ROCHESTER, Minn. - A breakthrough surgery at Mayo Clinic may help the paralyzed move again. It has already proved a success for one Wisconsin man.
Four years ago, Jered Chinnock, now 28, was in a snowmobile accident. It left the Tomah, Wis. man paralyzed from his mid-torso to his toes.
"I just thought I got the wind knocked out of me and needed to catch my breath and realized I couldn't get up," he said, recalling that day.
Since then, Chinnock has adjusted to life in a wheelchair.
"I was just pretty much set in my ways of I'm going to be in my wheelchair the rest of my life and I was alright with it," he said.
But a new study, between Mayo Clinic and UCLA, has Chinnock standing more and moving his legs again.
This is possible after intense physical therapy and a surgery last year. Doctors at Mayo Clinic implanted an electrode near Chinnock's spinal cord. Through electrical stimulation, his thoughts of moving his legs are turned into actual movement once again. However, he is not able to feel his legs moving.
"The effect we saw in this one patient really blew my mind," said Dr. Kendall Lee, a neurosurgeon at Mayo Clinic and principal investigator and director of Mayo Clinic's Neural Engineering Laboratory. He says his team noticed the dramatic change within two weeks.
"What this study shows is these type of technologies can be used in other parts of the body. In this case, in the spinal cord to allow volitional control back," said Lee.
Within the first two weeks after surgery, Chinnock was able to control his muscles while lying on his side, make steplike motions and stand by himself using his arms as support.
"I don't really know what to say, I'm speechless. Thank you is not enough but they are pretty amazing people and what they do is amazing," said Chinnock, of the teams of engineers, doctors and researchers working on this study.
While Chinnock doesn't know what he'll be able to do next, he said he's ready for a challenge.
"Hopefully maybe walking again someday, if not very far at least a little ways," he said.
For about the next eight months, Mayo Clinic will keep working with Chinnock to see what else may evolve in what he can do.
As for now, the team is focusing on patients who are paralyzed in the lower parts of their body. It has FDA approval for the study.
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