Giant Steps

February 23, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
It can happen in a second; an injury that can change your whole life. Twelve-thousand people in the United States suffer spinal cord injuries every year, limiting their ability to walk or even move. Now, a new device is making a life changing difference for patients determined not to give up.For 40-year-old Duane Morrow, playing a game of catch is more than one of life's simple pleasures. Some might call it a miracle. In 2004, Morrow broke his neck playing rugby and was paralyzed from the chest down.

"I was told that I had a 99 percent chance of never walking again," Morrow recalled to Ivanhoe; but from day one, he was an optimist. "I was excited that I had a one percent chance," he said.

Morrow has spent hundreds of exhausting hours in rehab at Atlanta's Shepherd Center, pushing himself and fighting for every step on the treadmill.

Morrow says the real breakthrough was a device he wears on his leg. It's a wireless electronic stimulator, or "e-stim."

Beth Pharo, a physical therapist at the Shepherd Center says electrodes in the wrap work with a sensor placed in Morrow's shoe to stimulate and strengthen his leg muscles. "This device provides electrical stimulation to stimulate the muscle to contract so that toes can pick up," Pharo explained.

Morrow still has some spasms in his legs and limited feeling in his limbs and body, but now he only needs a wheelchair for long distances.

"Ninety-nine percent of the time I'm walking with just one cane," he said.

Step by step, Morrow is getting stronger and he's just getting started.

"If you have the right attitude and work ethic, who knows what you can get back," he said.

Therapists at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta say the new electronic stimulation device doesn't work for all patients with paralysis, which is also being used for stroke victims. Many insurance companies don't currently cover the "e-stim" device, which costs about $6,000 per unit.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Shepherd Center
Jane Sanders, Public Relations
Atlanta, GA
(404) 350-7707
Jane_sanders@shepherd.org
Spinal Column Summer 2007.pdf

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