As a serious injury solicitor I have represented a number of clients who have sustained spinal cord injuries and have supported them through the court system. Beyond their injury, one thing which they have all had in common has been that having been told by their doctors that their paralysis is permanent, with the passage of time they have all adapted in a way which has shown off the best of human qualities. They have shown courage, dignity, adaptability and spirit to rebuild their lives such that they can rightly lead a happy, fulfilling and in many cases inspiring life.
But will specialist doctors who practice in the field of spinal cord injury always have to give such a negative prognosis to their patients? And will those who sustain spinal cord injury always have to face such devastating news about their future?
Recent research undertaken in the USA suggests perhaps not. The research which I am referring to has been in the press this month having recently been reported in the medical journal Brain.
In short, the research involved 4 paralysed participants who had complete spinal cord injuries ranging from C7–T5 and all of whom were at least two years post-injury at the time of the intervention. They each underwent epidural spinal cord stimulation and all demonstrated an ability to voluntarily move their hips, ankles and toes. They also displayed other improvements in their overall health, including increases in muscle mass and regulation of their blood pressure, as well as reduced fatigue and dramatic improvements to their sense of wellbeing.
The research has been described as groundbreaking. And although much further research must surely follow in order to bring real change to the spinally injured population at large, it challenges the belief that no functional recovery is possible.
And further, along with inventive and technical developments such as ReWalk, the exoskeleton mobility aid, research such as this must give hope to many that one day, they may be able once again to bear weight, balance and walk independently. And these developments will be all the more significant for future spinal cord injury patients.
As a lawyer who represents spinally injured individuals I keenly await yet further developments and must be vigilant as to whether progressive technology or treatment can benefit my clients. The law has it’s limitations but with the theory behind compensation payments being to put the injured party back in the position they would have been but for their injury (in-so-far as money can), surely these sorts of developments have the potential to help the law fulfil it’s own aim.
For more information about epidural stimulation studies and other spinal cord injury research,
please visit http://www.chartingourcourse.org/research/victory and/or http://www.christopherreeve.org/epi. For information about ReWalk please visit www.cyclonemobility.com/rewalk.
Will Cornwell – Fentons Solicitors (part of Slater and Gordon Lawyers)
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Telephone – 020 7400 0225