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NeuroRecovery Network

Reeve Staffers, Congresswoman Diana DeGette Tour Craig Hospital, a NeuroRecovery Network Site

Last Tuesday, executives of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation met with Congresswoman Diana DeGette at Craig Hospital, a NeuroRecovery Network (NRN) site based in Englewood, Colorado.

Craig Hospital NeuroRecovery Network

As a longtime advocate and champion for individuals living with disabilities, the Congresswoman saw firsthand the value and impact of the Reeve Foundation's Paralysis Resource Center and NRN on the Colorado community. Throughout the course of the day, Rep. DeGette spoke with Craig staffers and therapists, as well as people living with spinal cord injury who have participated in Craig's emerging therapy treatments. A highlight of the tour included an introduction to locomotor training: A type of therapy designed to help participants "remember" the pattern of walking while suspended in a harness over a treadmill, as specially-trained therapists move their legs.

"Congresswoman DeGette is a champion for all individuals living with disabilities," said Peter Wilderotter, President and CEO of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. "Our goal with having the Congresswoman visit Craig Hospital and tour the NeuroRecovery Network was to demonstrate how her support is translating into life-changing programs across the state of Colorado.

"Craig Hospital was the perfect stage to showcase the impact of emerging treatments and programs for the spinal cord community. It was a pleasure meeting the Congresswoman and we appreciate her advocacy on behalf of the nearly six million Americans living with paralysis."

Three of these Americans living with paralysis and benefitting from the NRN were present at the event to share their personal stories with Rep. DeGette on Tuesday:

  • Dave Larkin, who sustained a spinal cord injury in December of 2011, explained how, with the help of Craig Hospital, he is now stepping out of his power chair to walk short distances with the aid of a walker.
  • Stew Podolsky, who experienced paralysis from the neck down following a bicycle accident, says that he has already made significant progress since enrolling in the NRN program at Craig in January of this year.
  • And Beth Brown, who sustained a spinal cord injury in a fall that broke her neck, told the invited guests that she has dramatically improved during her four months of rehabilitation sessions at Craig. "This morning I walked by myself," she said. "And I know it's because of the NeuroRecovery Network at Craig Hospital."

In addition to touring the facilities, Congresswoman DeGette met with recipients of the Reeve Foundation's Quality of Life Grants Program and learned about the various nonprofit organizations in Colorado focused on life-changing initiatives for those living with disabilities. The organizations that attended include:

Since its inception, the Quality of Life program has awarded 23 grants in Colorado's first district alone, resulting in close to $200,000 in funding for various programs and initiatives.

Steve Peters, an NSCD board member, Craig Hospital "graduate" living with paraplegia, and an avid skier, said that he was able to ski 27 days this year thanks to a new sit ski provided to the NSCD through the Reeve Foundation's support. "In the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, if the NSCD was a small country, we would have been third in the world in the medal count," he said, in reference to the organization's influence on the sporting world.

Benjamin Hernadez, regional coordinator for The Reeve Foundation's Peer and Family Support Program (PFSP) in Colorado and Utah, also shared his personal experience with Reeve Foundation programs and resources that are available to Coloradans living with disabilities. An ambassador for both Craig Hospital and the Reeve Foundation, Benjamin was able to shed light on the importance of nonprofits and clinical centers working as one to invest in innovative therapies and advanced care for people living with paralysis.

Fellow peer mentor Sean Graves was also in attendance; Sean has been living with paralysis since 1999, when he was shot during the Columbine High School tragedy. Sean says that peer mentoring has given him the opportunity to give back to other individuals living with spinal cord injury in his community, while turning the tragedy he experienced into a positive message of healing.

After meeting with representatives of both the Reeve Foundation and Craig Hospital, Congresswoman DeGette commended the work of both organizations, "To see the way Craig Hospital has been an innovator and has partnered with the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation is inspirational."

To close out the event, Rep. DeGette quoted the late Christopher Reeve, "We live in a time when the words impossible and unsolvable are no longer part of the scientific community's vocabulary."

"I want to thank Congresswoman DeGette for coming to Craig today to witness first-hand the advances being made in rehabilitation technology, research, and quality of life for persons with spinal cord injury," said Mike Fordyce, President and CEO of Craig Hospital.

"I also want to thank Mr. Wilderotter and the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation for being here, and for the support you have given Craig's NRN Program and numerous other organizations in Colorado, including the National Sports Center for the Disabled, Ability Connection, PHAMALY, and the Reeve Foundation Peer and Family Support Network, who are here today. Craig Hospital is proud to be connected with all of these organizations, and recognizes that the Reeve Foundation has been key in helping to create a robust disability community in Colorado and around the country."

The NRN was created by the Reeve Foundation as a cooperative group of rehabilitation centers to develop therapies that promote the health and functional recovery of individuals living with paralysis.

Learn more about the Paralysis Resource Center, NRN, and Quality of Life Grants Program.

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Continue Christopher Reeve's LegacyPhoto by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders