In 2006, 20-year-old Oregon State University pitcher Rob Summers suffered a spinal injury which left him unable to use his legs after a still-unsolved hit-and-run case. Five long years later, he's been dubbed "Superman." Once paralyzed, Summers can now stand and has regained "some purposeful movement" with the help of a "surgically implanted nerve stimulator."
A surgeon placed an array of 16 tiny electrodes directly over Summers' lower spinal cord segments. The electrodes connect by under-the-skin wires to a unit the size of a small cell phone implanted above his hip. Controlled by wireless remote, the unit sends electrical pulses to the spine.
The devices, already used to control chronic pain, cost from $20,000 to more than $57,000, with ongoing maintenance costs of $5,000 to $7,000.
When switched on, "it feels like a tingling that goes from my abs down to my toes," Summers said. "Once I got used to it was fine. It wasn't painful or uncomfortable."
Three days after the implantation surgery, Summers amazed himself and the researchers by maintaining a standing posture assisted only by the electrical stimulator.
"This result was really unexpected," Harkema said.
"It was an incredible feeling," added Summers. "Every little breakthrough is a huge triumph." ...
"This is not a cure, but it could lead to improved functionality in some patients," Gregoire Courtine, head of experimental neurorehabilitation at the University of Zurich, told the Associated Press.
This is the sort of story that gives hope to those who've suffered spinal-cord injuries, when such inspiration is rarely encountered.
Bravo, Rob. Keep up the grueling work.
Paralyzed Man Stands, Moves With Epidural Stimulation [MedPageToday]