31 May 2009

Miracle of the paralysed patients freed from their silent prison

By Isla Whitcroft
At 23, Richard Gregory had a bright future. He'd just graduated from King's College in London and had won a coveted place at Sandhurst to start officer training.

Then, in November 2003, he was a passenger in a van that was almost completely crushed by a truck. He was pulled from the wreckage alive but had ruptured several organs and, as he arrived at hospital, suffered a major stroke.

'By the time we reached him, Richard was in a coma and doctors were unsure as to whether he would wake up,' remembers his mother Vivienne. 'It was six months before he was taken off a ventilator and started to breathe for himself.

Trapped: Richard Gregory was diagnosed with 'Locked-In Syndrome' after being paralysed in a traffic accident

'Although we never gave up hope, it was almost another year before we really believed he was still conscious and alive inside his paralysed body.

'The first sign was a sort of lopsided smile which doctors said was just an involuntary movement. Then we could see his right eye was moving, which they said was reflex.'
His parents Vivienne and Errol, along with other family and friends, began to ask him questions: to their delight, he responded by twitching his eyebrow. Encouraged by this, doctors sent Richard for tests.

'The results were conclusive - his brain was fully functioning,' says Vivienne. 'He was alert, aware of everything that had happened but unable to talk. The doctors called it Locked-In Syndrome. We called it an absolute tragedy.'

Locked-In Syndrome (LIS) can occur as the result of a stroke, a progressive neurological disorder such as Motor Neurone Disease or, as in Richard's case, a trauma in the brain stem which has irreparably damaged the nerves that control the head and body movement. The stroke he suffered may have also contributed to the damage.

As a result, the patient is paralysed but fully conscious, with normal brain function.
They can breathe unaided but are unable to speak, with their only method of communication through vertical eye movements. It is a dreadful fate, exacerbated by the inability of the patient to communicate their consciousness to the outside world.

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence of patients being written off by medics as being in a vegetative state or a coma; even of hearing doctors discussing switching off their life-support machine before someone notices that they are trying to communicate that they are very much alive.

'We could tell by the look in his eyes that Richard was trying to communicate with us,' says his godmother Dawn, who's been closely involved in his care. 'He just didn't have the means to do so.'

Mind-reading miracle: Richard is pictured here with Dr Paul Gnanayathum, who developed a device which interprets the brainwaves of paralysed patients, enabling them to communicate
After his accident, Richard spent the next three years in an NHS specialist head injuries unit until it became clear that his medical condition was not going to improve. Today, he lives in a dedicated care home in Birmingham.

His inability to communicate was extremely disheartening, says Dawn. 'Richard had always been chatty, with a big smile on his face, and we knew that he wanted to communicate with us.'
Computer program that 'reads' their minds

Then, last year, she read about a computer program which offered the family fresh hope. It effectively 'reads' the patient's mind to help them communicate. Using electrodes attached to the forehead, the program picks up electrical signals in the brain and from any muscles around the forehead which are not paralysed.

These electrical signals are then fed into a 'de-scrambler' which converts them into a command to move a cursor on a computer screen - for instance, to point at words such as yes or no.
The system was designed specifically for locked-in patients by Dr Paul Gnanayutham, a lecturer in computing at Portsmouth University.

This is not the first time scientists have found a way of using a person's brain waves to navigate a cursor, but Dr Gnanayutham is one of the first to use the technology on real people with serious brain injuries.
Furthermore, he has made a real breakthrough. One of the main barriers to the expansion of this technology had been that as well as the cursor-moving brain waves, there are lots of other brain waves creating background 'noise' which can confuse the computer.
It took him three years, but Dr Gnanayutham managed to write a sophisticated computer program which cuts out this 'noise'.

Since building the machine in 2001, he has worked with more than 30 patients.
'We use any signals we can to help patients to communicate,' he says. 'Some, like Richard, can frown a bit, which means his forehead muscles are not paralysed - so he can use those muscles to help along the cursor. He can also move his eyes.
'Some people can't move anything, and in that case we just work with brain waves.'
Dawn got in touch with Dr Gnanayutham, who went to see Richard last September.
Skateboarding computer game test
'He chatted to Richard and explained what he wanted him to do,' says Dawn. 'He put six pads on Richard's forehead, which were wired up to a box and a screen. We all waited with bated breath to see what would happen.'
Dr Gnanayutham had loaded up a computer game based on skateboarding. As the family watched, Richard concentrated hard and suddenly the skateboarder began moving - jumping obstacles and sliding up and down cliffs.
'It was an amazing moment,' says Dawn. 'We were nearly in tears. I remember sitting there watching with shivers running down my spine. At last Richard was able to break out of his prison, if only for a few minutes.
'I could tell Richard was really pleased. What the doctor didn't know was that Richard had been a really good snowboarder. He couldn't have picked a better game for him.'
Dr Gnanayutham, too, was astounded. 'I had never seen anything like it. To see someone playing a computer game using just brain waves, and playing it so well, was amazing.
'To do something like that takes a huge amount of effort and concentration, and people with head injuries tend to tire easily anyway. Richard is clearly a very clever man.'
Dr Gnanayutham first conceived the idea of the programme when singing in a choir which toured hospitals around London.
He says: 'We visited a neurological hospital in Putney and I saw people who were locked in. It seemed so unfair that they couldn't tell us if they were sad, happy, or wanted to go to bed late. I kept wondering if there was something I could do to help them to communicate.
'I knew the computer technology to use brain waves was out there, but my challenge was to adapt that so it was suitable for people with that condition.'

Cause? Richard suffered a major stroke as he arrived at hospital, which may have contributed to his brain damage
'What he has done is quite remarkable,' says Professor Gilbert Cockton, head of research into human and computer interaction at the University of Sunderland.
'He has solved a very complex problem and chosen to apply it to a worthwhile and moving cause.'
Indeed, Dr Gnanayutham could probably sell this programme to the computer gaming industry and make a fortune. Instead, as a committed Christian, he has chosen to devote what little spare time he has to visiting as many locked-in patients as possible and using the machine on them.
'Learning how to navigate using eye movement and brain waves isn't easy,' says Dr Gnanayutham. 'I worked for eight months with one young man whose mother knew he was "there" - but nothing happened until he started using the brain wave system. Finally, he could "talk" to her again.'
Dr Gnanayutham doesn't-always bring good news: there are times when people's loved ones are no longer conscious, and he cannot work with patients who are heavily sedated.
Wherever possible, he tries to have a medical doctor witnessing his work. 'I can't just walk into a hospital and start treating patients,' he says. 'While most care homes are sympathetic, hospitals are less so. My dream is to use my system within the NHS, so this is something I need to address.
Dr Gnanayutham has two machines, each containing a laptop, screen and head pads.
'I would like to create one single unit with all the component parts in it which could be operated by a carer, as there are so many dozens of people who want to see me and I can't be everywhere.
'Sadly, I'm not a businessman and have no idea about raising funds.'
Richard's mother says: 'We are just so grateful to Dr Gnanayutham. It's like a miracle. The next step is for us to purchase a machine just for Richard, so he can communicate all the time.'
• For more information, or if you would like to make a donation to help Dr Gnanayutham's work, email Paul.Gnanayutham@port.ac.uk

30 May 2009

Kids get health benefit from yoga

By Megha Satyanarayana
Detroit Free Press

DETROIT — When Alayna Kurek panicked one day about forgotten homework, the 9-year-old stunned her school counselor by using a yoga breathing technique to calm down.

That stress-relief method is a reason Sherri Kurek said she takes her two children, Alayna and Olivia, 7, to classes for kids at the Yoga Studio of Shelby.

"It’s the one thing they stick with," said Kurek, an in-home transcriptionist from Shelby Township, Mich.

Alayna gets exercise, going from downward-facing dog position to cobra to frog. And her improved confidence shows when she teaches her classmates how to pretzel up, Kurek said.

Karen Lutz, who teaches child yoga classes at Providence Hospital in Novi, Mich., said, "A 4-year-old — they have a short attention span. They really don’t care where their feet are." But as younger yogis mature, she said, "They want to know, ‘Where do my feet go?"’

University of Michigan pediatrician Dolores Mendelow says yoga, if done properly, is a suitable alternative to tumbling and team sports for getting stressed-out, sedentary children socializing, exercising and building discipline.

"It requires practice, patience and accepting of self-limitations," she said.

Second-grader Mya Sornig, 8, practiced a new sun salutation recently in Jane Schwab’s class at Yoga Studio of Shelby. In a circle with the Kurek sisters and studio owner Lisa Tokarz’s two children, Schwab, a retired schoolteacher and certified yoga instructor, said, "Lift your left toe like you’re warming your toes in the sun."

Mya pushed her left leg into the air, and wobbled, which mom Jennifer Sornig of Sterling Heights, said is a reason to trek to the studio. A physical therapist, she knows a strong abdomen can stave off back and posture problems.

A preliminary study of pediatric health benefits of yoga, published in 2008, finds motor skills and concentration improvements, on top of better posture and breathing.

At Providence Hospital, yoga is integrated into strength-building exercises for children with Down syndrome and cerebral palsy, who often lack muscle tone and breathe weakly. Parents help, said therapist Annmarie Dempsey.

"The younger kids, with most yoga poses, we try to find a name that relates to the pose to make it fun," she said.

Yoga stretching and body alignment can create a better athlete, said Michigan State University strength coach Mike Vorkapich. Players use back and arm movements to improve strokes and pitches, he said.

Listening improves too, said Jennifer Hayes, an MSU yoga teacher. She sometimes teaches without demonstrating postures. She hears this all the time: "Wow, this is harder than I thought."

Beyond Boundaries Live 2009

Beyond Boundaries Live 2009, the UK’s leading lifestyle event for people with disabilities, is set to be the biggest and best yet at its new home at Farnborough FIVE. Inspired by the highly acclaimed Beyond Boundaries TV series, the event takes place on Saturday 4th & Sunday 5th July.

Offering an inspirational, interactive and fun day out for people with disabilities, their families, carers and those working in the disability market, the 2009 event has been re-designed and expanded to provide an even better visitor experience.

The new look show will play host to a number of interactive features, theatres and activities, alongside an exhibition where visitors can see, try and buy the latest products and services from a wide range of leading specialist suppliers.


· Beep Baseball debuts at Beyond Boundaries Live
· Diving Pool
· Pimp my Wheelchair
· Physio Zone: Come down to get your free FES assessment!
The UK’s leading provider of specialised Neurological Physiotherapy, PhysioFunction will be demonstrating functional electrical stimulation (FES) at Beyond Boundaries Live 2009.
· Ski Slope
· British Military Fitness Assault Course
· Paralympic and Sporting Village

Representatives from sports clubs all over the country will be on hand to demonstrate and display their sports – this is not only the chance to meet your heroes but also quiz real experts on their chosen sport whilst researching your local club.
A range of sports includes;

- Archery - Table Tennis
- Bocchia - Wheelchair Rugby
- Football - Wheelchair Fencing
- Equestrianism - Wheelchair Basketball
- Goal Ball - Sitting Volleyball
- Rowing - Shooting
- Sailing - Swimming

· Enabled Cooking Centre
· Beyond Fashion Stage
· Lifestyle Theatre
· Test Track


PhysioFunction has arranged a special booking code which entitles you to a discounted ticket price. Adult tickets will cost just £5* and child tickets (under 16s) will cost just £3* (adults normally priced £8 in advance and £10 on the door, children £5 in advance and £8 on the door).

Simply quote PF1 when booking online to receive your discount.

· Please note, a 20p per ticket booking fee applies.

We look forward to seeing you there!!

Physiofunction Ltd, 50 High Street, Long Buckby, Northants. NN6 7RDRegistered Office as aboveRegistered in England and Wales No. 4878929Tel: 0800-043-0327Fax: 0871-661-3008Mob: 07798-780364http://www.physiofunction.co.uk/

29 May 2009

'You can't bar me for being disabled'

WHEN Mark Cooper arrived in the pub, he thought he was all set for a good night out.

He had no trouble getting through the door in his wheelchair, and settled down for a couple of pints with friends. It was only later he had a problem.

He explained: "I went up to the bar and said 'Where's your disabled toilet?' and they said 'We don't have one'. "I thought 'What am I supposed to do now?'"

The customer toilets were down a steep flight of stairs, so he had to leave 56 North in West Crosscauseway with friends, and go 200 yards down the road to another bar, The Native State, which he knew had an accessible toilet.

The 24-year-old was inspired to launch a campaign to improve the lot of disabled pub-goers in Edinburgh. He has the support of MSP George Foulkes and Councillor Angela Blacklock, who has tabled a motion for today's meeting of the full council calling on the city to publish a list of pubs detailing their accessibility.

Mr Cooper, who has cerebral palsy, will make a deputation to the meeting and would like to see it be a condition of receiving a licence that pubs be made completely accessible to all, with the exception of a few older buildings where it is impossible.

The Disability Discrimination Act 2005 rules that pubs cannot discriminate against disabled people, but critics say it is too easy for them to opt out as long as they can provide a reasonable excuse.

Cllr Blacklock said: "This isn't a huge ask of the council. We have licensing standards officers in place who could carry out the work. It is the very least we can do for wheelchair users."

Mr Cooper added: "When I run into problems I feel angry because it's disrupted my evening. My friends just see me as normal, so why can't I just go out for a pint instead of having to think that I can't go to bar 'X' because I can't make full use of it?

"I'm quite an independent guy, so I don't like having to ask anybody if they can help me to go to the toilet.

"I'm hoping to get out of this a kind of good pub guide so that people can say I'd like to go out on Friday to a particular pub and have a look in the book and see if it's got disabled access. Disabled people have the right to have as much fun as anybody else."

Mr Cooper, who lives in Gracemount, has launched a petition on Facebook under the campaign title, Barred!, whose membership is more than 200 and rising fast.

James Sutherland, director of 56 North, said he sympathised with Mr Cooper's situation, but the building was leased and predated the introduction of regulations.

He added: "We take access very seriously but we're constrained by the building. There's not really any scope."

Student-designed toys help kids with motor disorders

A line of toys designed by Brown and RISD students in a 2006 course targets children with neuromuscular diseases and impaired motor skills.
Ask a child if he would rather do physical therapy or play with a remote control car and the answer will be obvious. But now researchers at Brown and the Rhode Island School of Design have designed a way for him to do both, by creating toys specially developed for children with neuromuscular diseases.

The toys, originally designed by students in a joint Brown-RISD course, are meant to complement the benefits of physical therapy for children with Cerebral Palsy, said Professor of Orthopaedics Joseph Crisco of the Warren Alpert Medical School.

By using the toys, the children effectively “have therapy for a much longer period of time,” Crisco said, adding that the key of the project is to disguise therapy as play.

The development of the toys resulted from a collaboration between Crisco, Clinical Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurosciences Karen Kerman ’78, RISD Associate Professor of Industrial Design Khipra Nichols and students in Crisco’s course, “Toys for Rehabilitation.”

Crisco said he and his colleagues came up with the initial concept for the product in the fall of 2006. His students designed the actual toys throughout the fall semester. The students worked on several different concepts, including specially designed walking shoes to help children with climbing disabilities and remote-controlled toys for children with hemiplegia, he said.

According to Crisco, many children with neuromuscular diseases are unable to use the same toys as their friends and siblings because these toys frequently require the use of fine motor skills, such as pulling a trigger or pressing a button. To overcome this problem, Crisco’s students pulled out the wires of common toys and redesigned them to be controlled through movements of the wrist or arm.

The result is similar in concept to the Nintendo Wii remote, Crisco said, except that the new toys respond only to movements made by the forearm — which is enclosed in a brace — rather than to full-body and arm movement.

As the goal of the project was to use the toys for “targeted joint therapy,” Crisco said, the designers did not want the toys to respond if the child were “standing on (his) head.”

The researchers’ goal is to send the toys home with the children to augment their other therapy, Crisco said, adding that the toys have data logging capabilities which can tell doctors how much the children have been using them.

In 2008, the group received a grant to develop prototypes of the toy controllers and began conducting a small pilot study. Now the researchers are applying for funding from the National Institutes of Health to upgrade the toys to commercial quality.

If the researchers get funding, Crisco said he would like to involve students in further developing the toys and researching their effectiveness.

Child diabetes cases 'to increase'

Lyme disease: A patient's story

28 May 2009

Hidden in the Shadows of the Absolute Truth

How many times in your life have you not been given credit for something you outstandingly accomplished? How many times were your efforts gone unnoticed? And, how many times did some body else take the credit for your hard work? This happens a lot to people with disabilities. Too often our work is seen as something to keep us busy and occupied, rather than something of meaning and purpose. Because people outside the disabled circle seem to believe that our lives don’t need the same kind of depth, acknowledgement, praise, or honor to express warm approval or admiration for the work we have done. We are given little recognition which is so deserved. Time and time again, our efforts, our ethics, and our labor get either brushed over or disregarded. Persons in high raking positions, who have no disabilities of there own, have a special way of usurping every opportunity that comes our way.

They seem to have a unique and inimitable way of allowing us to do the work for which they take full credit for. There are many deceitful examples. One time, in transition, while waiting for the verdict of my Civil Rights Case, I was working as an assistant recreation director. I went above and beyond, and took on responsibilities that normally would fall to my boss. But me being me, I took them on. Unfortunately, my efforts were not valued or taken seriously.

Once again, I was treated as though I was mentally retarded; and should go back to the workshops. It was thought and non-verbally expressed that I should do his work, while he received all the accolades. This idea was demonstrated in the general approach which was taken towards the management of our responsibilities within this care facility. I naturally grasped and took upon myself the many details in organizing care plans, putting on events, and teaching fitness classes; along with giving each client the respect, the dignity, the decorum, and care they unconditionally needed and deserved.

Most the time, my boss would show his face in the early part of the morning, disappear for eight hours, and reappear at the days end. Meanwhile, I had been progressing, and achieving and doing all his work. I put in long, grueling hours out of the goodness of my heart. I learned the ropes of the trade due to his negligence and unconcern. He was cold and hardened and looked out just for himself. He did not think of others around him and what his affects would be on them.

This man had the nerve to claim, “all I did was visit patience and make them happy…” His inaccurate, condescending and disdainful statements made me look as if I was incompetent of doing my job. He made me look as though I was incapable of holding my position or caring out the duties at hand. He also damaged my reputation and caused much strife.

Why is it that these people have to cause others such horrific and horrendous, pain? Why does our society promote one- manship of cruelty, instead of goodness? Why are there clicks where mean and cure things are said, and act performed? And why are people so jealous of those who give there all? Are they threatened Of us? Tell me, please! Why does mankind turn on there own? Is it ego, or greed? Is it power because they have something missing within themselves? Is it revenge because of something that happened in childhood? Are they just outright mean and cruel and have to hurt those who try their hardest and give there all!

What happened to being happy for someone else, and working together for the good of all? What happened to doing unto others as you would like done unto you? These irrefutable acts hurt the people who want to be included in society the most. While these people know how to sniff us out, and put us where they think we belong. They get off scott free for a while, but it always comes back.

It is the primary task of all of us who have a disability to demonstrate our own achievements in every aspect of our life. We need to show and teach the world by action and deed just how much we have to offer the world, and will accomplish. We need society to treat us seriously. We need society to get honest and stay honest. And, we need society to own up to the many narratives they have done to hold and keep us back. We need our country, and our members of government officially responsible to begin to recognize our untapped leaders in our own communities. It is far better for society if its leaders come from a people which have born “the heat of battle in the noon day sun.” Because you see, as a community, we have been tested and hardened by the struggle to survive. We have also understood the need to work interdependently for mutual benefits. These are the skills which our country requires of it leaders. So why not us, too! Why not then give us a voice and a say so in the leadership of the republic. Why keep us hidden in the shadows?

Remembering Our Fallen Soldiers

Every year, for the last four decades, I can’t help but think of all our fallen soldiers who paid the ultimate price and sacrifice. I can’t help but remember their precious lives and what they gave to our world. Having Cerebral Palsy, and knowing what it is like to live a life without the full use of all my limbs, I cannot stop thinking of all our young man; especially our injured boys who once had full use of their bodies. Now, they have to deal with something they never new before. Now, their lives have been altered for good- and now, they are left to pick up the pieces and to hopefully be positive and set an empowering example for other.

I remember the day my mother called me up at work. I remember her voice and how it sounded- I remember her telling me how we just got word that my cousin died in the Viet Nam war. Oh, how distinctly I remember that event. It never goes away! We were heart broken. We were shocked, traumatized, and devastated. This was a young, handsome man who ate, slept, and drank the idea of becoming a helicopter pilot.

We as his family could not stop him. We had to let go. We had to trust and believe that he would be safe. We had to believe that he would be guarded and protected from harm. We had to give him our love and good wishes to freely live his dreams to his highest. But oh, how special he was! How talented and kind a human being he was- Now an unsung hero who was only acknowledge by his loved ones and family.

And oh how it left my family. Know one truly know what it feels like unless you experience it yourself. The grief is unbearable. And the overwhelming sorrow, that’s a story all on its own. I am sure no one is ever the same after losing a loved one. No one truly ever recovers. Especially the parents!

We, the children, are supposed to outlive our mother’s and father’s. Not the other way around. We are supposed to bring joy and happiness to our family’s lives. Not hurt, and pain. So when it happens, it happens with a huge impact and an enormous bodily sensation such as mental suffering or distress. It causes a massive amount of torture, trauma, and torment.

Thus, I ask all you reading this to love those around you. Be respectful of other people’s wants, needs, and desires. Think less about yourself, and more about giving unconditionally. See what it does. See how it changes you- think less about what you need, and find unspoken ways to do something nice without anything in return. Bring someone happiness today. Show them that you truly care. Show your family or loved one the true meaning of giving from ones heart. Show them before it’s too late. Tell them what you’ve been keeping to yourself before it’s too late.
This Memorial Day let’s vow to make a difference. I dedicate this to you, Jerry.

Common Courtesy: A Step Up in Communication

What does one think about when writing or sharing written material with other people through Twitter, You Tube, Disaboom, or Myspace. These modes of communication are to fill and enrich peoples lives, not bring unpleasant experiences. I know how uncomfortable it can be as when I was younger I could not write. As an infant, I was paralyzed due to a DPT shot. My body became paralyzed, and I had a severe learning disability which made me struggle pretty much my entire life, although, today, I have learned new ways to compensate, new ways to work through my fears, and I have found new ways to work under pressure. That is why having a common courtesy is so very, very important as one does not know who they are meeting over the World Wide Web. While my learning disability is not as severe as it once was, I still have my moments to this day. That is when being kind, caring, and tolerable comes in. One never knows whom they may encounter or meet. One never really knows what they may say while communicating that will offend someone deeply. Now, when I meet individuals like this I don’t let it get to me. I shrug it off. I use my positive tools to let it go with ease.

I want you to know that this is not always easy. In the past 3 decades I have not only learn to overcome and succeed in dealing with my problem, and what others may say, but I have supper seeded all my expectations of what I thought I would become. It is very humbling to remember that which I came from; as in my late teens, I could not even write a letter by myself. I remember my mother doing it for me. So, remembering this helps me to keep my communication skills up. It helps me to stay very humble and modest. The other thing that keeps me unpretentious is being myself and not coming off knowing that I know it all, egotistical, or un-kind. I have never for the sake of it just been un-caring, to others. I have always reach out with a warm concern about others and a concerned feelings to rise people up, not to tear them down! That is a common courtesy we aught all have. While speaking to other people and communicating with others it is nice just to be nice- I think twice about how I would like to be treated when I write back to someone writing to me. I don’t want to come across too abrupt, too conceded, or even too contrived. I remember always that people have feelings too, and that their feeling count just as much as mine. I remember you can’t take back words once you’ve spoke or written them- I also remember that while reading other peoples emails, writings, and blog entries to be kind always as I know what I reflect out to others, is a direct indication of my attitude and well being. So, I am not so quick to judge anyone.

I also remember when I was in my mid twenties, I remember a dear, dear friend lifting me up by sweetly saying…” write what comes to your heart and mind and put it to paper. And so I do the same now. I pay it forward. I want you to know I took to heart my friends empowering words and have been writing ever since. So I am the last to say a critical word! I have not only written an autobiographical, “THE BROKEN HOOF" but I write for two different disability magazines. I make sure my writing can help someone in some way. I make sure I write a whisper of hope to encourage and empower. A whisper to lift and rise. And a whisper to show that one truly cares!

My writing has become a tool in which I express myself. It is something I love to do, and find fulfillment in. I take much pride, and joy, in the things I write and share with the world. They have meaning. I try to teach and impart a personal closeness in what I am trying to convey to my readers. Writing for me is very therapeutic. It is an instrument to meet others that have the same interests as me; as well as helps me get comments and informal come backs from others. It is a way for me to center myself after an especially busy day. And, it calms me down, as helps me listen to that quiet, still, inner-voice of mine. Moreover it gives me a reason to sit down for a few minutes, all alone in the quietude of my own inner being. This is something I can give my all to. Something I can rejuvenate myself with, and something I can transcend, surpass, and go beyond any thought I might have or chose to develop. It gives me that sound strength to scribe on.Writing has not only become fun for me, but it has become a vital implement to share, teach, and express my feelings and emotions by which I choose to share as a messenger. It has become a certain kind of vehicle to which I can convey. Thus, we who have been selected and gifted with this amazing tool and means, let us be a positive instrument for all to convey this common courtesy.

26 May 2009

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23 May 2009

New treatments used for kids with old medical problems

WICHITA, Kansas – Yoga is often used for exercise and relaxation, but now doctors are recommending it for children with special needs. It’s just one example of new approaches to old medical problems. What’s meant to be a workout is just fun for six-year-old Jami. She has cerebral palsy, which caused her muscles to constrict and tighten. So, her doctor recommended yoga. "I was surprised-- I guess more hopeful that it would work,” said Jami’s mother Patty Moulds. “It kind of makes sense when you think about yoga is stretching."

Instructor Sheryl Haynes uses several yoga poses to strengthen Jami’s lower back and leg muscles. "Since she's a tippy-toe walker, getting stretched out back here, the calves and tendons back through here -- we're working on things that do that,” Haynes said. She also works with kids who have Down’s syndrome and other developmental delays. She uses nursery rhymes practice their language skills at the same time.

It’s modern therapy based on an ancient exercise. Another unusual treatment that more parents are turning to for help is at a chiropractic clinic, where the doctor claims he can cure colic. What's more, he says it only takes a few weeks. Colic affects one in five babies, causing uncontrollable crying. "Constantly from morning until night, into the wee hours of the morning,” said Rachel Murphy of her baby’s crying. “It was 24 hours she cried." But Ella was treated by Dr. Dennis Scharenberg, who believes he knows what causes colic. He says a weak valve between the babies’s small and large intestines leads to painful indigestion. "And when I strengthen that muscle, it stops leaking, and when it stops leaking, the colic is gone,” Dr. Scharenberg said. “It's gone and it doesn't come back." He simply messages the muscle for about 20 minutes several times a week. "After about three treatments, we noticed a significant improvement -- a lot less crying, more sleep at night,” said mother Crystal Jones. All of the moms say they were skeptical at first, but desperate enough to give it a try. "It's like it's too good to be true, but it is, and it works,” said mother Jennifer George. So, why don’t other doctors do it? Dr. Sharenberg says it’s a technique he developed himself and actually volunteers his services to get the word out, hoping it will bring help for the helpless and peace of mind for parents.

17 May 2009

What is in a Word

“What’s in a name?” Shakespeare wrote in Romeo and Juliet. “That which we call a rose by any other name smell as sweet.” I ask you, what do you think of the word Handicap? How does it affect you? How does it make you feel? And, how does it digest within your own conscious and subconscious being. Does it make you angry, hurt, enraged, or does it make you feel beside yourself? Does it leave a bitter taste in your mouth, or does it make you feel more at ease or comfortable?

There are so many definitions for this word; handicappable, disabled, cripple, and challenged; these are only a few descriptives’ that are used regularly throughout our world today. Each on there own, carry a big weight. Each, by themselves, takes on a whole new meaning, connotation, and undertone. Depending on how we see, think, and perceive things, within our own selves, lives, and the world around us. That will be the ultimate determining factor. It all depends on how we see things and look at life. Our impressions, perceptions, and concepts- This is called our belief structure. All of these factors make up conviction. Particularly, what we were taught by our own parents; friends, and family members.

Each feeling, and each judgment, based on reason or actual experience, along with specific prejudices and pre-conceived opinions and ideas can and will affect us, as well as alter how we live, and view the world and people around us. They can all vary a person’s belief system. What one person thinks is positive; another could find it down right rude and insulting. I pose this to my readers to not only open up this word for discussion, and dialogue, but to create a safe, and secure atmosphere where we all can talk freely and openly as well as acquire the benefit of each others experience, so that we can gain a whole new outlook, understanding of, and interpretation to not only encounter what that word means to us, but, what it means to each other, and all it represents.

Having Cerebral Palsy, myself, and hearing these words all my life makes me think about how others feel. It makes me want to ask questions, see how other people think, deal with, and react to these words; but it especially make me what to know how you have been swayed and molded. It is an unavoidable reality that these physical challenges and daily occurrences change how we all look and deal with life on a daily basis. They are all too real. It not only impacts other people’s lives and attitudes, but it affects those directly closes to us. It absolutely affects whom and what we are; as we can see concrete results taking hold in all areas of our daily lives. We are an exceptionally aware species, who have a six sense. We can tell when others hold back what they truly feel, when one interjects with a conniving control, and begins to assign rules and regulations of what we are and aren’t truly capable of doing and becoming.

Why, you may be asking yourself? Well, because people will be people. People well look at us and judge us thought their own prism of experience. They will look at us through their own light and transparency. They will intellectually think they know better or more then us. That is why it is so very important to analyze our own thinking, our own attitudes, and our inner most thoughts.

There are so many old fashion words, and terminologies that are still used in today’s culture and society that are derogatory, and show a critical or disrespectful, disregard for us as people. Even though out-mouted, these words are still used. They seek to limit us as individuals and our dignity as human beings. They take away all our pride to move forward. Some of these ideas and concepts sell a forced notion and an obligation of what we are and are not allowed to become. In every aspect of our lives, there is an entire set of rules and regulations written and unwritten which the general public believes and leans towards. It is imperative that each of us, in our own way, search our souls at our core root, and make a conscious choice to be visible, and communicate these feelings within our community.
The more active we communicate and share, the more confident we become. We gain a self-worth to reach out more to others, as we inspire and encourage. As we do this, we summon up hope for all. We help others to get out of themselves, as we aspire others to think new thoughts, and reach for new goals. Moreover, the more we engage freely in all activities, the more empower we become. Not just to help ourselves, but to help each other as, we breakdown the walls of isolation, separation, and exclusion. We easily and effortlessly introduce new ideas and ways to look and maneuver through life.

The more active and willing we become, the more engaged and committed we become to give back and make a difference in our community, in the things we say, and the friendships we have entrust, the more we summon up and invoke a new belief system. We initiate insightful meaning in things we share dialogue about. We have a chance to make a difference, open up new channels, and make new passages towards the way people talk, think about us, and use words from there heart. By being mindful, sympathetic, and conscientious, people will learn to treat us with dignity, and respect. By doing so, we will be passing it forward. We will be making a difference, and hopefully, change people’s attitudes. Perhaps one day they won’t utter words of contempt. Life will takes on a whole new meaning as we become a vital voice, and source contributing to everyone in our community.

In closing, I think the most important thing to remember is to retain ultimate decision making over our own lives. That is the only way we can thrive and survive in this world. That is the only way we can make a true difference. It is the main ingredient to live up to our fullest potential. This way, we will demonstrate to all those around us that our word and desires mean something and have merit. We will exhibit to the world that we want our thoughts, and our desires to be taken seriously. We will show everyone that these wishes are to be reached for and to be fulfilled. And that no one can take them away from us. No one!

By demonstrating our determination and staying steadfast to our thoughts and beliefs, we will teach the world and the people around us that our word means something and warrants respect, admiration, credibility, and is to be valued with high-regard. If we hold fast to these truths at our core the impossible will become possible!

15 May 2009

Rehabilitative Benefits of the Nintendo Wii

by Holly McCarthy on May 14, 2009
This is a guest post on the EasyStand Blog, contributed by Holly McCarthy, who writes on the subject of the sports management degree programs at an accredited university. She invites your feedback at hollymccarthy12 at gmail dot com.

Kids and Adults with disabilities can benefit from recieve rehabilitative benefits from playing Wii, besides having fun!

The Nintendo Wii has been one of the most popular game systems this decade and has even been used in rehabilitative applications for people coping with a variety of ailments. A little over a year ago doctors in Canada thought of using the system, which had been used as entertainment for young spinal cord injury recovering patients, and as therapy for patients after strokes.
What they began to realize is that this system, the Nintendo Wii, could be just what is needed to help with rehabilitation because of its ease of use and friendly interface. There are several benefits of using the Wii in rehabilitative treatments (commonly termed at Wii-hab), a few of which will be explored below.
Balance - Whether the patient is standing or sitting in a wheelchair, the controllers used to play the Wii console require balance and proper form for the best results. Using a standing frame while playing Wii can promote movement while standing, which research has shown to improve bone mineral density and strengthening.
Hand-Eye Coordination - Over time, hand-eye coordination improves through the use of video games. This is especially true of the Wii since the players’ movements are mimicked on the screen.
Entertainment - Therapy becomes more enjoyable when put in the context of a game. People who use a standing frame for Physical or Occupational Therapy can prolong their standing time by “multi-tasking” by playing Wii.
Competitive Spirit - The competitive spirit in patients who may not otherwise be able to compete is awakened. This can be great for increasing social skills as well as self-esteem.
Extension of Therapy to Home ­- While many things that are found in a therapists office are far too cost-prohibitive to be kept at home, the Wii is an affordable method of treatment that can be taken beyond the office and into the home for around $250. Additionally, friends and family can play along and join in the fun.
Helps With Memory, Problem Solving, and Decision Making Skills - All of these skills are honed through the use of video games according to studies, which may or may not be good news for parents. Playing sophisticated games helps with short-term, long-term, and muscle memory. Strategic games require problem solving and decision making skills, all of which help to enhance the experience.
The Nintendo Wii is finding enthusiasts of many abilities these days. Games and hardware have made participating in many activities from the comfort of your own home possible with a small price tag that can bring benefits to those in and out of rehabilitation care.
Have you used the Nintendo Wii for rehab or fun? What games have you enjoyed the most?

13 May 2009

High street blues Changes in heart of town

Second award for town’s shining light
THE River Tees’ stunning new bridge has scooped its second award.

The Infinity Bridge in Stockton, due to open in spectacular fashion tomorrow, won the North East Constructing Excellence Awards ‘Project of the Year’ category at the weekend.

The 180m long footbridge, made from 450 tonnes of Corus steel, will now represent the North-east at the finals of the awards which are designed to showcase excellence in the construction industry.

Infinity has already taken the top prize in the ICE Robert Stephenson Award 2009 with judges describing it as “imaginatively engineered” acting as “a catalyst for regeneration and a landmark much appreciated by the community.”

Tomorrow’s official launch from 8pm to 10pm will see the bridge lit, with free-runners scaling its arches and setting off flares.

People across the area are invited to witness the spectacle with big screens installed to ensure everyone has a view of the shows and fireworks.

Following the launch, a host of events will be held across Stockton in the first ever Infinity Spring Festival.

On Friday, Stockton Central Library will hold a free programme of talks, exhibitions and displays celebrating Stockton’s heritage of bridge and ship building.
Also in the library will be a Tales from the Tees exhibition using archive photographs of the river.

Saturday will see a packed programme of street theatre and community performances in Stockton Town Centre as well as the renowned Tees Regatta.

There will be performances from street theatre companies from 11am until 5pm. Arts and crafts workshops will be held in The Shambles from 11am until 4pm.

And at Stockton Central Library storytelling sessions exploring the river will be held at 11am, 1pm and 3pm.

On Friday and Saturday, there will also be a programme of music running at Arc and The Georgian Theatre.

For more information on the Infinity Spring Festival, log on to www.infinityfestival.org.uk

Cllr Bob Cook, Stockton Council’s Cabinet member for transport and regeneration, said: “The official launch of Infinity Bridge will be a fantastic way to start our first ever Infinity Spring Festival.

Schwarzenegger stunt double undergoes new type of back surgery

Axialif, back surgery

A new type of spine fusion promises a shorter recovery and less scarring for the tens of thousands of Americans who undergo surgery to alleviate lower back pain each year.

Billy Lucas, 51, has experienced all sorts of hazards in 30 years as a stuntman. He's flung, fallen and fought his way through such films as Terminator, Collateral Damage and True Lies as Arnold Schwarzenegger's stunt double.

"I'm living in a world of pain, and I'm just not digging it," Lucas said.

In 1994, Lucas injured his lower back. Over the years, no amount of therapy, surgery or medication has brought him quite back to normal.

"I don't want to throw the towel in. I want to keep being prolific and working as a stuntman," he said.

Lucas got interested, though, when he heard of a new surgery – a less invasive, spine-fusion treatment called axialif.

In the treatment, a surgeon makes a small incision by the tailbone. Then, looking only at continuous snapshots of X-rays, the surgeon guides his instruments to the lowest disc in the spine.

"You don't see what's going on inside. You have to really, in your mind, have a good idea of what you're doing and also be able to adapt to what you see on the X-ray machine," neurosurgeon Dr. Justin Paquette said.

The doctor replaces the bad disc with bone and protein, and then inserts a screw that will open up both the disc space and the nerve tunnels that are causing pain.

Doctors say axialif causes less blood loss, no scarring and has a shorter recovery time than a classic spine fusion surgery.

While standard spine surgery takes four hours, axialif takes only 90 minutes. It can even be done on an outpatient basis.

Lucas might never be pain free, Paquette said, but his health will substantially improve, and soon, he'll be back in the action.

10 May 2009

Against all odds - Weymouth boy Alex's brave battle

A BOY who doctors said would not live beyond his first birthday has defied the odds to become his family’s pride and joy.
Little Alex Lever is now looking forward to celebrating his fourth birthday and friends and family says he lights up all their lives.
Trapped in a body that won’t respond to his brain, the three-year-old has been described by doctors as having the mental age of a 10-month-old baby.
But Alex’s loving family believes there is ‘much more going on’ than people realise and say he has made remarkable progress in the past year and a half.
They are trying to raise £2,000, with the support of Weymouth’s community, for specialist sensory equipment and a standing frame to improve the quality of his life.
Dad Joe Lever, 28, of Wyke Regis said: “The equipment would make a huge difference to Alex.
“The most important thing is a vibrating mattress, which connects to a stereo and moves in time to the music, and a standing frame that would allow Alex to use his legs.
“He’s incredibly active but he can’t support himself and he’s getting too big for us to hold him all the time.
“The standing frame would be a precursor to a walking frame. I’m confident he’s going to walk some day.”
He added: “All the equipment and disability aids are very expensive so we’re grateful to Ian Young and the other fundraisers like Portland firefighters who are making this possible.”
Alex, who lives with mum Danielle Williams and her family in Weymouth’s Park District, has spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy and myoclonic epilepsy with seizure.
When he was born he registered ‘only slightly above stillborn’ and Joe said: “We’re very lucky to have him, he very nearly died.”
Alex currently takes four different medications a day and cannot walk or crawl but he never stops moving and needs to consume 2,000 calories a day.
He does not like anything put in his mouth so has to be fed a special high-calorie diet through a nose tube.
Alex can only make a few basic sounds and requires 24-hour care.
For the past two years, two care workers from Julia’s House children’s hospice have visited weekly to provide four hours of respite care.
Since September Alex has attended Wyvern School for disabled children two mornings a week, where he loves the soft room, sensory room and will soon start sessions in the hydro therapy pool.
Grandma Sylvia Williams, 54, said: “He loves his baths so we think he’ll really enjoy it.
“One hip hasn’t formed properly and is non-weight bearing, so it’s safe to say Alex will never walk unaided.
“The doctors said Alex wasn’t going to last a year and said he was a vegetable - but he’s certainly no vegetable, he’s quite happy.
“All the staff at Wyvern say Alex knows he’s loved.”
Joe works split shifts as assistant steward at the Wyke Regis Working Men's Club and spends five afternoons a week with Alex.
Alex is also visited regularly by his other grandparents, who live in Preston, Weymouth.
Grandma Jan Lever, 62, said: “He’s got a terrific sense of humour – he hits you and laughs.
“He’s definitely making progress.”
On May Bank Holiday Monday a charity football match, disco and raffle were held to raise money for Alex’s specialist equipment.
Organised by Ian Young and sponsored by local businessman Stuart Barnes, the event at Williams Avenue pitch, Weymouth included a barbecue, and bouncy castle.
A disco was then held at the Wyke Regis Working Mens Club on Portland Road, Weymouth. More than £1,000 was raised on the day.
Anybody with donations or fundraising ideas for Alex’s cause is asked to contact the club on 01305 786867

03 May 2009

Muscle disease care 'falls short'

Wales is the only country in the UK where people with neuromuscular conditions cannot access the help of specialised advisors.
In England, Scotland and Northern Ireland - but not Wales - patients receive help in accessing medical and social services through family care advisors.
The Muscular Dystrophy Campaign claim this is not the only aspect of care in Wales which falls short.

Dr Mark Rogers, a consultant clinical geneticist at University Hospital of Wales (UHW), Cardiff, told BBC Wales' The Politics Show there is not even a recognised source of funding for neuromuscular services in Wales.

Nick Jones, of Wrexham, has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, one of a number of life-limiting diseases which weaken and/or waste muscles. He has been waiting more than a year for a wheelchair which fits his legs. With a family care advisor to help attain health and social services, things might be different.

Mr Jones said: "There are people out there who need help and it's helpful to have somebody on the end of the phone who you can get hold of as quickly as you can and they're always there to help you out when you need something sorting, you know?

It's there in other parts of the country, it's just in Wales it still seems to be in the dark ages, if you get what I mean

Nick Jones
"Because otherwise you're just isolated and there's not much you can do really and that makes living with the condition a bit more stressful."
Forty miles across the English border in Warrington, the situation is very different for another young man with the same condition.
Andrew Duffy and his mother, Anne, greatly appreciate the work their family care advisor has done for them.

For example, she acted as an advocate in persuading their local authority to help provide alterations to their home to accommodate Andrew's condition.
Mrs Duffy said: "When you've got what you assume is a healthy four-year old and you're told he won't be walking by the time he's between the ages of eight and 11, and then you realise that you're going to have to change your home and your whole lifestyle, it's reassuring that there's going to be somebody there along the way who can tell you what you need and also do things like liaise with social services."

It is argued that the non-availability of family care advisors is only one aspect of how care for people with neuromuscular conditions falls short in Wales.

Andrew Duffy appreciates the work his family care advisor has done

According to the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign, Wales provides only a fifth of clinical activity by specialist doctors, nurses and physiotherapists compared to England and Scotland.
Mr Jones said: "It's there in other parts of the country, it's just in Wales it still seems to be in the dark ages if you get what I mean.

"The level of care you get in Wales is just not up to scratch at all really. It's just not worth it."
The Muscular Dystrophy Campaign's director of policy, Robert Meadowcroft, said services for people with neuromuscular conditions in Wales had declined over the past 10 years.
He said: "In specialist posts, people have retired or moved on - they've not been replaced.
"The rather larger worry is they're going to decline further, we believe, in the next two years unless action is taken."

Perhaps the major difficulty facing specialists like UHW Consultant Clinical Geneticist Dr Mark Rogers is that Wales has no properly defined funding mechanism to provide for the 3,000 or so people here with neuromuscular conditions.

Local Health Boards can turn away funding bids arguing they're too "specialised".
But since such conditions, though rare, haven't actually been classed as "specialised" the all-Wales specialised commissioning body Health Commission Wales is not bound to fund them.
Dr Rogers said: "There's no specific funding earmarked that I'm aware of in Wales at all for neuromuscular services as a whole.
"It's felt that they sort of come within possibly neurology, possibly other (areas).
"There isn't somebody who I can go to and say "please will you consider this bid for some money?".
"It's not even a case of them rejecting the bid. It's a case of I can't even go anywhere."

Health Minister Edwina Hart declined to be interviewed.
A Welsh Assembly Government spokesman said: "We are committed to ensuring people have prompt access to safe and sustainable high quality and well co-ordinated neuromuscular disease specialist services, including those for muscular dystrophy, as locally as possible.
"The implementation of the outcome of the independent review of Adult Neuroscience Services will improve the provision of services over time".

Hear more about uhad2bthere on Able Radio, Bank Holiday Monday 4th May 2009

Able Radio launches its new Summer schedule Monday at www.ableradio.com including a live interview with George Johnson, the man behind www.uhad2bthere.co.uk. Able Radio recommences programmes at 10 am with a new 7 day schedule of live shows covering disability related issues. At 2pm there will be a live interview with George, the man behind www.uhad2bthere.co.uk

Unique to the UK, Able Radio broadcast daily shows covering all aspects of living with disability and limiting medical conditions. The project is addressing the under representation of people with disability in the media, with all presentation by a team of volunteers who have a disability. Able Radio is proud to be associated with www.uhad2bthere.co.uk acting as an important source of news and events for all disabled people.

You can ask questions directly to uhad2bthere or to ableradio by writing to studio@ableradio.com or joining the forum at www.ableradio.com The live interview can be heard at www.ableradio.com

Able Radio - A voice for all
Now live at www.ableradio.com

02 May 2009

Why We Can Still Love

Did you ever happen to wonder or think twice about the basic, essential facts and the fundamental truths of men and women with Cerebral Palsy? Have you ever raised the question within yourself about our feelings on romantic identities, and why it is that we as challenged individuals cannot be looked at equally, talked to on an equal basis, or understood completely? We are dismissed because our disability is thought to make us stupid. Do you think it is always us? This area of dissection, which is readily unspoken about, is most difficult for the largest part to swallow. It is hard to believe, to the average person’s eye; that there indeed are some very capable people out there with disabilities such as myself.

Unfortunately, people find it to dark an area to discuss, or talk about, let alone- cope with! It is all too easy to put on our rose color glasses and hide with a false comfort. In general, people and the world around us would rather ignore the matter at hand. They would rather turn away from the neediness and the desperateness that over-shadows disabled people’s true being. They would rather continue to believe the myths, and regard us as the “cute, innocent, naive children” forever living in this forgotten bubble, who have no desires at all!

This morose and morbid fascination with our capabilities, or to be more specific, our incapability’s in the romantic arena or lack there off is ignored. The fact that we may wish, or think of having an ordinary, healthy, friendship, or even a romantic relationship with another consenting, loving, caring, human being; much less get married, is just too disgusting, too revolting, and too sickening. It is too extreme, too challenging, and too confrontational. Moreover, it is very provocative and shocking to others and the norm.

For pretty much my entire life, I unyieldingly struggled with every bated breath I have taken. Not only was it for my own core essence and being to exist, but, it was in my chosen passion, which was of the arts… It was the desire to be able to express myself freely in a world of dance, music, and literature; which helped me to relinquish and release the bars that I wore on my leg and in my brain– also, because I did not want to be looked down upon as a typical helpless victim.

Thus, I did everything in my power to strive and thrive- I had wants, needs, and desires, and I wanted to be given the same equality and chance to express myself in the areas I loved and cherished most. I reasoned… that if other men and women of my age and generation could accomplish their goals and dreams- including having a boyfriend, then why couldn’t I! I could easily work on my inner-self- my strengths and weaknesses, to become the best person I could be. I felt that that was the healthiest way to approach my life. However, too often, others where quick to judge! Consequently time and time again I was put to the test- only to searched my soul, readjusted my thoughts, and daily re-committed myself to living that healthy “normal life,” in a society, which continued to tell me “I couldn’t!”

My self-worth came from the gentle, romantic way in which I cared for myself. It was the way that I dressed, the time that I took to primp and fuss, and the way I took that extra moment to look the very best that I could for each given situation. It was the way that I nourished my body, my mind, and the way I acted. It was the honest and pro-active, empowering way I conducted myself. It was the way I looked up to those eloquent people who were positive, happy and joyfully succeeding in life. I took the good, positive; things I liked, and let go of all the rest; as I continued to develop a sense of my own inner-being. I began to see how others were attracted to me. They began to look beyond my left side hemiplegia, Cerebral Palsy, and learning disability. They began to see me for me. Thus, I embraced myself and my life even more than I already had. My romantic sense came from all this innate wisdom, insight, willingness to change, and the knowledge I read.

Yes, I have been challenged, ridiculed, stood up on dates, however, disputed all the intense examinations, crewl remarks, I have risen despite the harshest of securitization. I have found a man who loves me for me, and I have happily been married, for twenty years now. Despite my physical challenges I was able to find a love, a partner, and a life of my own, despite what the world thought of me.

Autism breaking the barriers

Rover helps disabled become mobile

Frank Robertson
TAMPA - Engineers at the University of South Florida have developed a device that will literally change people’s lives. It’s called the Mobili-T Rover and will give disabled people access to places they wouldn’t ordinarily be able to travel to on their own.

You might call Michael Foradori the first test pilot for the new machine. The 23-year-old from Mississippi was paralyzed after a fall nine years ago but has since regained some function.

“Over time, I found I could brush my teeth. I can feed myself a little bit. So, even though I’ve been hurt, the longer I’ve been hurt, the more I’m progressing,” Foradori said.

The prototype for the rover was developed by an engineering student named Travis Watkins. His own father was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
“This is one of many, but it’s probably one of those that’s most exciting because it’s very very innovative. Something that’s creative, something that’s completely out of the box,” Watkins said.

The rover doesn’t require any power of its own. It basically becomes an extension of Michael’s motorized wheelchair.

A company called “Rehab Ideas” was created to take the concepts developed my engineering students to the marketplace.

“It’s a great opportunity not only for me, but there are other people out there, you know, that might be lacking this experience. You know, something that can give people hope because everybody else can go out and ride a four wheeler. Now I can too,” Foradori said.

In fact, with his new found freedom, Michael doesn’t believe there’s much he can’t do. Before returning home to Mississippi with the rover in tow, Michael will be fitted for the device. He’ll also meet with other specialists to help him maximize his mobility.

Man with cerebral palsy aims for M.Div.

By Christopher Black
Apr 30, 2009

NEW ORLEANS (BP)--"Little Randy can't complete the test, so I'm afraid to tell you that he is brain damaged," Randolph Schweinberg II said recalling the doctor's evaluation of a childhood IQ test he had taken.

From then on Randy's family was encouraged to treat him as mentally disabled. The doctor was right about one thing: Randy does have brain damage. He has cerebral palsy, or CP.

CP is the result of brain trauma often occurring during pregnancy or infancy. In Randy's case, the disorder resulted from a lack of oxygen during his birth. Although CP has affected his motor skills, it has left his mental faculties intact.

At New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, where Schweinberg is now a student, family nurse practitioner Mari Wirfs at the campus clinic can testify to Randy's readiness to learn.

"It's a common misperception that CP always includes mental impairment, but even with the most severe cases, there is typically no cognitive disability," Wirfs said. "With Randy, there is absolutely no cognitive deficiency."

As a child, Randy underwent four operations on each leg in an attempt to give him the ability to walk. The surgeries, however, left him with fused ankles and limited mobility outside his wheelchair.

Growing up in a non-Christian family in Florida, Randy's struggles drove him to rebel against authority and those who tried to deny him the same choices others take for granted. However, through the loving concern of a godly woman named Kendall Brown, God changed all that.

"My youth was a tough time for me," Randy said. "If I hadn't turned to God when I did, I probably wouldn't be alive today."

Living in a world where he is often labeled as mentally challenged, Randy has learned resilience, tackling Advanced Placement coursework in high school and, at Charleston Southern University, earning a bachelor of science degree in psychology in 2004.

Feeling the pull of God's call, Randy moved to New Orleans and began work on a master of divinity degree with a specialization in the psychology and counseling.

Kathy Steele, head of the seminary's psychology and counseling department, said Schweinberg "has everything he needs to be an outstanding counselor. The main struggle he faces is discrimination." Steele added that Randy has a great sense of humor. "It helps others think of him as a regular guy," she said, "and that's important -- being thought of as a regular guy."

At the seminary he experienced some challenges such as the physical layout of the grounds that made accessibility difficult for the wheelchair-bound student.

James Byrd, who works with NOBTS' facilities department, recalled the extra effort the seminary devoted to upgrading accessibility. "Randy has been a good sounding board for how we can improve our effort to make the campus accessible to all students," Byrd said. "We are always looking for ways to best incorporate the ADA guidelines for accessibility."

Another major challenge was accessibility to texts. The textbooks themselves were easily found; however, reading them proved a major challenge. One of the ways CP affects Randy is in the muscle control of his eyes, making reading a line of writing in a book very difficult. To compensate, Randy has developed extraordinary listening skills, and usually gets copies of the notes from either the professor or from fellow students.

"When Randy first arrived at the seminary he was limited in his ability to physically write exams," Steele also said. "He's overcome that, now."

In 2005 Randy was settling in for his second year at NOBTS when Hurricane Katrina hit. Like everyone on campus, he lost everything, including his $8,100 electric wheelchair. As a result, he is motoring around campus in a 10-year-old chair that is in constant need of repair.

Despite all the challenges, or maybe because of them, Randy continues working toward his master's degree. He currently is the senior counseling intern at the Bethel Colony South recovery center and halfway house for recovering addicts located near the seminary.

Mel Jones, Bethel Colony South's founder and director, holds Randy's work in high regard. "The fact that Randy has CP makes his counseling of our residents more effective. When men meet Randy, they no longer have excuses why they can't recover. He inspires people."
Christopher Black is a doctor of philosophy student at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

Stunning Spine Surgery Brings Complication, Recovery

Former Medical Reporter Has Scoliosis Surgery

POSTED: 12:33 pm EDT April 30, 2009

UPDATED: 7:01 am EDT May 1, 2009

BOSTON -- The two long days of surgery will be brutal. With quick encouragement from her husband, Rhonda Mann is rolled into the operating room to have a rib and six spinal discs removed, all to stop the 54 degree curve in her spine from crushing her lungs and other organs.
The five-hour operation on day one went well, but on the second day, an unexpected snag. Mann lost a large amount of blood in surgery.

"I did donate 2 units beforehand. And I lost 9 units of blood," she said.

"That is a lot of blood," said her surgeon, Dr. Paul Glazer of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. "It was pretty significant. Thank goodness she was able to get through the surgery."

Rhonda lost a significant amount of blood during the surgery. Despite the blood loss, Glazer forged ahead with more than eight hours of surgery on that second day, inserting screws, hooks and wires.

"We're actually pulling the spine into the right position during the surgery," he said.
The X-ray of Mann's new spine is startling.
"You can see the screws that are going into the bones, (and) where I use hooks to actually grab onto the spine and actually correct the deformity," said Glazer.

Watch It

It's all held in place by two titanium rods and a kind of medical cement, made from Mann's own bones that Glazer removed the day before.
"What you can see is this kind of speckled area. This is the bone graft that was applied during the back approach. And this will all become sort of solid over time and start to fuse."

A composite shows Rhonda's spine before and after surgery. Nine days post-op, Mann prepared to go home from Beth Israel and took a moment to read a Valentine's Day card from her son, "I hope you like this gift from me.”

Despite the pain from the two large incisions that will forever mark her torso, Mann is feeling hopeful that the chronic pain she endured for a decade is subsiding.
"I think I could be pain free. I think I could be. I don't want to jinx anything but I think I could be."

NewsCenter 5's cameras were there as Mann took her first post-surgery steps without a walker. "It takes a lot out of you."

One month after surgery, Mann said she notices every day that the pain has eased. But the emotions of undergoing such a drastic operation comes as a surprise.

"You feel like you can't do anything. I got really depressed right after the surgery. And then, you know, you start to do little things at a time. People will say, 'Wow, you went up the stairs.'"
"Just think about how much pressure I'm taking off my lungs and my other organs, and it's not going to hurt all the time."

- Rhonda MannBrunner: "It really is the little things, isn't it?"
Mann: "It's the little things."

The final result of her two days of surgery is better than Mann and her doctors expected. Her new spine shows virtually no sign of scoliosis.

Brunner: "When you look at these two pictures, it's got to be mind boggling."
Mann: "I'll tell you, I cried when I first saw them, and now I'm going to cry again. When they first showed it to me I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe that that was me. Just think about how much pressure I'm taking off my lungs and my other organs, and it's not going to hurt all the time."

Rhonda returned to work about 11 weeks after surgery. "I'm absolutely so glad I did the surgery. And so glad it's behind me now."

Mann is two inches taller than before surgery.
It could take up to a year for her spinal fusion to fully harden. She said several sessions of physical therapy each week help her feel stronger. In fact, this week Mann returned to her job as a marketing executive at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center for a full day of work and meetings, at the end of which she marveled about how pain-free she felt.

Harry's hopes of playing football

AN Ilminster student's dreams of playing football with his friends may soon become a reality as he undergoes surgery to help him walk correctly.
Harry Rutter, aged 16, of Blackdown View was born with cerebral palsy, a condition which in his case severely restricts movement in the left side of his body.
He has always been able to walk but with considerable difficulty, and doctors told him the way he moved would eventually lead to curvature of the spine.
In February, he had an operation on his leg at Musgrove Park Hospital, Taunton, to prevent this. The surgery left him temporarily relying on a wheelchair and mobility scooter.
There is more surgery for the student of Holyrood School, Chard, on Thursday but he remains defiant.
Harry, a huge football fan, said: "I'm not treated any differently at school by my friends anyway, but it would be brilliant to be able to play football with them instead of just watching from the sidelines.
"I'm studying registered materials, cooking, humanities and PE, but it is a pain because I leave school in the afternoons and quite often miss the double lessons.
"I'm not really allowed to play football on any of the teams, because of health and safety, which is annoying."
Harry is a firm supporter of the Ilminster Youth Football team and rarely misses a match.
In 2008, his support for them was recognised when he was presented with an award at the Rotary Club of Ilminster's Young People of the Year awards.
He is also a staunch Yeovil Town FC fan. Last week, player-manager Terry Skiverton presented him with a signed club shirt and a copy of Hendford To Huish Park.
The gifts were a "good luck" gesture from the club for Harry's future operations.
He said: "I wasn't expecting that presentation at all and it was a bit embarrassing, but a nice surprise all the same.
"I joked about selling the gifts on eBay and making a bit of cash, but really the shirt will be going in a frame to put on my wall."
Harry's drive to persist with his treatment stepped up a gear at the end of the Ilminster Youth team's season, when the referee allowed him to play for the final ten minutes. Remembering this, he is unable to keep the smile from his face.
He said: "I got hacked a lot. Being able to play, even if only for ten minutes, gave me a taste of what I really want to do; I will get through these operations so I can play again."
Harry will soon take his final exams at school and is attending Holyrood's end-of-year ceremony on Friday.
Instead of staying on at the sixth form, he has secured a place at Somerset College of Arts and Technology in Taunton.
His mother Cindy, who used to run the Crown Inn in Ilminster, said: "I took Harry up to Taunton but he did the interview and everything else on his own, he doesn't let anything get in his way.
"I think college will help with his independence but he is very self-motivated anyway, it was his decision to have the surgery to correct his walking.
"We don't really have a timescale as to when the operations will be finished, as they depend upon the success of each other and cerebral palsy is so unpredictable. But our doctor says he is pleased with the status of Harry's leg and things look good at the moment.
"A lot of people know him in Ilminster and they know how determined he is. He's certainly not shy and is able to make friends easily.
"We get a lot of support from friends and family and I would especially like to thank the Ilminster Youth team, Yeovil Town and Holyrood School, who have gone out on a limb for Harry. Also Jeff Perks, who arranged the half-time presentation.
"This has taken its toll on the family but I think 2010 will be our year."

Amazing Technology Lets MS Patients Walk Again

CityNews.ca Staff

It's one of the most devastating diseases in the world, a silent thief that gradually robs patients of their ability to do all the things they once took for granted, from playing sports to simply going for a walk.

Canada has one of the highest rates of multiple sclerosis in the world, although experts still aren't exactly sure why. They do know it can affect a person's balance and leave them in a wheel chair. And there's no cure.

But now there may be some new hope and it's thanks to the remarkable determination of some patients not to give up - and an amazing invention out of Alberta. Sylvia Bauer is the former and she's putting the latter to good use.

It's called the WalkAide, a miniature computer that stimulates the muscles in the leg and allows some MS sufferers the chance to walk normally again.
"I developed drop foot," she explains. "It means that the muscles that make your foot and your muscles move don't work any more." She had to rely on large awkward braces to move around and getting anywhere was an agonizing chore.
And then she heard about WalkAide, a small device you wear around your legs. It teaches the computer to adapt to your normal gait.

It then electronically stimulates the muscles, forcing your legs to work as close to the way they used to as possible.
"We're artificially replacing muscles that don't work," outlines Yim Lok. She's an orthotist, a person who makes and fits appliances for people with weakened muscles.
And it's not just MS patients who benefit. The WalkAide can also help those with other mobility related ailments, like cerebral palsy or a stroke.

So how well does the WalkAide work? Bauer's braces are gone and she's able to traverse the floors of her home easily. She was also able to take part in the 5K MS Walk earlier this year, something she never would have dreamed possible before.
The device isn't cheap - it costs $4,500. But Bauer thinks it's worth every penny. "This gives you a sense of just living your life normally and not thinking about it every time," she relates.

Want to know more? Take a virtual walk here to find out if the device will work for you.