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Old Injury, New Therapy

By: Janelle LoBello

Richard Maloney, pictured with his nephew and nieces, was the first patient at the NRN center at Boston Medical Center.

Name: Richard Maloney
Injury: C4, C5
Mechanism of Injury: Diving
Date of Injury: June 1, 1986

Twenty-five years after his injury, Richard Maloney finally had the chance for a different kind of therapy.

Maloney is living with a C4, C5 level spinal cord injury from a diving accident in 1986. When he was initially injured, Maloney was only able to move his biceps and soon after his left pinky and a trace of movement in his big toe on his left foot. He spent years gaining back functions at hospitals, rehab facilities, and at-home recovery obtaining some ability to balance on his feet and use a walker.

Maintaining therapeutic value
Throughout his recovery process, Maloney says, "I was always closely affiliated with Boston Medical Center [BMC,] keeping a finger on the pulse of SCI."

In 2007, Maloney was in attendance for a lecture of Dr. Susie Harkema, of the University of Louisville's Department of Neurosurgery, Kentucky Spinal Cord Research Center and Frazier Rehab Institute, a service of Jewish Hospital & St. Mary's HealthCare in Louisville. Maloney considered leaving Boston behind and traveling to Frazier Rehab in Kentucky to be part of the Reeve Foundation NeuroRecovery Network (NRN) program. Frazier was one of two of the first operating NRN centers. With news of an NRN center possibly opening at BMC, Maloney was told to wait it out.

Not long after, therapists recommended Maloney to be the first ever patient at the NRN at BMC.

The NeuroRecovery Network is a cooperative network of cutting-edge rehabilitation centers designed to provide and develop therapies to promote functional recovery and improve the health and quality of life of people living with paralysis.

Richard, pictured with friend, Margie, continues to exercise after the NRN.

Maloney was part of the NRN at BMC from January of 2007 through September of 2007. In that time, he was at BMC five-days-a-week for 90-minutes each day walking on the treadmill as part of locomotor training. Locomotor training is the method of physical therapy currently deployed by the NRN. In locomotor training sessions the body of the paralyzed patient is suspended in a harness over a treadmill, while specially-trained therapists move their legs to simulate walking. As the patient regains function, he moves from the treadmill to conventional walking. No two NRN patients will respond in exactly the same way, nor is each patient likely to experience the entire range of possible changes and improvements.

At the NRN, Maloney also trained his body to sit up from lying down and stand up from a sitting position. Though this was something he could do prior to the NRN, Maloney’s quality of life improved because it helped "to maintain therapeutic value" for his health which he carried out after the NRN.

Exercising after the NRN
He decided to continue his therapy post-NRN by purchasing a treadmill and using it at home.

"I walk on it 20-30 minutes every night," explains Maloney. "That's after an eight-hour work day I'll have you know! People not in wheelchairs don't even get that exercise!"

Aside from exercising, Maloney works full-time as an accountant for Medicare, is an avid concert goer having gone to over 200 shows in his life, and enjoys traveling.

"I've been on eight cruises in the last decade," says Maloney. "I've taken three trips to Vegas, that's always a good time. And three or four trips to Florida, I've been down there twice to watch the Patriots play Miami. Both times the Patriots lost, too!"

Richard and volunteers at the Links to A Cure golf tournament.

Links to a Cure
Keeping with his ties to Massachusetts, in which he also threw the first pitch at a Boston Red Sox game in August of 2007, Maloney has established the Links to a Cure Golf Tournament fundraiser in Massachusetts to benefit the Reeve Foundation. Establishing the tournament as a way to express thanks for the gains he received through the NRN, the tournament has raised over $20,000 since its first year in 2009. The 4th annual event will be on June 22, 2012.

"We usually have between 80-90 people," explained Maloney of the attendants at the event. "But that's not good enough; I want to get it up to the full 144!"

Through his exercise, hobbies, and events, for twenty-five years, Maloney has not stopped living. He encourages others to, "Keep working, stay as healthy as possible. Get all the strength you can and keep up the cardiovascular."

Learn More
Learn all about how the Reeve Foundation NeuroRecovery Network (NRN) is developing and expanding access to activity-based therapies, resulting in improved health, quality of life, and function.

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Continue Christopher Reeve's LegacyPhoto by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders