I recently learned about the substance graphene. It is a very thin layer of carbon and has amazing properties that have people likening it to plastic in its usefulness. One such potential use is in the body/electronics interface for prostheses. This article discusses a lab working on research toward using graphene in this application. It's far out but also probably far off.
I saw this on Facebook today. I don't know the original source. I wonder how many (few) playgrounds have such things.
This TED talk describes the development of an inexpensive wheelchair that uses bike components and a novel lever system for torque.
A professor at UC Irvine named Hans Keirstead gave a recent TEDx talk about his lab's work with stem cells. Their research is paving the way for incredible new treatments for spinal cord injury, ALS, cancer, and more. Clinical trials using their research are underway in a number of these areas. Theirs is the technique behind the first stem cell study for SCI using human patients. The talk isn't that great, but the research is amazing!
This sad but optimistic story appeared in the NYT. A man from Barbados who has quadriplegic cerebral palsy is rarely able to leave his second floor apartment because the building has no elevator.
For anyone with mobility problems this issue will hit close to home. Finding accessible housing is extremely difficult, and difficulty getting in and out of the home can contribute to people with disabilities becoming shut-ins.
For the man in the article there is hope, however. He's finally getting some services and is on the road to citizenship so he can better take part in society. Best of luck to him.
The Story ->
A few years back we made me into a pirate ship (I was the sail) with our cat as a pirate on my lap. This is much better though. Happy and safe Halloween to everyone.
I know this is meant as a joke, but it should be a real product. People with tremor-inducing conditions like Parkinson's may find it difficult to perform fine motor tasks like fitting a key into its slot. This guiding key hole would nicely address that issue. Maybe someone will see this gag and make it a reality.
The situation seemed perfectly normal. I had done it dozens of times before; arrive home from my parents', sling the backpack care package onto my back, grab my cane, and limp into the house. Only this time was different.
The backpack was new. I hadn't worn it before. As I hefted it over my shoulders, I realized that the straps were far too small, so small that I couldn't pull it on all the way. No problem, I reversed course and tried to take it off. It wouldn't budge. I couldn't get it on, I couldn't get it off. I stood there like a deformed chicken with my scrawny, ineffectual wings contorted behind my back, unable to move.
Some physicists postulate that every time two possibilities arise, the universe splits, and both things do happen in alternate realities. In this world, I struggled, shook, and danced for a few harrowing minutes and managed to free myself. But my mind watched in horrified bemusement as the other universe's tragedy played out.
I'm stuck. No matter how I squirm, pull, or stretch, I am stuck. My right arm is too weak to be of much assistance. Both shoulders are inflexible and unyielding. I simply cannot move the backpack. My left hand fingers fumble with the clasp, trying desperately to release the tension, but they're too uncoordinated. The angle is too awkward. After exhausting every Houdini-esque maneuver I can muster, I stop trying and lean against the car.
I analyze my options. My cane is in the car. Even if it were within reach, I couldn't use it with my arms behind my back. I could stand here for a while, 20 minutes, maybe an hour, but then what? I'd be in the same position but more tired. I could sit partway in the car, but I doubt I could get back up. I could take my chances walking and try to get help from a neighbor.
I settle on the last choice and attempt to shuffle out of the garage. The first few steps are easy as I lean against the car for support. Daylight and the possibility of freedom are just feet away. I tentatively step away from the car and... tumble to the ground. If my balance is usually bad, and it is, it's positively horrible with 10 pounds of home cooking strapped precariously to my back.
All I can manage is to wobble from my back to my side like a cruelly inverted turtle. I wobble and I call out. "Help!" I resist the urge to add, "I've fallen and I can't get up!" I yell and yell as best I can, but no one hears.
The end comes quickly. I can't drink my own urine like a survivalist dying of thirst. I can't cut off my arm like a trapped mountain climber. All I can do is yell when I have the strength and lie there and wait, lie there and hope. But nobody comes; no neighbors, no mail carriers, no curious passers-by. This cold, oily concrete will be my grave.
Then I see the headlines, "AREA MAN KILLED IN FREAK BACKPACK INCIDENT". I hear the news reports, "We go now live on the scene where the 39-year-old man was found dead just hours ago, trapped in the straps of a cruel backpack." At least I get my 15 minutes of fame in this alternate universe. And every backpack gets a new warning label, "DANGER: Keep out of reach of small children and cripples."
Back in this reality, I lengthened the backpack's straps. I lengthened them as far as they would go. Then I put them over my shoulders, grabbed my cane, and limped into the house.
--Photo by ToastyKen - http://flic.kr/p/3eyDGz
In the nearly seven years since breaking my neck, I have almost never slept through the night. This article expounds on one of the reasons and a solution I've recently been using.
One thing that many people don't realize about living with a spinal cord injury (SCI) or I assume other neurological disorders, is the effects on the bladder. In addition to the big, visible muscle problems like arms and legs being paralyzed and having spasms, similar issues occur internally. The practical effect is that it's harder to urinate on command and harder to "hold it".
In daily life this can this mitigated by staying near a restroom. During the night, however, it means waking often and dealing with the hassle of getting up and going. Perhaps I'm a little slow, but I've just recently started using a strategy to help: restricting fluid intake late in the day. For me this means the only water I drink after about 8 pm is that needed for swallowing pills. Further, caffeinated beverages have an even greater diuretic effect, so I must avoid them after about 6 pm.
Typically in the past I had awoken at least once to go to the bathroom, and often it was more, sometimes as bad as four or five times. Since consciously limiting my liquid intake, I've gotten up zero or one time. My sleep has greatly benefitted. Unfortunately I still wake up every two or three hours due to pain. Another post will discuss my attempts to deal with this problem.
Photo by vivianejl - http://flic.kr/p/56as3
Dusty (CrassPip) received a master's degree in special education in 2005. That same year he broke his neck, putting him in the 'disabled' category himself. Due to this experience and his computer background, this blog will focus on disability, especially assistive technology and SCI news.