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May 11th, 2010
12:00 PM ET

Calif. spinal injury clinic draws controversy

(CNN) – For people with severe spinal cord injuries, the ultimate dream is walking again. For many, that's just not possible. Spinal cord patients were given a very famous and public advocate with the late actor Christopher Reeve.

Reeve frequently pushed for more studies involving stem cells, but a controversial clinic in California is taking a much simpler approach. The results seem to be medical miracles. Our Alina Cho has this AM original report.

Related link: Help A Fwend

Filed under: AM Original • Health
soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. emily

    I am a mother whose daughter suffered a spinal cord injury in 2006, leaving her a quadriplegic. Through much struggle and heartache, she is graduating high school and attending school in Boston where Journey Forward is located. Journey Forward came about from a former client of Project Walk. Told he would never walk again, he now walks with a cane and gets stronger every day. Our daughter has participated in this program and HAS seen improvement in just one week. I have seen her flexing her ankle and her leg shake when she attempted moving it. Each incident happened during a week long therapy session with Project Walk. With our blessing, she will be embarking on the Journey of her life, fighting against her injury every step of the way. I truly believe that someday she not only will walk, but lead a healthy fulfilling life. She plans on opening a facility like Project Walk and Journey Forward in her home town. No one is peddling a miracle cure. People truly get excited and encouraged when they see even the smallest amount of improvement. That is why I believe this therapy should be available to every SCI patient.

    May 19, 2010 at 8:46 pm |
  2. Joanna Strickland

    Each spinal cord injury is different from the other. Each person's recovery is different because of their own respective injury. Working towards walking is never voodo and is always hard work. Each person wants to be "normal". Each person's "normal" is as individual as each spinal cord injury. "recovery" will always only go as far as is possible based on the individual spinal cord injury. The progress one seeks should NEVER be dimmed or shadowed by other person's skeptisims. Waking up, re-routing signals from the brain to below the injury is a miraculous journey and how dare those who know nothing of spinal cord injuries make assumptions about project walk, push to walk, step it up, the miami project, etc... a person trying to work towards independence is and always should be accepted and encouraged. One can give up and be a lump or continue to LIVE!

    May 16, 2010 at 11:51 am |
  3. Al Genchi

    As the father of a quadraplegic injured in 2006, I am disgusted at the attitude of members of the "traditional medical establishment" like Dr Ciacci. I have seen first hand that their motivation is too often aimed at protecting their position and income, not helping the patient. Conventional medicine too often seeks to make patients ACCEPT their condition and uses medication and other procedures to MAKE LIKE EASY FOR THE DOCTOR AND CAREGIVER instead of the patient.
    Dr Ciacci references the possibility that places like Project Walk will provide false hope... that is true, just as it is possible that CNN and other media might sensationalize news stories to get more viewers. Just as Doctors like Dr Ciacci might follow traditional practices so that they can protect their positions as wealthy physicians. If there is a con artist in the article, it is Dr Ciacci. The fact that he never heard of Project Walk, when it is less than an hour from where practices medicine is testimony to his lack of interest in anything that threatens his beliefs, and most likely his income . The finger of skepticism here should be pointed at the traditional medical community, not Project Walk. It is unfortunate that only the friends and families of spinal cord patients get to see first hand how incompetent and uncaring the traditional medical establishment can be and how much progress is being prevented by their closed minded approach to their patients and their profession

    May 14, 2010 at 11:29 am |
  4. Jessica

    My Brother just got back from project walk and all I can say is AMAZING!
    No one there is giving false hope. No one is selling a miracle.
    Anyone who has gone through this knows what the doctors and surgeons take is.
    "deal with it"

    Once they decided you are not going to improve all support stops.
    There is no option. They do not give you any hope. They tell you learn to live life in a wheel chair.

    Project Walk offers hope.
    Hope that they are not going to give up on you like the doctors and surgeon have,
    Hope that with hard work and support you can make a difference in your own quality of life.

    Why should someone have to give up just because a doctor tells you there is no hope?
    That’s what we were told
    And guess what
    They were WRONG.

    Working in the TV news industry I understand that the reporter was trying to get a broader side of the story.
    The way it was done though, reminds me of the sensationalized news of Fox.
    Why would you go to a surgeon who has no prior knowledge of PW.
    Was it that you could not find any doctor who had prior knowledge of project walk that had a negative opinion of the facility?. It seams the reporter created a controversy herself.

    I pray that anyone who watched this story takes a closer look at the facility and does there own research on the program.

    May 13, 2010 at 4:50 pm |
  5. Tracey

    I have seen what Project Walk has done. I have a nephew who was injured in a dirt bike accident and they said he would never be able to walk again. They were wrong. If there is feeling there, it is just a matter of retraining the body to move again. My nephew has gone from being hand fed and in a chair 24/7 to living on his own and walking. Project Walk does not give false hope. I believe if you had showed a different clip of Kendall to the one dr, he may have answered differently. What about the clip where she moved her legs on her own. That was awesome. I believe Project Walk is a great resource for the spinal cord injuries, they are allowing many to walk when others told them they couldn't. Project Walk thank you!!!

    May 13, 2010 at 6:28 am |
  6. Ed Jocz

    As for Texting issue with parents. First, What is wrong with parents fighting with text bills. The cell companies have ownership in this issue too. Why are parents letting kids control family issues, then paying the bills for something they didn't create. What are kids allowed to text. If the parent allowed this, then it is their fault and brought it on themselves. The phone for a kid should just be used for emergencies and calling home, not the world.

    The parent should buy the full Data package for kids, but someone needs to tell me why kids need texting when they don't pay for it!!

    The cell companies should add a feature that allows parents to turn texiting off. Or have the kids pay for their own bills? Parenting today won't let that happen. They don't know how to say " NO ".

    I have texting (500 messages a month) but I monitor it everyday and never have gone over it.

    Parents need to learn Parenting skills and know how to say "NO". End of subject!!


    Mr. Ed

    May 12, 2010 at 8:13 am |
  7. NJP Thompson

    I just want to say in regard to the comment that the doctor makes that the video of people standing looks a fake show, I will tell you that this is what happens as a person learns to walk again. The first step is for the person to regain the ability to stand because they are dizzy and the blood pressure and spasms are an issue at this point. They can be nauseated.

    After they are able to stand better, their steps are guided and then they can hold on and walk. It is a very laborious process and one that is very very slow to achieve a walking outcome. It takes years and dedication of the patient their family and their doctors.

    What usually happens is that the doctors make the decision for the patients that it would be best for them to just shut up and take the medicines and get into the power chairs.Buy the big vans, change their whole house.Because you know, the health insurance companies and "health policy makers" figured out that it is costly to recondition people. But if you know about this, you would never accept this because even small improvements can make a huge difference for people in the longer term.(This goes for stroke and also MS and TBI-all neuro injuries.)

    How awful for physicians to look at this and not be impressed by what Project Walk is trying to achieve. It is actually FACTUALLY quite common for SCI victims to be walking around today. Also never go by complete or incomplete, Some so-called completes have ended up walking too. It may not be possible for all, but certainly all efforts should be made available and people should not be discouraged.

    May 11, 2010 at 11:40 pm |

    The parapligic movie "Unbeaten" does not give false hope, and will be premiering at Walter Reed Medical Army Hospital on Wed May 12th at 6pm. You are invited. We are giving Avatar DVDs in the gift bags from Jon Landau. and

    May 11, 2010 at 11:35 pm |

    I can understand this working if there has been trauma to the spine with out an actual severing of the spinal cord. Possibly the spinal cord was "strained/sprained" by the trauma and could benefit from the forced activity. Best thing to do to an injury is to keep using the injured part to prevent it stiffening up on you. However, if this is being sold to people with complete severing of the spinal cord then I think the guy is a con-man and should be arrested.

    May 11, 2010 at 7:35 pm |
  10. sammy

    im a t-7 im in constant pain from a car wreck 6/3/07. i dont sleep and doctor tend to look at you like sorry but live with it. project walk is ok as to those that has great potential to walk but i would better have a chance being a lab rat in stem cell of any kind is where i put my hope on a project. there are thousands in my shoes who scream with pain every day with hopeless promises of a breakthrough with stem cell! if i had 70 thousand dollars i would go to india where hope is not in the way of politics and funding but im one who fall with a disability check of 700 dollars a month pulling my hair and hoping for a cure or death without my knowledge. until then i sit here isolated and hopeless to hope becomes a reality.
    Sincere Sammy...

    May 11, 2010 at 4:37 pm |