If you’ve glanced at the news lately, it seems the time is nigh for a spinal cord injury (SCI) cure. What’s the world buzzing about? The FDA giving Geron (a bio-med corporation in California) the go-ahead to begin the first ever human trials in the United States using embryonic stem cells. Newly paralyzed individuals (with no longer than 2 week old injuries) will be the first test subjects, and there’s a lot of hope riding on them.
Where do I, someone who’s been paralyzed for 17 years, fit into all of this? Should I be doubling over in excitement, hinging my hope for a better life on whether this first-of-it’s-kind human trial succeeds? I would, if it were 1994 – 1996; those couple years after my injury where all I could do was think about what I had lost and dreaming (sometimes obsessively) of walking (and pirouetting and kicking and skipping…) again; a period where being paralyzed seemed like the worst thing in the world (I was a teen at the time and already suffering from enough teenage angst).
Or should I eschew the human trials altogether and be offended they think I need fixing in the first place? Like one of those people who thank God for their injury? No…that’s not my style. I’m too much of an honest gal to fully get on the “This Ain’t That Bad” train. Quadriplegia is a hard life. I’ll never get used to it and I’ll never prefer it over a fully-functioning body. But that doesn’t mean I still can’t be happy and not obsess about a precarious study happening 1,500 miles away.
After much contemplation, I think the key word here is Balance. Learning how to focus on the here-now (and what I can control) vs. still having hope and not becoming a paralyzed ninny. I’m striving for the perfect combination of being a realist vs. being a dreamer, and I think now more than ever before this two-handed approach is vital.
I still do my range of motion religiously morning and night, and use my standing frame several times a week (Dr. Wise Young recommends 1-2 hrs/day in order to keep your bones in walkable condition), but my chance of being a test subject is slim. Why? My ancient SCI status. I have 17 years worth of scar tissue building up around my injury site. One look at my stats and I’m quite sure I’d be about 500,000th on the list. Personally, I think I’d be a great subject (my body heals, adapts fast), but my opinion on my vitae would be swiftly trumped by the numbers/years card.
If it’s one thing I’ve learned since 1993, it’s that the years go by fast. Damn fast. It’s 2010 and my teens, my 20’s, and even my 30th year are now over. Experiences are flying by left and right and I refuse to miss out just because I can’t walk. Don’t get me wrong, I‘m still thrilled at these exciting research developments. So great! I have hope. It’s vital for the human condition. I hope my birthday party next week rules, I hope to get married one day, and yes, I really really hope Geron succeeds.
I’m just not going to let my grits cool as I wait.
What do the stem cell trials mean to you? Are you a realist , dreamer or a combination? What are you doing today to keep your body ready for medical breakthroughs of tomorrow?