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Children's Health Channel
Reported November 7, 2012

Never Too Young! Curing Themselves, Curing Millions

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- As the saying goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” and some of the greatest medical inventions and research have come from the people who needed them most. The inventor of Braille was blind. The folding chair was designed by a paraplegic. The hug machine was created by an autistic woman. 

“Some of the strongest people I’ve met have endured some of the strongest challenges in life,” Sabrina Cohen, told Ivanhoe. 
 
It was Halloween night 1992… “They took off drag racing,” Cohen recalled. “90 miles per hour in a 30 mile per hour zone. We hit a parked car and then slammed head on into a tree.”
 
In minutes, Cohen’s life changed forever. She went from an active 14-year-old to a quadriplegic. 
 
“I’ve been confined to a wheelchair ever since,” Cohen said.
 
And ever since, she’s been an advocate -- speaking out on everything from peer pressure to speeding.  But during a conference in 2004, her focus turned a corner.
 
“The mission, today, of my foundation is to reverse paralysis with chronic spinal cord injuries,” Cohen said.
 
The Sabrina Cohen Foundation has helped raise more than $150,000 for stem cell research. About 128 million people suffer from diseases that could be treated through stem cell therapy. In theory, harvested cells could help rebuild Sabrina’s spinal cord. 
 
“There are about 5,000 left-over embryos sitting in fertility clinics that doctors have found that we can extract the cells from and use them to further research,” Cohen said.
 
Over the last seven years, she’s helped to build a global network of scientists and clinicians in the field of regenerative medicine -- addressing Congress, the 
UN, and even doing stand-up to raise funds and awareness. Sabrina has donated more than $75,000 to stem cell researchers. 
 
“It only makes you stronger and sometimes a better person, and somebody who’s capable of making a difference in this world,” Cohen said.
 
Making a difference is something Samantha Ulmer also knows a lot about. The 24-year-old lives with the knowledge that one day, something as slight as a hand tick could be the start of a genetic disorder that causes her to lose control of her bowels, forget who she is and eventually die. Huntington’s disease is a reality for more than 150,000 Americans. 
 
“It is scary because I’ve seen what it did to my grandmother,” Ulmer said. “It’s even more scary with my uncle who was just recently diagnosed as well.” 
As the deadly neurodegenerative disease is passed through families, symptoms start developing at younger ages. Sam doesn’t want to know if she has the gene. Instead, she’s working to educate. 
 
Armed with surveys, research and her white coat, the med school student hosts support groups and events raising money and awareness. Wehaveaface.org connects patients to resources. One of the main problems patients face? “Their doctors or their caregivers in hospice, when the patients were getting towards the end of their life, didn’t really know anything about Huntington’s disease,” Ulmer said.
 
Through her project, she’s schooled professionals and the public about the disease.
 
“I definitely wanted to make that more aware and make the disease more known because there are tons of people suffering from it,” Ulmer said.
 
From adversity to advocacy -- two women helping themselves and possibly millions in the process.  
 
 
 
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