One small step for man

Three patients, all paralysed from the waist down following trauma, have been able to walk again, albeit not without assistance and only for very…

I am sure many are familiar with the words of the astronaut, Neil Armstrong, when he became the first man to walk on the moon, but it struck me how relevant his words might be to those involved in dealing with catastrophic injury claims, to include claimants, insurers and their representatives, when reading about the ground breaking spinal cord research being undertaken in the United States of America.

Injuries to the spinal cord have a devastating physical, mental and emotional impact upon the lives of those injured, rendering the victims unable to walk and leaving them reliant upon care from family, friends and/or professional carers; the latter at great expense, as they look to rebuild their lives. Any advance in medical science that improves the functionality of victims is to be welcomed, and with this in mind, the work of neurosurgeon, Kendall Lee and his team at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota is very encouraging. Three patients, all paralysed from the waist down following trauma, have been able to walk again, albeit not without assistance and only for very short distances, after having an electrical patch fitted to their spinal cord. The patch, surgically placed below the level of injury allows signals from the brain to reach the target muscles so the person can voluntarily control their own movements again. This follows on from the research involving scientists in Britain and Poland back in 2014 where attempts to reverse the impact of paralysis were made on a patient, Darek Fidyka, using cells taken from his nose to repair his spinal cord.

The research undoubtedly offers hope to victims and insurers alike; one can only hope that continued funding is made available for this ground breaking work. The challenge for those involved in catastrophic personal injury work will be to see whether the research develops to a point where treatment was both suitable and available for widespread use. In some ways we have been here before when the Exo-Skeleton was launched amidst much fanfare some years ago but has yet to be truly transformative. Both sides of the divide would benefit if the level of functionality improves to a point where the victim’s independence leaves them less reliant on an expensive care regime.

Matters are at an early stage but, returning to the words of Neil Armstrong, this could be “a giant leap” in the catastrophic injury field.

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