Scott Fessler didn’t let a 2006 motorcycle accident and C5 injury stop him from getting back to his career as a financial planner, but he needed a little extra help getting his right hand back to work. He finally got that help last June when he received FES implants at the Cleveland FES Center. The implants allow him to grasp and improve his reach and have helped him with routine tasks, such as eating. “I had to temper down my expectations, but it’s worked out well,” he says.
To grip or extend his reach, Fessler twitches his neck in different ways. “It was a little awkward at first, but it just becomes natural,” he says. “When I first did it, I was crushing cans, crushing cups when I was trying to drink, and I felt like Arnold Schwarzenegger.”
Typically about six hours, the procedure is as long as some common cardiac surgeries. “I think my wife was more worried about the surgery. Me, I was ready to go,” says Fessler, who lives in Hewlett, N.Y. He recommends it to others with similar injuries. “This device will certainly give them another level of independence,” he says. “Not full independence, but another level of it. And any little thing is a world of a difference: to be able to just pick up your own fork and eat by yourself, to hold your own toothbrush, your own pen, to color with your daughter.”
The process required a little over a month of automated exercise at home, followed by another week at Cleveland FES Center for rehab, training and adjustment. He then returned to Cleveland in late December for further adjustments and will be back for another round of refinement in late spring or early summer.
Fessler says SCI survivors should be persistent in pursuing opportunities like FES, pointing out that he spent about two years working his way into the clinical trial. Even with the long wait and many calls, he has nothing but praise for Cleveland FES Center. “These guys are world-class people,” he says. “They really care.”