|Tom (above) and Abby (below)
Tom Morris, the strength and conditioning coach at Indiana University, enjoyed training for and participating in triathlons, road races, mountain races, cylcocross, and adventure races. For many of these races, Tom competed with his friend, Jason (see the pictures above). In May of 2012, during one of his usual training rides, Tom was involved in a mountain bike accident. He flipped over the handlebars of his bike and hit his head, resulting in a spinal cord injury which left Tom with impairment of his hand function and no movement in his legs.
Tom has since channeled his dedication for extreme sports and training toward his recovery process in the Neuro Recovery Network (NRN) at Frazier Rehab Institute. Only three days after his injury, Tom was involved in physical and occupational therapy and rehabilitation. Tom is now participating in physical therapy through locomotor training five days per week and aquatic therapy two days per week to help recover his ability to walk, occupational therapy three days per week to fully recover the use of his hands, and massage therapy two days per week. Tom is also involved in an FMS study.
Since starting in the NRN, Tom says his biggest achievement thus far is being “twenty times stronger than I was directly after the accident”. He also notes that his blood pressure has become regulated again and his legs have become very active. Tom says he is now “able to control small movements in my legs”. Tom’s pulmonary function (his ability to breathe properly) has improved from 60% of normal function initially to now 91% of normal function. Tom has improved his core stability which is essential for the recovery of standing and walking and also using his wheelchair safely.
Though Tom is making strides with his rehab, he still faces some hardships and struggles adapting to his new life. Tom has difficulty reaching things from his wheelchair, navigating his chair around obstacles, and learning new life skills that many of us take for granted. While going through rehab, he has moved into a new home because his home is not wheelchair accessible. He is now in the process of learning a new way to get himself around in his car and adapting the vehicle to allow him to drive with hand controls.
Even small gains in function and independence following spinal cord injury can have a huge impact on a patient’s life. It’s liberating, motivating, and healing. Sponsored by the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, the NeuroRecovery Network is dedicated to providing patients with the opportunity to recover as much function as possible. With additional funding the NRN can grow and be able to treat more individuals, like Tom, whose lives have been affected by paralysis. Please consider making a contribution to this wonderful cause.
Abby Marsh was a typical 17 year old high school student who loved to play soccer, hang out with her friends, and listen to her favorite band, One Direction. In May of 2012, she was involved in a car accident that would change her life as she knew it. As a result of the accident, Abby sustained a spinal cord injury which took away any willful movement in her legs and left her with very little movement of her arms.
After the accident Abby was rushed to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital where she would spend 4 months recovering from her injuries and complications. During her stay there, she developed SMA syndrome (superior mesenteric artery syndrome), a life threatening stomach disorder which caused her to lose a lot of weight and made her recovery process much more difficult during the acute stage. After she was strong enough to leave Cincinnati Children’s, Abby came to Frazier Rehab Institute for inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation to work on regaining her strength and function.
Abby is currently participating in both physical and occupational therapy 5 times each week at Frazier while continuing to go to high school in the mornings back at home. (Abby lives one and a half hours away from Frazier Rehab Institute, but she makes the drive 3 hours every day to come to therapy and work on her recovery.) During physical therapy, Abby uses a body weight support treadmill system and harness which allows her to stand while the therapist and trainers help to move her legs to simulate walking, retraining her nerves and muscles. During occupational therapy, Abby uses a functional electrical stimulation arm bike with electrodes attached to her arms to stimulate muscle contractions and make her weak muscles stronger.
Since starting the rehabilitation process at Frazier, Abby notes that she has “become more independent” with things like brushing her hair and feeding herself. She is gaining a lot of strength in her arms and trunk and is working towards using a manual wheelchair which she can push on her own rather than her current power wheelchair. Abby is also getting some return of sensation (her ability to feel light touch, pressure, and temperature) in her legs and arms since her injury as a result of the hard work she is doing in therapy every day.
Though Abby is making great progress, she still faces some struggles along the road to recovery. Abby has to miss a big part of her school day to attend therapy. Abby notes that “homework is a struggle” because she has difficulty writing, so she must ask a friend or family member to help her write the homework responses. Right now, it is difficult for Abby to spend time with her friends the way she used to. Not all of the places she would like to go with her friends are wheelchair accessible, and her power wheelchair is so large and heavy that it does not fit into regular cars. With continued strengthening and therapy, Abby hopes to soon progress to using a manual wheelchair so that she can be even more independent in getting around and spending time with her friends.
Even small gains in function and independence following spinal cord injury can have a huge, positive impact on a patient’s life. It’s liberating, motivating, and healing. Sponsored by the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, the NeuroRecovery Network is dedicated to providing patients with the opportunity to recover as much function as possible. With additional funding the NRN can grow and be able to treat more individuals, like Abby, whose lives have been affected by paralysis. Please consider making a contribution.