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How A New Technology Is Helping Paralyzed Patients Regain Use of Their Legs

  
  
  

Before Rob Summers had a spinal cord injury, he was a pitcher for the Oregon State Beavers with a win in the College World Series under his belt. He dreamed of being a major league baseball player. Then, on July 12, 2006, a car veered into his driveway and hit him as he stood outside his house. At 20, he was paralyzed from the neck down. Though he had some feeling below the waist, doctors said he would never walk again.

A decade ago, that may have been the end of the story. But Summers, along with three other young men with spinal cord injuries, have been given a new treatment--an epidural stimulator implanted over the spinal cord--that could change the way we think about paralysis. All of these patients, once completely paralyzed from at least the chest down, can now move their legs. The treatment, described in a study published today in the research journal Brain, is the result of research from scientists at the University of Louisville, UCLA, and the Pavlov Institute of Physiology, with funding from the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

Summers was the first to get the implant, and a study discussing his recovered motor functionsSpinal Cord Injury Treatment post-implant was published in 2011.  Now researchers know that his results can be repeated--including on two patients diagnosed as "motor and sensory complete," meaning they were never expected to gain back any function at all. All four patients have gained back movement of their toes, knees, whole legs, ankles, and trunk to varying degrees when the stimulator--which mimics signals that the brain usually sends to the spinal cord to initiate movement--is turned on. And over time, with training, they've been able to gain back more movement with less stimulation, showing that the spinal cord can improve nerve function.

"The concept is that the brain sends a simple straightforward signal, the spinal cord responds, and it has complex signals that execute the details of the movement," explains Dr. Susan Harkema, a professor at University of Louisville and the director University of Louisville’s Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center (KSCIRC). "That's why when we turn the stimulator on, there's a tiny residual signal that comes from the brain, which must be pretty minimal. It certainly must be very, very small and it can't be complex because there's not much remaining. If you can optimize the spinal cord, it can respond even to that faint signal."

For over 15 years, Harkema has worked to understand the role of the human spinal cord in generating locomotion. Researchers have known for a long time that movements like swimming, walking, galloping, and running are controlled by neurons in the spinal cord, not the brain--at least in other animals. But humans were thought to be different. "When I started my career, I was asking whether the human spinal cord had any of those properties," she says.

Harkema studied people with complete spinal cord injuries for over a decade, gathering evidence for her hypothesis that it was possible to change the output of the nervous system with the kind of repetitive training associated with walking. This led to a therapy called locomotor training--where patients stand and step with body weight support and a treadmill--that's just beginning to take hold. Locomotor training only works, however, for people with incomplete spinal cord injuries. Anyone with a complete spinal cord injury (someone who lacks all motor control and feeling below their injury) won't benefit. But even patients with complete spinal cord injuries can benefit from epidural stimulator implants, according to the new study.

Initially, Summers hoped to do rehab with the Reeve Foundation's NeuroRecovery Network, but he couldn't get in. "For me, the spinal cord injury affected my core strength. Even after going back to TIRR [The Institute for Rehabilitation & Research in Houston] a second time, I still didn't qualify. It was at that point I opted to go to the research side," he says.

In December of 2009, he received an epidural stimulator implant. "Going into it, I spent months reading every article dating back to the 1950s that had ever been written on epidural stimulation, animal models, and hypotheses--the science behind it, the theories that went along with it," he says. "After the surgery was over, it was kind of like, 'That was step one and now the hard work begins.' It takes me back to my athletic mindset days."

On the third day of post-implant therapy, he was put in a harness over a treadmill, and stood independently for the first time in four years. "In the moment, it was gameface on. I didn't really think about what was going on except the mission at hand, and as soon as we were able to reflect on what happened, it was tears in joy," he says.

About six months into his therapy, Summers was sitting on a table hooked up to electrodes, surrounded by doctors and scientists. He was talking to his head trainer therapist, and started laughing. "You should take a look at this," he told her. "I can move my toes on command." Epidural Stimulator Patients

"Her jaw about hit the floor at that point," Summer says. After that incident, Summers began voluntary movement training. Now he can move his toes, ankles, knees and hips, He can do sit-ups, he has increased muscle tone, and better blood flow and circulation. Thanks to his discovery, the three research participants following Summers regained voluntary movement almost immediately after receiving the stimulator implant.

All four of the participants have varying levels of movement in their legs. "They all can move every joint, but how many times or how much strength does vary across them. We don't know if it's because of differences in injuries or the time they were implanted. Also, as we implanted and trained, we learned from the person [who had received the implant before]," says Harkema. It will take us time to sort those things out, to understand how far this can actually go and who's more likely to respond. What was surprising to us is that four out of the first four all have responded."

The participants have also seen positive changes in the secondary consequences of their spinal cord injuries--problems like poor heart function, poor circulation, atrophy, and bone density are all getting better.

Now Harkema and the rest of the research team need to improve the epidural implant technology. The stimulator used on the first four participants is an off-the-shelf stimulator used for pain management. The interface is too slow, and it requires each patient's control algorithm to be changed periodically by a human being.

Harkema would ideally like a voice-activated interface (or one that can be activated with a single button). Also, she says, "the stimulator itself needs to be more flexible. Right now, if you want to change configuration, you have to turn it off and start it up again. There's a hardware redesign and a software redesign that needs to happen," she says. Looking further into the future, she imagines a smartphone-like device that would let a patient could say "I'd like to move my leg," and the stimulator's configuration automatically changes.

She also stresses the importance of the changes in the aforementioned secondary consequences, which will most easily translate into a clinical setting.

Paralysis Stimulator"One of the big take-home messages is that our preconceived notions that people with severe paralysis have no hope of recovery needs to be scrutinized and looked at and challenged," says Harkema. "We purposely took individuals that by all clinical and scientific measures would be considered having no hope of being able to move or stand or change their neurological health status, especially after so many years of injury. This tells us that it's the most severely injured who need the most intense rehab."

Summers, now a motivational speaker and youth baseball coach, says that his six-day-a-week therapy has made life much easier.  "I'm in and out of a car in 30 seconds. The first time I tried [after being injured], it was 20 minutes in, 15 minutes out," he explains. "I have the freedom to go to any restaurant, go out in public, travel as much as I travel, do the things I do, and not have to worry about it."

He's hopeful that eventually, with updated stimulator technology, he'll one day be able to walk.

Blog Repost from: http://www.fastcoexist.com/3028720/healthware/how-a-new-technology-is-helping-paralyzed-patients-regain-use-of-their-legs

Dignified, Cost-Effective Alternative to Adult Diapers

  
  
  

Urinary incontinence is one of those things many people aren't comfortable talking about. The hush-hush issue is rarely discussed publicly despite the estimated 30 million Americans currently living with some level of urinary incontinence. It affects a large demographic including active seniors, baby boomers, women who have birthed multiple children and those with health conditions such as prostate cancer, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's, strokes, epilepsy or bladder, urinary tract or pelvic cancers.

Given its prevalence, this is an issue many caregivers deal with daily, and it can take a toll on them as they support the ones they love.

Since the topic is blacklisted from most conversations, many people don't know about all the available solutions. Worse yet, without knowing the facts, for years people have turned to adult diapers thinking it's the only option. With adult diapers, however, there are issues for the wearer of discomfort and loss of dignity. For a caregiver, there's also the cost to constantly buy these disposable products and frequent trips to the store to replace them - not to mention the environmental concerns.

Since the average wearer uses approximatelyLandfill 1,100 to 1,500 adult diapers each year, multiplied by millions of wearers across the country, billions of adult diapers are added to our trash heaps every year. As such, these disposable diapers are now the third largest consumer item in United States landfills, making up 17.5 million tons of garbage and 7 percent of all of the nation's landfill waste. This number is staggering, especially when compared to infant diapers, which make up only 2 percent of landfills.

The issue is complicated further for many as adult diapers are sometimes labeled biodegradable. Yet, not even biodegradable diapers break down in a landfill according to the California Integrated Waste Management Board. It can actually take up to 500 year for a disposable diaper to decompose. Not only that, research from Natural-Environment.com showed that more than 82,000 tons of plastic and 250,000 trees are used to make disposable diapers each year.

It can't be disputed: adult diapers are bad for the environment.

So in spite of attempts to keep the topic under wraps, now is the time to learn and share the facts about more eco-friendly alternatives like Men's Liberty. This option is unknown by so many, yet Men's Liberty is specifically designed for those who suffer from light, moderate or complete urinary incontinence.

Men's Liberty also eliminates the discomfort and loss of dignity that can come with adult diapers. Many caregivers witness first-hand the embarrassment the issue can cause the ones we love. The Men's Liberty is small and discreet, and is easily concealed under normal clothing. Even better: Men's Liberty is less expensive because it covered by most state insurances, saving the average user hundreds of dollars compared to adult diapers.

Although Men's Liberty is not a completely "green" product, we have made great strides over the past 24 months to reduce our environmental footprint. For example, we reduced the amount of plastic packaging we use to conceal the Men's Liberty. This reduction in packagingMen's Liberty helps to reduce waste to landfills. Additionally, the adhesive we use on Men's Liberty, hydrocolloid, is made completely from plant and food grade materials, which are biodegradable. The paper packaging used to protect the faceplate and seal are also biodegradable. Another initiative we have implemented is sourcing materials from local suppliers whenever possible in order to reduce carbon emissions that occur as a result of transporting goods.

Unfortunately, we have not found a suitable alternative for the plastic collection bags or drain tube, but rest assured we are working on that as well.

Men's Liberty is better for your wallet, better for the environment, better for your lifestyle, and better for the ones who care for you. Now, you and the one's you love don't have to worry about dealing with constant changing of the adult diapers, the odors and discomfort that can come with adult diapers, or frequent trips to the store to buy disposable diapers. Men's Liberty allows men to maintain an active, healthy lifestyle and reduces landfill waste.

We're Not Dead Yet: A Patient's Thoughts on Caregiving (Video)

  
  
  

 Wendy is back in this weeks video blog to discuss caregiving from a patients perspective. Give it a watch!

 

 

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Men's Liberty: 2014 Customer Service Survey.

  
  
  

Good day my friends! Today I have some exciting news for you all and the best part is; you played a part of it. So thank you to everyone who participated in this year's annual customer satisfaction survey.

We love hearing from you any time of the year, but so many of you took our survey - we were absolutely overwhelmed with information. We've had a frew weeks to distill it all now and I wanted to share the result with all of you!

I learned a lot reading your responses - some of it was new information and some reinforced what I already knew. For example, 75% of you used absorbaent pads, diapers, briefs or pull ups before trying Men's Liberty. You made the leap to a different device that is covered by Medicare - congratulations! Bet it feels good to keep those dollars in your pocket! The rest of you used condom catheters (10%), indwelling catheters (6%) and some of you used nothing at all - a startling 9%.Talk to a doctor

And it looks like we're making some progress on key issues - more than 90% of you have a doctor that is aware of your bladder leakage and/or urinary incontinence issues. This is fantastic news because this indicates to us that more men are getting out there and talking about this issue with their doctor, which is the first step in getting help to manage your urinary incontinence.

93.3% of you said that your customer care representative is helpful and polite. And 9 out of 10 people agreed that Men's Liberty was clearly explained to you before you ordered. Even better, 86% of you are satisfied with the performace of Men's Liberty in managing your urinary incontinence. And of course, for those of you who were less than satisfied - I'm taking a long, hard look at what we can do better. Whether it's adding staff so we can answer more calls during busy hours or changing how we explain things - we always want to do better for you!

Another interesting thing we learned was the average age of our patients. 37.3% of you were between the ages of 70-79; however, what was suprising was that 23.8% of you were under the age of 60. This shatters the misconception that incontinence is something that "only happens to old people", when in fact incontinence is an issue that affects men of all ages.

Suggestions

Although the vast majority of you are satisfied with the performance of the Men's Liberty, many of you also had suggestions on how we could improve your experience with the product. For example, many of you have experienced adhension problems with the Liberty and many of you would like to see a FreeDerm removal wipe included with your Men's Liberty. We greatly appreciate your suggestion and all of them are being taken into account. In fact, we'll be doing a blog in the next few weeks on troubleshooting shorter wear times and easy fixes for common Men's Liberty problems.

 

Finally, the best feedback we received (in my opinion) from this survey was that 90% of you said you would recommend Men's Liberty to someone dealing with incontinence. This is and AMAZING number.

We want to hear from you so if you didn't get a chance to participate - don't wait for the next survey. Get involved today! Send us an email, leave a note in the comments, post about us on Facebook - reach out and we'll be there to listen and to help. Thanks so much for all your feedback.

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Addressing Aging

  
  
  

We're getting old, but that's not necessarily bad, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Between 2000 and 2050, the proportion of the world's population over 60 years will double from 11 percent to 22 percent, it points out. In fact by 2050, 2 billion people in the world will be 60 or older. In part, however, this reflects our success at addressing childhood disease and maternal morality, notes WHO.

At the same time, as the world population ages so rapidly, we face both challenges and Men's Libertyopportunities. On one hand, it strains pension and social security systems, increases demand for acute and primary healthcare, necessitates a larger, better trained health workforce and increases the need for long-term care, particularly with regard to dementia. On the other hand, older people are a great resource for their families and communities, and they bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the world. Societies that can adapt to this changing demographic will have "a competitive advantage" over those that don't, says WHO.

Interesting fact about world aging

Not only will there be twice as many people worldwide who are over 60 years, by 2050, WHO estimates that nearly 400 million will be 80 years or older. If so, the majority of middle-aged adults will have living parents. In addition:

  • By 2050, 80 percent of older people will live in low- and middle-income countries, includig Chile, China and the Islamic Republic of Iran. In Africa, the number of older people will likely grow from 54 million to 213 million between 2000 and 2050.
  • Because population aging is occurring more rapidly in low- and middle-income countries, they will have a smaller opportunity to prepare.
  • Older people in low- and middle-income countries carry a great disease burden than those from wealthier countries. They tend to die earlier from heart disease, stroke and chronic lung disease and experience higher rates of visual impairment and hearing loss.
  • Visual impairment, dementia, hearing loss and osteoarthitis are some of the most common challenges older people face.
  • The risk of dementia increases with age, with an estimated 25-30 percent of people 85 or older having some degree of cognitive decline.

What does it mean?

Elderly CarePeople need to consider what an aging population means for the healthcare system, WHO points out. Issues such as limited mobility, frailty and other physical and mental health problems are expected to require many aging individuals to rely on long-term-care services, including nursing homes, residential and hospital-based care. Particularly in developing countries, where the number of older individuals unable to care for themselves is expected to quadruple by 2050, systems will have to be in place.

As healthcare workers spend increasingly more time caring for the elderly, they will need to be trained on aging-specific issues, particularly with regard to managing chronic illness and preventing disease. The time to start is today, according to WHO, noting that "healthy aging starts with healthy behaviors in earlier stages of life." This includes diet and nutrition, physical activity and avoidance of health risks, such as smoking, overconsumption of alcohol or overexposure to toxic chemicals.

Finding solutions

An aging population presents challenges - especially for lower-income countries - but not insurmountable ones, says WHO. The organization recommends provisions such as state-funded pensions to protect older people against extreme poverty, and primary healthcare to support their long-term care.

WHO is also working to identify strategies to help strengthen healthcare systems, makingDoctors office services more effective and accessible for elderly people. Currently, the orgnization has programs in place that focus on the prevention of blindness and deafness. In addition, WHO supports the development of technology designed to:

  • Better monitor health status and detect early signs of disease.
  • Connect older people to healthcare.
  • Ensure better data collection and monitoring.
  • Create training opportunities for healthcare workers and caregivers. This includes reviewing (and where necessary, revising) medical curricula and university training.
  • Develop new diagnostic, monitoring and assistive devices.
  • Assist older people with functional loss to remain independent.

And, solutions such as these must be carried over to lower-income countries, as well, adds WHO. The sooner people, healthcare workers and organizations put population aging on their radar, the better prepared they will be to address - and help solve - issues as they arise.

Source: repertoire magazine October 2013.

Men's Liberty Customer Story: Meet Robert Branford

  
  
  

Welcome back to another Men's Liberty video blog. This week Wendy shares a story that comes from one of our patients Robert Branford. Check it out!

 

get-clean-and-dry

Stem Cells and Incontinence: What's all the fuss about? (Video)

  
  
  

Welcome back to another Men's Liberty video blog! Many of you have probably read some of our guest blogs done by Caleb who has recently been undergoing stem cell therapy for his SCI. Although many people are aware of stem cell therapy as a means to treat spinal cord injury, many people are unaware that stem cell therapy can be used as a treatment for many ailments. Scientists are now researching the possibility of using them cells to strengthen the muscles in the urinary sphincter.

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Men's Liberty Employee of the Week: Jamie Burnes

  
  
  

This week I would like to introduce the next featured employee of the week, Jamie Burnes. Jamie has been part of the Men's Liberty team for about 8 months now and works as one of our Customer Care Representatives. So without talking too much, let me introduce Jamie.

Orange Line

employee of the week

Name/Nickname: Jamie Burnes
Length of time at BioDerm: 8 months
Position: Customer Care Representative

Employee Bio

I was born and raised in St. Pete, Florida. I have a 7 year old daughter named Evelyn and a 5 year old son named Lucas. Together we have a 1 year old cat named Luffy D. Monkey.

1. What 3 items would you bring with you if were stranded on an island?

  1. Water Purifier
  2. Machete
  3. Seeds for a food garden

2. Top 3 movies of all time?Dirty Dancing

  1. Goonies
  2. Dirty Dancing
  3. The Professional

3. How do you take your coffee?

    With lots of cream and sugar

4. What is your dream car?

    I want a pink Kawasaki motorcycle.

5. What is your biggest pet peeve?

     Messy house.

6. What is your favorite color?

    Black & Purple.

7. What is your favorite genre of music?

    Reggaeton

8. Who is your favorite sports team?

    Gators!

9. List some leisure activities you participate in?WOW Logo

Reading and World of Warcraft.

10. Comedy or action movies?

       Comedy!

11. What is your biggest fear?

      Something happening to my children.

12. What do you enjoy most about working for BioDerm?

My bosses and coworkers are amazing! The pay is great too :)

13. What surprised you most about Men’s Liberty/incontinence when you first started?

That guys are ok with talking to a female about their incontinence problems.

14. What did you eat for breakfast?

       Iced Coffee and a Bagel with cream cheese.

15. What is your guilty pleasure?

       Dark Chocolate.

16. If you could pick one person to meet, living or dead, who would it be?

Keanu Reeves

17. If your life was turned into a movie, what actor would you play?Sesame Street

If I told you I would have to kill you!

18. When you were young what was your favorite TV show?

Sesame Street

19. Where would you go on your “dream vacation”?

European Cruise.

20. If you were an animal what kind of animal would you be?

Liger

Wee Answer Wednesday - Our Most Common Questions (Video)

  
  
  

In this video blog Wendy addresses some of the most common questions we receive from patients. Take a look!

Redefining Superman

  
  
  

Today I turn 36 years-old. Yes, thank you for saying "Happy Birthday". As I look back over the past year and forward to what lies ahead in the next I am inclined to ponder a few things about life as I see it and I feel inspired to share. As the fundraising process moves forward and I continue my exercise schedule towards optimal health I don't have much on that front to report, so I will share how all this is affecting the "little grey cells" as Hercule Poirot would say. Yes, I watch PBS, I'm a nerd, I know.

31 years ago today, on my 5th birthday, around dinner time a handful of neighborhood kids showed up at our Richmond, VA home with gifts for me. To this day I don't understand why the whole neighborhood does not show up with gifts every year Today. They say I'll grow out of it,describe the image but when you're young and impressionable these things tend to cling to the subconscious. It's either that, or I just flat out think I deserve it... but I digress. Among those gifts were a pair of Superman Underoos. If you were a kid in the 80s you know exactly what I'm talking about. For those who don't, Underoos were a packaged set of children's underwear usually containing a t-shirt dyed with a given cartoon character or superhero's colors and emblazoned with their symbol, along with a set of briefs to match. In my case it was a royal blue t-shirt with the yellow and red Superman "S" and a bright red pair of boys undies' with an obnoxious yellow waistband. I was in Heaven (spare me your snarky comments).

I don't know if that's where it started, but I grew up obsessed with the concept of the Superhero and bravery. The idea of a man or woman, whether they possessed a hidden power or superhuman skill, maybe they were real-life figures like Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, Jesus Christ, or just a pioneer family making a go of it in the old west inspired me. I was enamored with what I later learned Joseph Campbell describes as the "Hero's Journey". I devoured books about war heroes and statesmen like Jefferson and Washington, brilliant minds like George Washington Carver, Michaelangelo, and Edison, but I loved fiction too, mythology, and of course later in life, science fiction. I still remember where I was when I watched Back to The Future starring Michael J. Fox for the first time. This was the coolest thing EVER. A clever, sarcastic outcast who rode skateboards (being towed by a car mind you), played in a rock band, had a smokin' hot girlfriend (who, it seemed, he could kiss whenever he liked without getting caught), and best of all... a time machine. Not only did he work over Biff Tannen, if his first plan didn't work he could go back in time and change the plan! Brilliant. I didn't just get inspired by Michael J. Fox, I wanted to BE Michael J. Fox. I wanted to walk like him, talk like him, dress like him... little did I know years later, how much we'd actually have in common.

Then there was Superman. The towering Christopher Reeve as the mild-mannered Clark Kent. I couldn't identify with Reeves completely, but Superman is still... well... Superman. WhoChistopher Reeve Superman WOULDN'T want x-ray vision, unstoppable strength... who wouldn't want to fly? What if you really could have super-human powers? Saturday afternoons on hot summer days when the waves were flat I'd hole up on the couch and watch either Bruce Brown's Endless Summer on VHS or a nebbishy Gene Hackman get his ass handed to him by the Man of Steel on rerun network TV. Tin foil on the antennae and all. It was a cruel irony that this icon of indestructibility would fall from a horse suffering a severe spinal cord injury and again, have so much in common with me.

At first glance Clark Kent and Marty McFly have little in common, but let's look closer. They were/are whip smart. To the everyday observer they are as common as you and I. They love something with their whole heart. They put themselves in harm's way for what they believe to be right. They will fight the odds to reshape their own destiny. They both possess qualities that make them true heroes despite what they look like to the outside world.

When I was injured I was 6' tall, athletic and determined. I quit high school a year early intending to graduate via correspondence. I wanted to get on with my life. I wanted to surf, play guitar, travel the world. A big man, or so I thought, with big plans. In many ways I really was like Marty McFly, cool, self-assured, able to stand-up to the man, but like many young people I was missing a deeper truth. My heart knew it, but my head was living in the same world that manufactured these larger than life figures. I was living in a Hollywood of my own making with me as the star. Easy mindset for any kid to fall into though for sure.

Reality sets in quick when your lying flat your back in a hospital, all that 165 lbs you worked so hard to gain melting away to 115 in less than a month, but it reaches a whole new level when you go out into the world and everything that you thought made you or anyone a hero is gone. In our world today we define winning by having. We measure success by fame or humanitarian heart by the size of the donation. We award the man who can stuff a rubber ball into a round describe the imagehoop and condemn the man who stands up to government corruption. We worship the founders of billion-dollar companies with zero regard for the way he treats his own family. Then there's the young people, every ad campaign, billboard, news article and magazine cover seems to dictate what it means to be sexy or worthy of respect. These impressionable minds bombarded with an unattainable ideal that doesn't exist introducing confusion and pain into their already complex lives. Our entire paradigm of what defines true heroism is buried somewhere under the murky distortions of materialism, phoney political rhetoric, subtle racism disguised as national pride and our insatiable quest for the status quo. What makes it even more insidious is that somewhere along this descent we allowed our media to somehow influence mass public opinion into thinking that those with less or the disabled are some sort of yardstick for what suffering is. They are trotted out as somehow special, poster children for courage and celebrated in an effort to convince ourselves that despite all our own difficulty someone "always has it worse". I am just as guilty of that as the man on two feet. Suffering is just suffering. There's no deeper meaning here.

To redefine something means to reexamine or reevaluate especially with a view to change. There are two types of people in the world, truth seekers and truth doers. Truth seekers will exhaust endless hours and resources on the search. They will talk all day, ponder, read... even write... about truth, yet they forget one thing, when confronted by truth, action fostering change is demanded. The truth doer is one who when faced with truth has no need to look further, only change. The truth doer redefines what is possible because at the core of their world view is one constant, the only constant, change. So today, I'm putting out a call to the Truth Doers out there, we must redefine what it means to be a Hero.

I said in the beggining that this posting was the result of looking back over the past year. As I have begun this physical process it has mentally begun to unravel many fears and frustrations that settle in after living with spinal cord injury for so long. They become such a natural part of everyday life one often forgets they were even there. In the hero's journey there is usually a point of their facing the abyss.Theseus had to defeat the Minotaur in a labyrinth of shifting floors, moving walls and total darkness to unlock the key to the labyrinth itself. Often the lesson is lost on the excitement of the story, but if we consider it we see that the labyrinth is the mind and the Minotaur and shifting walls and floors are nothing more than our own grotesque fears living among the ever-shifting, self-deceiving perceptions of ourselves. So I pose the question... is the real Superman the man who saves the world or the man who saves himself from himself? If so, does this require good looks and fame, or any number of material things?

Today Marty McFly is just another pop icon left over from a simpler time, but the man Michael Michael J FoxJ. Fox has faced time head on within his very own body to emerge as a voice for those in need of stem cell treatment. What would have happened if Michael had buried himself under a mountain of anti-depressants and booze, holed up away in some mansion while he wasted away? What if his only legacy was a clever, witty sitcom star who suffered an untimely demise? Someone else would have inevitably answered the call, but it didn't go that way did it? The real man, in a real world, looked into the abyss of fear, of death, of suffering and said, "How can I be of service?". To the victor go the spoils and I defy anyone to convince me that the work he has done in the last 5 to 10 years pales in comparison to his Hollywood stardom. The man who conquered time did it because of his illness, not in spite of it.

So it is with Christopher Reeve. I say his finest hour was not his time on the silver screen, but his determined hard work in the face of complete immobility to bring stem cell research to the forefront of U.S. government healthcare policy. I have a friend who had the privilege of watching him work, directing an entire film from his wheelchair post-injury. Relentless, composed, devoted... thrilled to be working. Directing a movie is a massive undertaking for any able-bodied person. But when you're a real Superman... yes, meditate on it.

These men are only 2 examples. Individuals who have discovered their true selves, their inner strength in the face of impossibility. I use them here because of the connection I share with them, but there are countless others. Who inspires you? How do you define true heroism? Have you ever researched the amount of people who reached their greatest success after the age of 40? What about the people who made world-changing contributions and never received a college degree? How about those who went from poverty to riches on hard work and determination? Hershey went bankrupt 9 times before he made his millions in chocolate. Abraham Lincoln was born in a dirt floor shack and was entirely self-educated. Beethoven was deaf. Ray Charles was blind.

After you have considered all I have said, you have thought about who inspires you and why, I want you looking in mirrorto do one more thing... I want you to look in the mirror, ask yourself... What about me inspires me? Who am I really? Because ultimately, you are the only Superhero you will ever need and finding that man or woman within yourself will save the world (your world), turn back the clock, get the girl (or the boy), and you will never be the same.

That's all for now. I need hang up my cape and Underoos and assume my inconspicuous alter ego, pour a cup of tea and watch a little PBS. I'll finish saving the world tomorrow... after all it's my birthday today.

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