Paraplegic Patients Taking Steps Forward With This Advancing Implant

By: Jade Edwards

Paralyzed patients are walking for the first time in years.  What once was unthinkable for many is becoming a possibility.  With this spinal cord stimulation implant, paralysis will hopefully become just a bump in the road.

The stimulation device, with an array of 16 electrodes, is implanted in the epidural space above and below the injury sight of the spinal cord (National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering).  When the spinal stimulator is switched on, an electrical current is sent to the spinal cord and the inactive nerve circuits to wake them up, recreating the connection that helps the brain communicate with one’s body to begin relearning simple commands.  This device is not an instant switch that reverts the patient back to normal. It takes months of intense concentration during rehab just to master a few steps, but it is a large achievement in the world of the paralyzed and a miracle for the paraplegic finding that they might be able to walk again on their own after years of immobility.  A mechanism originally intended for pain relief is becoming a life changer.

According to The New York Times, of five patients who received the implant, three of them got the intended result.  Jered Chinnock, 29-year old of Tomah, Wisconsin; Jeff Marquis, 35-year old from Louisville, Kentucky; and Kelly Thomas, 23-year old of Lecanto, Florida have all taken the evolutionary first steps due to the stimulator.  They along with a majority of paralyzed patients were told that walking was no longer a possibility for probably ever, so this is very astounding and emotional for them. A phenomenal occurence for the paraplegic community: this will give others hope for a new life beyond their injury.

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