On Dec. 16, 1996, at approximately 11 a.m., an out-of-state woman took her last step -- until recently. It was on that date that she sustained a spinal cord injury in a construction accident. The woman fell nearly 20 feet, and like many spinal cord injury patients here in Massachusetts, she has been in and out of rehabilitation centers since that time. She even required surgery just to be able to sit upright on her own again.
People in Massachusetts that have suffered a spinal cord injury may already be aware of some new and potentially promising research. Scientists have found that rats with spinal cord injuries can regain mobility that is nearly normal through the application of electrical impulses in certain parts of the brain. If perfected, this "deep brain stimulation" could give certain patients the ability to do something they may not have done for a long time -- walk.
Massachusetts readers may recall the tragic bus accident that injured a multitude of student passengers and their chaperones that were visiting Harvard University last February. The bus driver was navigating through Boston with the aid of a Global Positioning System. Somehow, the bus ended up on Soldier's Field Road, and the driver either did not see or ignored warning signs about height limitations. He struck an overpass, injuring as many as 35 passengers, including one that suffered spinal cord injuries.
Those that suffer paralysis from a Massachusetts motor vehicle accident or other personal injury typically have a long and difficult road to recovery. Spinal cord injuries, in particular, are debilitating. Some patients never regain use of important bodily functions. One bright spot is that medical research and technology have combined to provide hope for new procedures and treatments to help patients recover use of some activities that many thought would never happen.
There is little doubt that suffering from a paralyzing spinal cord injury can forever alter a person's life. Spinal cord injuries cause emotional and physical hardships on their victims, not to mention often placing a financial strain on them as well. One man who suffered a spinal cord injury on a Massachusetts hockey rink 17 years ago knows this fact all too well. He has been paralyzed since that accident, which took place 11 seconds after he took to the ice rink while representing Boston University.
When a Massachusetts resident sustains injury to his or her spinal cord, their lives can literally change in an instant. It's often the case that paralysis results from this kind of injury, which may require intensive medical care for a long period of time depending on the severity of the injury. The change also affects the victim's friends and family, as they may also have to adjust to the new reality of living alongside someone with spinal cord injuries.