Paralyzed man Rob Summers moves after experimental implant
Rob Summers was paralyzed in the summer of 2006 and his doctors told him that he would never stand again--they were wrong! He began moving after undergoing an experimental implant.
Summers, 25, had dreams of becoming a major league baseball player. He was struck by a drunk driver while standing outside of his house 5 years ago, leaving him paralyzed from the chest down. Summers reported of the accident:
[q url=""] “The car drove off, leaving me there with nothing and no help, no hope.” [/q]
Summers underwent intensive physical therapy for three years, but his condition didn’t improve. His life changed for the better when he met Dr. Susan Harkema from the University of Louisville and took part of an experimental therapy for his type of paralysis.
Doctors implanted an electrical stimulator onto the his spinal cord to try to wake up his damaged nervous system. Summers stood without help after several days. Months later he wiggled his toes, moved his hips, knees and ankles and was even able to take a few steps on the treadmill. Summer comments:
[q url=""] "It was the most incredible feeling. After not being able to move for four years, I thought things could finally change." [/q]
For years, certain people with spinal cord injuries who have some control of their muscles have experienced some improvement after electrical stimulus. However, that kind of progress hasn’t been seen before in someone who has a complete spinal injury.
Summers can’t move when the electrical stimulator isn’t on. Doctors allow him to use the device for several hours at a time. The stimulator is typically used to treat pain and can cost upwards of $20,000. The doctors implanted it onto the base of his vertebrae.
Dr. John McDonald, director of the International Center for Spinal Cord Injury at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore thinks that the strategy can benefit 10% to 15% of paralyzed patients.
Summers currently undergoes two hours of physical therapy a day. He says:
[q url=""] “My ultimate goal is to walk and run again. I believe anything is possible and that I will get out of my wheelchair one day.” [/q]