Human Embryonic Stem Cell Therapy Restores Hope for Amanda

10.25.07–Keeping Strong

Keeping Strong

Last week I fronted up to Craig Hospital in Denver to undergo rigorous sensory motor tests and URO-dynamics to test the strength of my bladder.  Have you ever tried peeing lying down on your back with your legs up in stirrups?  Let me tell you, it’s no easy feat as gravity isn’t on your side.  As I lay on my back with my legs spread open to four curious onlookers, a catheter was inserted into my urethra and my bladder was filled with 400 ccs of saline.  With one pant leg on and one off, my legs were suspended high above my abdomen and I was given the command to pee.

“Okay Amanda, push.”

This was my time to prove myself.  With a deep inhalation and one massive contraction of my pelvic muscles a steady stream of fluid spilled into the aluminum tray beneath my bum.  I did it!  The moment was mine.  I felt my face going red and my armpits beginning to sweat. 

“Good job Amanda.  Impressive!  Now stop and we’ll use your electronic stimulator to measure the difference in strength.”

I finished emptying using my Vocare Bladder electronic stimulator device and to Dr. Ruhl’s surprise, my ability to push on my own was stronger than with the device.  Yippee. 

What this means is that my bladder strength and ability to void on my own is improving.  Keep in mind, as a complete ASIA A T11-12 spinal cord injured patient, I haven’t been able to pee on my own for more than fifteen years.

I have been able to maintain the strength in my bladder and my ability to void almost completely on my own since returning from India.  My bladder muscles weaken as the day progresses.  The ease with emptying depends on how hydrated I am and the fullness of my bladder.  I have also had regular bowel movements on my own for two months since my return to the United States.  While I am not able to empty my bowels fully, the strength and regularity is improving.

My sensory motor testing with Kelly Root in the Outpatient Physical Therapy Department was challenging.  This type of testing focuses on isolating muscles and recording the strength on a scale from 0-5.  My abdominal muscles scored fives and are incredibly strong, while my hip flexors, hamstrings, gluteals, and quadriceps recorded a trace to a grading of two plus.  In life, it is easier to use muscles in combination rather in isolation so although this test was tough, I showed improvement.  The sensory tests only record light touch sensations and pin prick sensations below my level of injury, which hasn’t changed much with the exception of slight improvement on my right lower abdomen.  What these tests don’t record are deeper sensations and pressure when pressing intensely on a body part.  Deep pressure sensation is a noticeable change in my lower body.

I will now have a baseline to draw from for the future.  Although I was nervous to undergo testing, it was necessary and will make my progress all the more credible to the outside world.

In the afternoon I tested the Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) RT300-S bike ( or 1-800-609-9166).  From my wheelchair, I pulled up both pant legs and stuck patches of electrodes to my quadricep, hamsting, and gluteal muscles on each leg.  The RT300-S bike enabled me to participate in both passive and active therapy creating patterned movement in my legs.  When the electrodes fired up my muscles, my legs cycled completing movements on their own.  I could feel my heart rate accelerate the longer I cycled, so it was an aerobic workout too.  How fantastic! 

This new technology will enable me to take charge of my rehabilitation by ceommitting myself to one hour session, three times a week.  Each RT300-S bike is $15,000 and is rarely covered by insurance…so my fund raising efforts continue.  Now is the time to prime my body by increasing muscle strength and blood circulation for future stem cell treatments.  I want to give my legs the best opportunity to come back to life.  It will be my next goal to provide Dr. Geeta Shroff with this information so that she might consider providing the RT300-S bike in her hospital physical therapy department for patient use.

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