Friday, September 25, 2009

Paralysis in America

According to an April 2009 survey conducted by the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, there are 5.6 million Americans currently living with some form of paralysis. Paralysis is caused by various types of disease and injury, such as; Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Brachial plexus injury, Brain injury, Cerebral Palsy, Friedrich’s Ataxia,Guillain-Barre Syndrome, Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, Spina Bifida, Spinal Cord Injury, Stroke, Syringomyelia/Tethered cord, Transverse Myelitis, Lou Gehrig's disease & Parkinson’s disease. This recent survey also indicated that 1.275 of people here in the USA were paralyzed due to spinal cord injury. An estimated 12,000 spinal cord injuries happen every year in our country. According to National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center 23% of all spinal cord injuries resulted in paraplegia, while 18% result in complete tetraplegia otherwise known as quadriplegia.
Although some people with less severe incomplete injuries may recover significant function beyond their injury level, less than 1% of all injuries resulting complete recovery. Spinal cord injuries can happen to anyone at anytime, in many ways. These injuries can be life threatening and in many cases life altering due to paralysis. A spinal cord injury can turn a person's life upside down in an instant. Imagine losing all your independence over night. Think about how different your life would be if you could no longer care for yourself.

There is hope for a cure, but research requires time & funding. Here in the United States, during the last decade or so, there unfortunately was not much support for finding a cure. President Bush’s veto on stem cell research significantly reduced public funding, which in turn slowed down progress in finding therapies to cure paralysis. During President Bush’s years in office our country spent less than $120 million a year on spinal cord injury research. In contrast, we spent $12 billion a year for care and support of people with spinal cord injuries (these figures do not account for the millions of other people receiving care and services related to other forms/causes of paralysis). Leading experts in the field believe that's an investment of less than $2 billion a year could provide a cure within the next decade. That is a small price to pay, especially given what a huge impact a cure would have on the lives of those people living with paralysis, not to mention the enormous savings it would produce over the long term.

Thanks to President Obama’s reversal of the veto on stem cell research and the recent passage of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Act (S.1183) the future is looking brighter. The CDRPA “encourages collaborative research in paralysis, will hasten the discovery of treatments and potential cures and will improve the quality of life for millions of Americans living with paralysis.” This summer the world’s first human clinical trials will take place for stem cell therapies (GRNOPC1) for acute spinal cord injury patients (FDA gave approval to the Geron company in January 2009). It is critical that we thank our elected officials for the changes they’ve made so far. We must also encourage our leaders to continue to (and hopefully expand) support programs and organizations such as the CDC, which enable researchers to move forward in finding a cure.

Please help me and the millions of other people suffering with paralysis by supporting the search for a cure & educating others.

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