SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (Ivanhoe Newswire) – Each year, almost 18,000 people across the U.S. suffer a life-changing spinal cord injury. Quadriplegia. A quarter of a million people live every day confined to a wheelchair. The loss of freedom can be detrimental to a person’s physical and emotional well-being. Researchers are working on innovative ways to help their patients enjoy the things they thought they would never do again.
Rebecca Farewell loved the freedom of falling from 10,000 feet when she was a skydiving instructor, with 7,000 jumps. But her last jump went terribly wrong.
“I hit a pocket of nasty air on my parachute. I slid across the ground for about a hundred feet plus,” Rebecca painfully recalls.
Her accident left her a quadriplegic.
Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation doctor at the University of Utah, Jeffrey Rosenbluth, MD says, “A lot of people that have a catastrophic injury or illness, a lot of times they’re quite worried and distraught about the things that they’re not going to be able to do.”
That’s why Dr. Rosenbluth and the University of Utah Rehabilitation Research and Development team built the Tetra Ski.
“We designed this ski to be able to be skied independently by someone with a very complex disability, with very little or no hand function, and even in some cases, just breath control,” Dr. Rosenbluth explains.
Rebecca explains, “There’s a little straw on an antenna and they fit it to your mouth so it doesn’t flop everywhere. And you give a little puff on it, you turn right. Little sip on it, you turn left.”
Electric actuators on the Tetra Ski provide independent turning and speed variability, using smart technology to give the skier complete control.
“Every time you can bring a piece of independence back to someone and restore something that was lost, it’s a big deal,” Dr. Rosenbluth expresses.
The team has also created a sailboat, fishing rod, cross country ski, and off-road wheelchair in hopes that more people will have the ability to experience the independence they once had.
“I was shocked at how fast it was. It was the most freeing experience of my life since my accident,” Rebecca exclaims.
Right now, the Tetra Ski is available through adaptive ski programs around the world, with instructors who have been through a training program. But the hope is that its popularity will continue to grow and Tetra Ski racing will become a part of the Para Olympics.
Contributors to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer & Editor.
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TITLE: FAST & FREE: REBECCA FINDS NEW HOPE ON THE SKI SLOPE
REPORT: MB #5184
BACKGROUND: Quadriplegia is a symptom of paralysis that affects a person’s limbs and body from the neck down. The most common cause of quadriplegia is an injury to the spinal cord in the neck, but it can also happen with medical conditions. Quadriplegia is sometimes treatable, but most cases — especially those due to injuries — result in permanent paralysis. There are 32 injuries per million population or 7800 injuries in the US yearly. Only 0.9% of Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI) fully recover. An estimated additional 20 cases per million (4860 per year) die before reaching the hospital.
DIAGNOSING: The basic symptoms of quadriplegia include: numbness/loss of feeling in the body, particularly in the arms and legs; paralysis of the arms and legs (and major muscles in the torso); urinary retention and bowel dysfunction caused by lack of muscle control; difficulty breathing (some quadriplegics require assisted breathing devices); and trouble sitting upright (because of an inability to balance). Many people wonder about “how to diagnose quadriplegia.” While some may assume that it is easy to tell if you have developed quadriplegia because of the loss of limb function, with some conditions that lead to quadriplegia, it is not that clear-cut. Being able to diagnose it early can help expand your therapy options and improve your overall prognosis by treating contributing factors early. Doctors may use several methods to diagnose different causes of quadriplegia, such as: MRI scans, spinal taps, blood tests, and EMG tests.
NEW TECHNOLOGY: The TetraSki represents technology that has finally caught up with adaptive skiers’ dreams as it offers independent skiing for people with complex physical disabilities. Electric actuators on the TetraSki provide independent turning and speed variability through the use of a joystick or breath control, allowing the skier with limited strength and dexterity to operate the TetraSki safely and with a high degree of performance and independence. The TetraSki has been in development for more than six years with the University of Utah Rehabilitation Research and Development Team and is primarily supported by the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation.
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