Medical Minute: Spinal Cord Injuries

Paralysis clearly means learning to give up many of the activities you’re accustomed to doing. Now, new research at the Shiners Hospital in Philadelphia brings paralyzed people a little closer to a normal life.

With the push of a button, something amazing happens. Les Kirk is beating all odds and a spinal cord injury. He may not be riding motor cross anymore, but walking these stairs is a different type of excitement- for les, and for Dr. Randall Betz.

"It makes all the years of research work and all the dollars that the Shriners so generously put forth, really worth it," says Dr. Betz.

Les has an implanted receiver with an external antenna. Wires connect the electrodes located on his muscles. When activated, electrical stimulation forces his muscles to contract or relax in a specific pattern.

"Just as you and I would do except that instead of us doing it by our brain, it's being done by a computer."

And unlike a typical person, les' muscles stay stimulated until the device is deactivated, limiting how far he can go.

"What stops them from going 200 feet or 500 feet is they're exhausted. It's like you or I running a hundred dollar dash,” Dr. Betz says.

Les had to work hard to strengthen his muscles so he can do more, but it's safe to say he's mastered the technology enough to do daily activities. As well as some activities he thought he'd be forced to give up.

For more information, contact:

Therese Johnston

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