Medical Moment: Spinal Cord Stimulation

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(WNDU) – For the past decade, researchers have studied the impact of epidural stimulation, a small amount of electrical current applied to the spine, on people with spinal cord injuries.

It’s a technology that has only improved over the past few years, and now some patients are achieving what most thought was never possible.

One man, in particular, is celebrating his personal victory over paralysis, one step at a time.

Jerod Nieder remembers the exact moment his life changed forever. December 18, 2011. Vacationing with his family in Mexico.

“It was the first day of the trip and I went for a run on the beach to dive into the ocean and dive right into the sandbar,” Jerod recalls.

However, the damage to his spinal cord was done.

“Doctors told my family I would never feed and, you know, just be prepared for that to be the rest of my life,” he continues.

Jerod refused to accept this. He and his mother began seeking advanced rehabilitation. They would find it at the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center. Here, scientists use programmed electrical stimulation to help patients stand and control their hearts. Jerod is one of 38 patients with a pacemaker inside his body.

“The electrode is a 16-electrode array, so it contains 16 contacts, and it’s implanted in what’s called the lumbar sacral spinal cord,” said Claudia Angeli, director of the epidural stimulation program at the University of Louisville.

It was this determination and positivity that caught Hanna Alcock’s attention.

“My friend told me that a guy named Jerod who was in a wheelchair, was very social, but never left his apartment and just needed help on Saturdays,” Hanna said. “I was like, well, I think I can do this.”

It didn’t take long for Saturdays to become special, for both of them.

“I thought it turned into something else before Hanna realized it turned into something else,” Jerod said.

Jerod proposed and Hanna said yes.

On November 6, Jerod took off. Despite crashing his handbike at mile 13, Jerod finished, with his bike stuck in first gear. Jerod and Hanna had one more step to take. Hanna suggested they get married on the 10th anniversary of Jerod’s accident.

“It’s a day that’s been taken away from me a lot and for Hanna to come into my life and help me take charge of that, it’s just, it means a lot to me,” Jerod said.

Jerod worked for months in the lab to surprise his family and friends.

“We have a traditional Korean part of the ceremony. And that’s where I’m supposed to bow to his parents,” he said.

On December 18, the man who doctors predicted would never use his arms or legs bowed three times, with the support of his lab assistants. He swears, he’s not finished yet.

“The list of things I can do is getting longer and the things I can’t do are getting shorter,” Jerod finally said.

By running the New York City Marathon as part of Team Reeve, Jerod and Hanna together raised over $20,000 for the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.

The Reeve Foundation is funding the epidural stimulation trial at the Center for Spinal Cord Injury Research at the University of Louisville, Kentucky.

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