Follow the journey of Jen French, Cleveland FES Center research participant, in her "Stand by Me" journal. Jen participates in the Stand & Transfer Program for Spinal Cord Injury and received an upgraded FES system for trunk control and stand/transfer.
This site contains journal entries from Jen during her pre-surgical preparation, surgery, recovery and rehabilitation with intermittent comments from the clinical team clarifying Jen's progress and experience.
Although this site is hosted by the Cleveland FES Center, Jen's Journal is her own.
Established in 1991, the FES Center is a consortium with three institutional partners: Cleveland VA Medical Center (CVAMC), the private educational institution of Case Western Reserve University (CWRU), and the public hospital system of MetroHealth Medical Center (MHMC). Read more...
The Center focuses on the application of electrical currents to either generate or suppress activity in the nervous system. This technique is known as functional electrical stimulation (FES). FES can produce and control the movement of otherwise paralyzed limbs for standing and hand grasp, activate visceral bodily functions such as bladder control or respiration, create perceptions such as skin sensibility, arrest undesired activity such as pain or spasm, and facilitate natural recovery and accelerate motor relearning.
The Functional Electrical Stimulation Center was founded to introduce FES into clinical practice. Our challenge is to translate fundamental knowledge of electrical stimulation of paralyzed nerves and muscles into useful systems that enhanced the independence and quality of life for people with disabilities. We advance toward this goal by integrating and facilitating the efforts of scientists, engineers, and clinicians across the institutional partners.
In an exciting environment of leading scientists, engineers, clinicians, students, and fellows working together, we explore new techniques of medical rehabilitation and enable FES knowledge to develop into useful products. We are pleased to provide systems that assist people in improving their lives after the devastating consequences of central nervous system trauma and paralysis.
July 19, 2010
Twelve years ago I sustained a spinal cord injury from a snowboarding accident. This accident left me a quadriplegic. To say the least, it was life changing.
Eleven of those years post-injury, I have been using a stand and transfer neural prosthesis. This is an experimental device and I am the first woman to receive such a system. It consists of implanted electrodes to my paralyzed muscles and an external control device. Using this device on a daily basis has afforded me the ability to keep the paralyzed muscles healthy while combating medical complications common among people living with spinal cord injury such as pressure sores, spasticity and muscle atrophy. The FES system has given me alternatives to my wheelchair by enabling me to move around short distances with a walker. I have had unique experiences with the system which would be considered 'impossible' upon my initial diagnosis: the ability to stand at the seventh inning stretch, standing to hug a loved one and walking down the aisle at our wedding. I have integrated this technology into my daily life and have become accustom to its benefits.
The Current Standing System
July 27, 2010
The questions have surfaced: Why a new system? What will the new system do? To answer these questions, let's first establish the baseline. What is the system that I currently use?
The first generation of the Stand and Transfer system is really a hybrid system consisting of implanted components and external components. In the world of medical science, we have been implanting devices into humans for decades; like the heart pacemaker or the spinal cord stimulator. Additionally, external electrical stimulation has a long history of applications to the muscles. For spinal cord injury (and other forms of paralysis such as stroke or cerebral palsy) FES cycling uses electrodes placed on the surface of the skin activating muscles in a cycling motion. The Stand and Transfer system that I have has electrodes and a receiver that are surgically implanted and an external control unit and transmitting coil.
Why the Upgrade
August 2, 2010
A member of the research team asked me, "Why do you want to go through with this?" The answer is not as easy as "because I want to." There are several reasons to go through with the upgrade, some more practical than others.
The current system has eight channels. Currently, one electrode is turned off, the right hamstring. There is another electrode functioning at an extremely low level, the right glut. In essence, I am currently standing on six electrodes rather than eight. It has impacted my standing endurance; reducing the maximum stand time from 45 minutes to just 20 minutes. An average transfer takes less than 30 seconds, so it is still 'functional' but I have become accustom to using it for longer periods of time. Since I am lopsided on electrodes, standing puts strain on my right quadricep and my right knee tends to bend unexpectedly while standing. This requires me to keep both hands on the walker at all times and I no longer feel safe using single handed standing, to get objects out of reach for instance. For this reason, the system is not completely functioning to its original potential.
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