Can they nerve-splice my legs too?May 16 08:35
"Move your hand, Tiffiny, move your hand." That's the internal dialogue that went through my head after my injury. Quickly realizing that wasn't going to work, I began agonizing process of coming to terms with the loss of moving my hands.
That is why I was so excited to hear about the brand new nerve splicing surgery to come out of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. They were able to return partial hand function to a man with a C7 injury by severing the nerve that controls the brachialis, the arm muscle that helps bend the elbow, then re-attaching it to the non-working nerve projecting out to the hand.
I know what you're thinking, will the lack of a brachialis of where it should be do anything bad to the rest of the arm? Removing that nerve does take time (a few months) for your body to get used to, but doctors say the biceps, and other bending muscles around the area, will end up picking up the brachialis' slack.
After the surgery about six months for the nerves to re-grow and do their magic. I can’t even imagine what an amazing feeling it must be to feel and move even a few fingers again (he got a decent pinch back)....but I REALLY want to know.
The Dr. behind the surgery, Dr. Ida Fox, says people who can get the surgery (anyone with an injury between the C6 - C7 level), must get their fingers back in shape before the surgery. Can you imagine all the contracted fingers out there that are going to need surgery (including two of mine) before they’re able to get this one?
Potential patients, those with C6 and C7 spinal cord injuries, can visit this link for detailed information about the procedure. Potential patients are first asked to discuss this information with their personal physician (the documents on the site include a letter to potential patients from the surgeons, a general health questionnaire, a Q & A about the procedure and an educational packet).
My big hope? Other doctors and researchers out there will look at what Dr. Ida fox did - and expand on it. This whole nerve splicing thing and reattaching them to non-working nerves is pretty brilliant. It gets my mind churning…what else could they splice and get moving again?
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Tiffiny Carlson is freelance writer and writes the “SCI Life” column for New Mobility. She's also a C6 quad from a diving accident that occurred when she was 14 years old. A lifelong resident of Minneapolis, Tiffiny has been a writer in the disability community for over 10 years and writes for several publications and blogs, as well as her personal blog BeautyAbility. Her work has also appeared in mainstream publications such as Nerve.com and Playgirl.