. We departed the shores of San Diego, on October 12, 2008, on a cool evening, as my husband, his brother, his wife, and my sister-in-laws brother all waved goodbye to the pacific shores we left behind.
This was the longest cruise I had ever taken or been on. But before we even traveled more that 100 knots, we were summonsed to a passenger boat drill to insure everyone’s safety. Although, minutes before, my sweet, hubby, Chris, left our room; on a heroic search to find ice cubes. I ask you? What was he doing looking for ice cubs at a time like this? After more then 5 minutes of wondering curiously, I began to get a bit frantic.
Where was he when I needed him the most? As on our last voyages to sea, he was right by my side to help me tie my life jacket to my person. This time, however, his timing was off, and got discombobulated by where our cabin was laid out. So I pulled out our life jackets from the closet and proceeded to walk to my destination point with concern.
Over a hundred people passed me by to get to their designated station. Fortunately, for me, while walking, I found all my family members except for Chris, whom I wanted to, find the most! Then, after a few moments of worrying and laughing, with my family jokester, my husband almost pasted me by.
“Hay honey, where do you think you’re going?” As I tried to direct and real him in with my voice, while my newly adopted brother-in-law, Willie, was making me, and his sister Laura, giggle uncontrollably. After we were all lined up like penguins, four sort bells and one long bell rang as we were dismissed to go, and play. We were off to commenced voyage to Cabo San Lucas where clear skies and fresh gales awaited us.
Port after port, my mind took hold on the vastness of what I was seeing. I tried to capture pictures both in my mind, and with my photo lens, as I snapped the images that reach out and touched me the most. Harbor after harbor, I saw the poverty of the Mexican people. Yet, I also saw an attitude of desperateness, need, kindness, and gentleness; longing in there eyes everywhere I went. Not like in the United States where greed saturates our country, and our hearts and minds. These men, women, and children are grateful even through much haggling takes place in the market place and amongst the streets. They struggle with a reminder everyday of what we take for granted.
While riding on a bus into Guaymas and Topolobampo, the passengers were told by the guide of the great destruction from a hurricane not more than two or three days before we arrived in their city. The guide explained how in some parts of the city there was no infrastructure as it was just whipped out. Nevertheless, these men, women, and children pick themselves up and continue on only eighty dollars a week. It reminds me of what so many of our people go through in trying to carve out a living in our world. This is a direct representation, of the subtle injustice, that most of us in the disabled community deal with every day of their lives.

The next day we docked in Loreto, where my two brother-in-laws hailed a cab. Boy what a ride that was! When we started out, everything was smooth riding; as we saw the sites of the most rich and famous in their town. And hotels right off the water’s edge. But then, things got real bumpy! We were out for a ride of our lives! Instead of taking a paved road thirty minutes out of town, to an old Mission we wanted to see, we wound up taking a path that almost threw my husband for a loop.
The car we were using was not a four wheel drive. This lack of amenity made it difficult to travel and also unnerved my husband to no end. He was pulling his hair out with disgust, revolt, and fear. There were so many rocks, river beds, and obstacles to cross, that it sometime seemed “that we might not make it to the church on time.” Once we had gotten out of the cab, seen the sites, and had delicious casadia’s, and tacos; the road and return home proved much easier on everybody.
I truly felt a family connection with the taxi drivers, too. Through laughter, communication and connection, in their native tongue, and having married into a family that speaks the language fluently, it made the excursion and trip that much more comfortable, warm, exciting, valuable, and inviting.
Especially, our last stop! When my husband, my family, and I; visited the port of Puerto Vallarta. The cab stopped to let us observe the breath taking sculptures, to cross the street, and to visit and take snapshots of the awe inspiring sand castles. And oops! Yes, you got it! The street was so full of pot holes, rounded rocks, and gullies, that I took a flying leap into a hole, all by my little ol’ lonesome. No body by my side but me- I was walking alone and stepped right into it!
Thank God no one hit me! And thank God, I did not break a foot, or leg, and that it was our last dock to visit! If I were in the United States, I would have been terrified to be further hurt. Thankfully, I wasn’t. Thankfully all I got was a very, very sprain ankle and calve. Someone else in my shoes, or position, would have sulked, gone back to the ship, and perhaps, even gone home, but I didn’t!
The experience was not easy, as I was in pain, and could not walk like I normally do, but I found a way to keep smiling like I always do. In my mind I knew this was a trip and a moment of a life time. I knew it was truly a gift and so worth while.
Moreover, I knew that I might never ever get this kind of opportunity or chance to take in these majestic marvels again, so I forgot about my discomfort and smiled a ray of sunlight for Gods beautiful landscape, and backdrop. I also was shown how unconditionally I was loved and cared for by my family and complete strangers.
Thus, I immediately found gratitude in my own heart, and found new positive ways, to continue on my journey with gratification in my own inner self and being. My positive attitude, along with all my past triumph and tribulations, gave me a wonderful, exuberant energy, and willingness to make the best of a difficult situation for all involved.
I was so accommodating, that we went forward to visit the cost line’s and city scapes with pure pleasure and delight. So, with a bag of ice cubs, surrounding my leg, we visited an organic distillery, where all types of wine and liqueurs were made, and we drove to Casa Kimberly.
For those of you who do not know what Casa Kimberly is, it is now a bed and breakfast. Although in the early sixties, it was where Liz Taylor’s, and Richard Burton’s had their home. One could see the pink remaining bridge that linked the two homes together.
Even though I tripped and fell at my last port, I can’t express to my readers how wonderful, breathtaking, and joyous my time in Mexico and on the ship was.
Travel is something I feel is very vital, freeing, emancipating, and uplifting for us all, but especially for the disabled community. The more communicative, active, visible, and perceptible we become, the more we partake in life’s precious activities; it cultures, and joys of the world, the more we can breakdown the stereotypes, and promote the truths of our lives and beings.