GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - There has been a breakthrough in spinal injuries that's actually allowing some paralyzed people to move their legs again.
The treatment is being called a staggering find. It reinforces the phrase, "Never say never."
Four paralyzed men, who were told they would never move their legs again, can now do just that, voluntarily, thanks to an implanted device that stimulates their spinal cord.
Rob Summers was the first patient to get the device. He said, "Being able to move my toes, ankles, knees on command, it was absolutely incredible."
It's called epidural stimulation, and it's retraining the nerves in the legs to work with the brain again. Researchers say these results were unexpected.
The research published in the journal Brain, is encouraging to Jack Jablonski, who has said time and time again he won't be paralyzed forever. Jablonski, a Benilde St. Margaret senior, was paralyzed while playing hockey.
"This is hopefully something that will help prove the doctors wrong and help me get back on my feet," said Jablonski.
Doing his regular treadmill workout at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute on Tuesday, Jablonski said he has been closely following this research. In fact his Jack Jablonski Bel13ve in Miracles Foundation donated money directly to it, and he has applied to be one of the next people to have the device implanted.
He said, "We're kind of just waiting to hear back and find out if we're lucky enough to be chosen to be in this next group of research."
One of his fitness specialists, Andy Rapacz, believes seeing the four men move their legs gives all people with spinal cord injuries new hope and another reason to stay healthy. Rapacz said, "It's reinforcing what we do and exciting because we know that's there's a lot of potential that lies ahead."
Jablonski said, "Knowing that in the future that this can be a definite possibility definitely keeps hope out there you can get back to your life, just a little bit later than expected."
The epidural stimulation is being done with an existing Medtronic device.
The four men are also seeing other benefits; regaining muscle mass, sexual function, bladder control and body temp regulation. Quite an advance.