Some of you may have seen the article by adventure athlete Mark Pollock on "Exploring the frontiers of recovery" on the World Economic Forum website. He is challenging us to "explore the gap between reality and fantasy in pursuit of a cure for spinal cord injury."
It really is a challenge worth taking up. Take the time to read about Mark and Im sure you will be impressed at his resilience and his insight into what might be possible.
I met Mark initially through another remarkable individual, Dan Eley. I had arranged an FES Cycling demo with Dan at the spinal injury unit and he mentioned Mark and told me that Mark would like to try a bike too.
There was a complication though.
The spinal unit had deemed that it simply wasnt worth Mark trying a bike as he would not respond to this conventional "FES" due to denervation. My feeling at that time, a few years ago now, was that it probably would not be productive to try FES with Mark. However, Mark is a pretty persuasive guy and by breaking quite a lot of rules we were able to test his muscle response to FES. Guess what - not really much response at all. Except for the hospital almost banning me for life.
On discharge from hospital we tried to do something with Mark. We set up a programme of sequential activation of his leg muscles using our Sequence Mode software. No bike at that time. Just a programme of muscle activation whilst sitting or lying.
A few months later we found that Mark was starting to get significant muscle activation. Ultimately this progressed to the point that he was able to start to use a full RehaMove FES bike. He still has a lower response from muscles on one leg. But it is a far cry from the judgement passed initially by the hospital.
Since that experience with Mark, we have tried FES Cycling with a number of clients who were not supposed to be able to be functional in this way - and all of them have made progress.
In a different scenario, our partners at Neural Pathways introduced us to a lady with locked in syndrome - and with persistence using FES we have the lady now achieving conscious control over thumb movement. Something supposedly impossible.
The sad fact is that many individuals recovering from an accident or challenging a disability do not have the resource or the belief to challenge their situation with intensity. I see everyday that people do make improvements in ways that I would not have thought possible a few years ago.
Mark ends his article with a comment
The cure for spinal cord injury simply requires enough of the right people having the will to make it happen. Even if I do not walk again I believe others will if enough of us explore the gap between reality and fantasy in pursuit of a cure. It is time to disregard the impossible. If not us, who? If not now, when?
One of the biggest barriers to change is the perception of lack of resources. The NHS is full of well meaning professionals who are conditioned and behave in a way that is shaped by this lack. These well meaning professionals sometimes want their patients to be "realistic" and not hope or expect a cure. They pass on a mental virus so that a limiting belief has its effect on the body. A self fulfilling prophecy? It is well meaning but simply kills hope for many people.
We all have attitudes and beliefs that sneek up on us and whisper that they are real - that they are all we have. People like Mark help us to through a light on these beliefs and show us a different truth.