Technology helps spinal cord injury patients

October 24, 2008 5:59:21 PM PDT
Kevin Brady is not able to tell his story himself. Brady broke his neck in a fall at his Arizona home four months ago and no longer has any muscle control in his body.

He and his wife feared that he would be dependent on a ventilator to breathe for the rest of his life, until he was transferred to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose.

"Here is a ray of hope for us," Darlene Brady said. "Here is somebody that is going to do something for us and help us."

That help and hope comes in the form of new technology and the spinal cord injury specialists at Valley Medical Center. A small diaphragm pacemaker will replace the 20 pound machine most spinal cord injury patients learn to live with.

"Kevin represents really the first patient in the country to have this done while he's still in the hospital with a fairly fresh injury," Dr. Akshat Shah said.

During a laparoscopic procedure, doctors made a small incision in the stomach and placed four electrodes on Brady's diaphragm. The external battery-operated device helps stimulate breathing. The Food and Drug Administration only recently approved the procedure.

"In the past we would have to do an open thoracotomy, which is say a procedure you would have for repair of heart vessels," Dr. Steve McKenna said.

Even without the invasive surgery and a ventilator, Brady will have to get adjusted to life in an electric wheelchair. He was the one who did most everything around the house.

"Shopping, everything and with this technology he'll really have so much more freedom than with a ventilator so this is just great," Darlene Brady said.

Brady wants other families in his situation to know, at the right facility, there are options.


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