Thursday, January 15, 2015

reality

Someone on Facebook posted an article last week. Basically, a Swiss company has developed a fake spinal cord that could potentially enable paralyzed people to walk. It doesn't replace the spinal cord or repair the damaged parts, so no feelings or sensations, prevention of muscle spasms or elimination of AHD, but it would send messages from the brain to the muscles, enabling a person to walk without the use of the heavy exoskeleton (and I'm hoping without the exoskeleton's astronomical cost). It's not been field-tested on humans yet, only mice. So realistically, even if it passes further studies and makes it into human trial, by the time it is finished and passes FDA standards, provided they approve it, it would still take time for doctors and insurance companies in the US to be willing to try it out. We're talking 5-10 years down the road, at the earliest.

I'm excited. For 35 years, the medical community has been saying "cures are around the corner".  And while this would not be a cure, it would be a tremendous step in improvement...a total game-changer for the SCI community.

But for us, it's too late. The body is meant to be used. When it's not, things begin to go wrong and break down.  We're past that point. I think sometimes people look at Bobby and think because he looks healthy, and he is, for an SCIer, that any potential cure would apply to him and radically change his life. Were this "cure" to come along 25 years ago, there would be that possibility. But not now. Muscles atrophy; bones throw away their density if they don't bear the weight they're designed to carry. Despite the daily range of motion exercises, after 35 years of not walking or moving, his body would not be able to support itself even if the brain could suddenly convey messages. And if the muscles can manage to send a message back, we'd be in even more trouble with the amount of pain he would suddenly encounter.

I know that when this moves to human trials it will hit the mainstream media, and people will get all hyped about it. We'll get e-mails and Facebook messages and comments from friends and family all excited that Bobby will finally get to walk again. And I try to smile. I've heard it all before, though nowhere to the degree that he has. I'm thankful we have friends who care enough to share even the faintest glimmer of hope, but there are days when it seems more like hot air being pressed over an over-heated engine.

But for the young guns in the SCI community, I hope this corner rounds very quickly.

No comments: