Project Walk, Inc. Partners With Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan and Wayne State University School of Medicine for Groundbreaking Spinal Cord Injury Recovery Research Project
10/28/2002 5:00:00 AM
CARLSBAD, Calif., Oct 28, 2002 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Project Walk, Inc. Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Recovery Program in collaboration with the Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan (RIM) and Wayne State University School of Medicine announced today that they have launched an intensive year-and-a-half research project documenting the progress and success of a new SCI recovery program.
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The first round of findings will be presented at the annual American Paraplegia Society scientific meeting in Las Vegas, NV in 2003 with a more comprehensive research report to be released in 2004 comparing patient results in Project Walk vs. traditional rehabilitation programs over a 15 month timeframe.
Researchers will begin testing new clients on their first day at Project Walk and will continue follow-up testing and on-going documentation of each client's progress via monthly/bi-monthly meetings. Doctors and researchers at the Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan (RIM) and Wayne State University School of Medicine are very interested in studying and documenting the Project Walk methodology and hope to provide on-going assistance to help continuously improve the program with the ultimate goal of shortening recovery time.
In the last three years, clients participating in Project Walk have experienced recovery beyond that predicted during their initial rehabilitation. Now, in collaboration with the medical and scientific communities, the data to be acquired over the next 15 months will help to support the importance of Project Walk's methods for enhancing recovery following traumatic spinal cord injury. "We are the only recovery center that is not driven by research, but rather by our clients' individual goals," said Ted Dardzinski, founder of Project Walk, Inc. based in Carlsbad, Calif. "Project Walk is different because we believe that an SCI patient can recover. We promise to match each client's efforts and to work the clients harder than they would be worked anywhere else. Our job is to assist the client in achieving their recovery goal."
The team at Project Walk has engaged in thousands of hours working with and understanding the needs of SCI clients. Their program was developed primarily through hours of hands-on work resulting in repeated patterns of improvement and recovery. According to Tammy Dardzinski, co-founder of Project Walk, "After interviewing over 30 new clients from around the United States this summer, we know that our program is very unique and not currently offered anywhere else which is why our partnership with the Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan (RIM) and Wayne State University School of Medicine comes at a very important time. There are so many individuals who have suffered from spinal cord injuries that need the hope and results we believe Project Walk can provide."
Currently Project Walk has over 30 SCI clients. Never before have so many SCI clients been in one center with one common goal. The Project Walk team is currently recruiting for SCI clients who would like to participate in this active recovery research program. They are currently seeking out clients who have been injured less than six months or up to two years post injury. For more information or to arrange for a trial visit, please email them at email@example.com. Also, check out yesterday's (10/27/02) CURRENTS section of the San Diego Union Tribune at www.signonsandiego.com (http://www.signonsandiego.com) and click on the NEWS navigation button, for an up-close look at Project Walk and a personal profile on some of their clients.
Founded in 1999, Project Walk is a worldwide leader in the SCI recovery arena. It is an intensive workout program for people with spinal cord injuries and a goal of full recovery. The Project Walk program was developed through non-traditional methods by non-traditional trainers. Each has degrees in various fields including kinesiology, exercise physiology and nutrition. Their out-of-the-box thinking comes from expertise in the fields of posture and gait analysis, and performance training.
The company's headquarters are in Carlsbad, Calif. Project Walk's web site is located at http://www.projectwalk.org.
PROJECT WALK, INC.
2738 LOKER AVENUE, SUITE C, CARLSBAD, CA 92008
Project Walk -- SCI Special Fund
Laurie Fodor, 619/804-0210
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"Those who seek to predict the future... might first look to the past. The past is a mirror -- and those who ignore its sometimes dark reflection, are doomed to repeat it... Will it be those seeking redemption who shall decide the future... or will those driven only by greed and envy shape our destiny? Even a hundred years later, the outcome is still very much in doubt. .." Outer Limits(Heart's Desire)
11-04-2002, 04:19 PM
..the links no longer work http://sci.rutgers.edu/forum/images/smilies/mad.gif
Never say never
Carlsbad clinic breaks from traditional therapy to help the paralyzed walk again
Story by R.J. Ignelzi Staff Writer
Photos by Roni Galgano Staff Photographer
October 27, 2002
Taking the young man's limp calf in his hands, trainer Ted Dardzinski guides his client's leg back and forth, over and over like a pendulum. All the while, he's feeling for a response in the muscle, watching for a reaction on the former surfer's face.
"Come on. Concentrate. I shouldn't be doing all the work here. What, you think you're a quadriplegic or something?" Dardzinski says, letting out a hoot of laughter.
From his prone position, Matt Thiede offers a quick wry smile. Then he gets serious. With his jaw clenched, shoulders drawn back, and eyes riveted on his limb, he takes control of the movement.
Lifting his own leg only a few inches may seem like a small motion, but it's enormous to this 20-year-old. A little more than a year ago, right before he came to Project Walk, doctors told him he'd never be able to perform that kind of movement. Today, he can ride an exercise bike unassisted. He's convinced he'll be able to walk eventually.
"OK, that's it. Now, you're working. Good job," says Dardzinski, 39, the exercise physiologist who co-owns Project Walk, a Carlsbad-based exercise program for people with spinal-cord injuries. "Great. Now do 100 more just like that."
He's not kidding.
"Hey, nobody said this was going to be easy," he shrugs.
In fact, nobody said some of the improvements Project Walk clients are seeing were even possible. What doctors and therapists did say was that these quadriplegics and paraplegics would use wheelchairs for the rest of their lives and some could never live independently. Many are still saying it, voicing skepticism about the Project Walk program.
The Dardzinskis have refused to listen.
"Traditional medicine doesn't expect them to get any better, so in that kind of setting they don't," says trainer Tammy Dardzinski, Ted's wife and co-owner of the program. "Traditional rehab doesn't work with any part of your body that doesn't work. They figure it's paralyzed, what's the use? Their goal is simply to get them to live and function in a wheelchair."
(bigbreak) Defying the odds
For Mike Thomas, a successful La Jolla businessman, using a wheelchair wasn't living.
Even though doctors gave him a 3 percent chance of walking again after he broke his neck in an auto accident, he was determined to regain his mobility.
When three months of hospital rehabilitation taught him how to do little more than get in and out of his wheelchair, Thomas knew he had to go beyond the boundaries of the medical community. So he and his wife, Betsy, asked around and sought the best physical trainer they could find.
That led them to Dardzinski in March of 1999. But it took some fast talking to persuade him he was the right man for the job.
"I'm an athletic trainer. I work with athletes," Dardzinski told Betsy, as he glanced over at Thomas, who was strapped into his wheelchair like a human rag doll.
"But, Mike is an athlete," she persisted. "He just has this little spinal problem."
After promising that her husband would be a diligent client, Dardzinski agreed. But, on his own terms. He was going to train Thomas the only way he knew how – as an injured athlete.
At their first workout, Dardzinski had him sit in his wheelchair with a cushion between his knees and told him to squeeze it.
Thomas, who had little function in his arms and only a slight sensation in one big toe, was incredulous.
"I'm a quad," he said. "I don't squeeze pillows."
Dardzinski convinced him to try. Just 20, he coaxed.
Thomas concentrated on squeezing the pillow over and over. He was ordered to do another 20, and then another. By the third or fourth set, although there was no visible movement, he thought he could feel something, ever so slight, in his legs.
Then as Dardzinski was moving Thomas' legs back and forth, a spasm hit and the leg went rigid and started shaking as the muscle contracted.
"That's great, you have movement there," Dardzinski said excitedly.
Thomas informed him that it wasn't "movement," it was "just a spasm," and that they were a nuisance and he took drugs to quell them.
But, to Dardzinski, movement was movement. And, involuntary or not, that had to be a good thing.
He experimented, moving Thomas' legs around in different ways and found he could trigger spasms. Dardzinski would then resist the spasm and had Thomas push through the resistance. With time and repetition, Thomas was able to control the spasms and later turn them into controlled muscle movement.
Turning involuntary contractions into voluntary movement became Project Walk's mantra.
Just three months after starting his work with Dardzinski, Thomas was able to stand at his daughter's high school graduation. Exactly, one year to the date of his accident, he walked unsupported across a room with family and friends watching. And, three months after that, he danced at the annual father/daughter dance at the University of California Berkeley.
Today, at 59, Thomas walks with the aid of only a hiking stick.
One of his joys in life is to go to hospital rehab centers and back to Project Walk and talk to the patients and clients.
"I know what it's like. I know how depressing it can be," he says. "But, they have to know that that's not how it's always going to be. Just watching me walk in can give them hope."
(bigbreak) Outside the box
With strength-training equipment and fitness tools lining the mirrored room, Project Walk looks like an ordinary suburban gym. However, most of the exercisers there aren't working their muscles. At least, not at first. They're training their nervous system.
"We're trying to get the nervous system to reorganize itself and make new connections to the muscles," Dardzinski explains. "Later, when we get to a certain level, then the muscles start to work."
In the first phase of the program, trainers repeatedly move the paralyzed limbs while the client watches, often not feeling anything. Over time – from weeks to months – and thousands of repetitive movements, feeling begins to return. Sometimes it's just a pinch or flicker, other times it's a burning, and often it's an involuntary muscle contraction or spasm.
"In time, we've seen the involuntary muscle contractions become voluntary. They're creating new connections, new neuropathways, from the brain to the muscle," Ted says. "Once they can control the nervous system, they can control the body parts."
Make no mistake, this is not physical therapy. In fact, there are no physical therapists or doctors at Project Walk, and that's the way the Dardzinskis like it. They enjoy the freedom of working outside the conventional medical community and not worrying about the constraints of health insurance.
Currently, Project Walk has 30 quadriplegic and paraplegic clients from all over the country, ranging in age from 14 to 63. Fifteen trainers, all with degrees in exercise physiology, have been trained by the Dardzinskis to work one-on-one with the clients.
Despite his enthusiasm for the program, Dardzinski admits Project Walk isn't the answer for everyone.
The ideal client is someone just released from the hospital. However, Dardzinski will accept people up to two years post-injury, and sometimes, depending on the individual, beyond that.
Clients need to have some feeling in the lower extremities before starting the program. And they must be able to breathe without a respirator, so quadriplegics such as Christopher Reeve would be ineligible for Project Walk.
They must also have the time and money to pay for it. Project Walk is a two-year program and costs $3,000 per month, for training five days a week.
But, more than anything, Dardzinksi says each of his clients must have the right attitude.
"What I'm looking for are individuals who believe they'll be able to walk again and not be afraid to work really hard at achieving their goal," he says.
Their efforts, determination and perseverance make his "the best job in the world," he says, but also the most emotionally wrenching.
"I can't get caught up with their injury. I know they've had a horrible experience. Sometimes life sucks," he says. "But, it's history and I can't change that. What I can change is the outcome. That's what drives me."
It's not unusual for him to take a bathroom break or run out to his car for something to hide the tears welling up in his eyes.
"The only thing I can do is help them work hard and leave here feeling better than when they came in," he says. "The reward is that everyday here somebody's life improves."
Copyright 2002 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
Project has some
By R.J. Ignelzi STAFF WRITER
October 27, 2002
Project Walk folks say they don't want their program just to rock the boat. They want to sink it. The Carlsbad-based organization's insistence that recovery from spinal cord injuries is possible is making waves in the mainstream rehabilitation community.
"A lot of it is just goofy stuff," says Dr. Lance Stone, medical director of rehabilitative services at UCSD, about the claims and program descriptions on the Project Walk Web site (www.projectwalk.org) (http://www.projectwalk.org)).
He takes issue with the program's unconventional methods and its lack of science. Most of the people there are "incompletes" (some sensation and function below the point of injury), he points out, and less than two years post-injury.
"We know that most incomplete spinal cord injury patients continue to recover in the first two years. I'd expect them to see improvements," Stone says.
Intense daily exercise would also be expected to help patients hone their motor skills, say others.
"Exercising three hours a day is a tremendous amount of training," says Dr. Jerome Stenehjem, medical director of Sharp Rehabilitation Center, who is also skeptical of the program. "It's not surprising that they're improving their quality of movement."
UCSD's Stone surmises that Project Walk clients are getting better not because of the therapy, "but because they would have gotten better on their own."
But some other rehabilitation specialists aren't so sure.
"Project Walk is different from what anybody else is doing," says Dr. Steven Hinderer, chief of Detroit Medical Center's Rehabilitation Center and chairman of the department of physical medicine at Wayne State University.
"The medical community hasn't changed their rehabilitation techniques in more than 30 years," Hinderer says. "Who knows? Maybe we have something here."
He can understand, however, why others are skeptical. He was, too. Then, he went to the Carlsbad facility and observed for a few days. He saw people, including a former quadriplegic patient, who had improved several levels beyond expectations.
"You can't argue with those kinds of observations," says Hinderer from Detroit. "It tells me that something appears to be happening here and we need to get a better handle on it."
Part of the skepticism about Project Walk is due to Project Walk's view of muscle spasms.
"Ted (Dardzinski, co-founder of Project Walk) goes after spasms," Hinderer says. "He discovered that if you facilitate those reflex responses enough and have patients really tune into them and try to create them themselves, they can actually gain control over them."
But, to some doctors, this concept doesn't make sense.
"I don't see the whole spasm connection," says Stone, who has not personally observed the program. "Spasms are involuntary movement. We don't try to facilitate them, we try to inhibit them. I don't think they know what they're talking about."
Others point out, however, that we don't always understand how and why some things work. But, they do.
"We may be able to explain it in a few years, but not right now," says Dr. Jeffrey Pearson, a San Marcos osteopath who visited the program after one of his patients became a client there. "Sometimes it takes radical thinkers who must look and try things differently, before we get answers."
One of the major criticisms of Project Walk, which is staffed solely by fitness trainers, is that it hasn't been put through any clinical trials.
The program is trying to rectify that. Starting this fall, the Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan and Wayne State University School of Medicine will begin a 15-month research study documenting the progress of new Project Walk clients. Funded by the university, researchers will test clients on a monthly basis. The first round of findings will be presented at the annual American Paraplegia Society meeting next year, with a more comprehensive report due out in 2004.
"Often, cutting-edge stuff doesn't come from where you'd expect it would," Hinderer says. "It comes from a Tammy and Ted who use good observation skills to make something good happen."
The one thing about Project Walk that nearly everyone agrees is beneficial is the nonclinical environment.
Instead of sitting in wheelchairs, clients are riding exercise bikes, performing floor exercises or working out on strength equipment. The laughter and friendly chatter drowns out the music playing softly in the background.
"I think it's great to have the camaraderie. It keeps people invested," says Sharp's Stenehjem. "A positive social environment can be a very important factor in someone sustaining themself through this process."
While Stenehjem applauds Project Walk clients' dedication to their recovery, he's concerned that for many it may end in disappointment.
"I'm afraid that many people will come there and put in a lot of work, but won't achieve walking," he says. "Of course, people with spinal cord injuries want to walk again. But, we have to be careful not to exploit their desire and hope."
But, when it comes to spinal cord injuries, Hinderer wonders if there's such a thing as false hope.
"We don't have all the answers yet, so who are we to tell them they can't walk?" he says. "Project Walk probably won't be the only answer. But Project Walk may be a big piece of the pie that needs to be put together."
Copyright 2002 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
A common bond
Stories by R.J. Ignelzi Staff Writer
October 27, 2002
Besides the wheelchairs they roll in on, Project Walk clients seem to have little in common.
They're an eclectic mix of three generations from at least eight states around the country.
Their interests and backgrounds are as unique as their smiles. A guitar player works out next to an orchestra conductor while a film writer shares exercise equipment with a high school student. Some are wealthy, many are not, and most no longer care about the difference.
Despite their diversity, the 30 Project Walk clients are linked by a common bond – they all believe they will walk again. Through hard work and perseverance, they're determined to prove their diagnosis is not their destiny. Here's a glimpse at five of them.
'I knew I could do more'
Ask Tim Crane why he wears a perpetual smile and he cheerfully answers, "Why not?"
A quadriplegic for the last 20 months, he bears no anger or bitterness toward his fate. That's something a lot of people can't understand.
A talented Hollywood up-and-comer, the 26-year-old wrote and produced short films, several of which appeared at the New York Film Festival and Sundance. He also produced TV commercials for clients like McDonald's, Burger King and Heineken. And he was a marathon runner, completing four 26-mile races in respectable time.
Sober, but exhausted, he was driving home late one rainy night, when his BMW flipped over on the freeway. Amazingly unscathed, he crawled out of the car. But, just as he was crossing the road, a drunk driver hit him at 65 mph.
At first, doctors didn't think he'd live. Then revising his prognosis, they said because a third of his crushed skull had to be replaced, he'd be brain damaged.
But, his mother, Laura, knew her son, and she wasn't convinced.
Leaning over his bandaged head, she whispered, "Hi Tim. It's Mom. I love you."
He looked up at her, tried to smile and mouthed the words, "I love you, too, Mom."
Defiantly, she turned to the doctors. "See, I told you he isn't brain damaged."
His spirit and determination were undamaged, too. After seven months in the hospital and another five months in rehab, Crane came to Project Walk because "I knew I could do more."
Today he can sit up unassisted, move his toes, and has increased strength in his arms and trunk.
He's currently making a documentary about why he believes people should try to recover from paralysis.
"I'm not saying everyone can recover, but I think everyone should at least try," he says. "Unless you try, how will you ever know?"
one-time skier serves as mentor for others
VJ Berry has always been a perfectionist.
He endlessly practiced snow skiing maneuvers until he was one of the fastest ski racers in Utah. He trained in Bolivia to become a top-notch amateur soccer player. And, he secretly played the guitar for more than six years before anyone, including his parents, knew.
"I wanted to get good enough at it before people found out," says the 28-year-old quadriplegic who broke his neck in a ski race accident more than 2-1/2 years ago.
The same fastidious attitude pervades his efforts to walk.
While he's now able to stroll stiffly but steadily around the Project Walk facility using only forearm crutches for support, he has not attempted walking outside the gym.
"Not ready yet," he says simply.
He will be soon, however. He's confident of that, and so is everyone at Project Walk.
But he won't be content to simply walk.
"I want to run. I want to break dance. I want to kick ass," says Berry. Doctors told him he would never walk again.
Normally an intense and solitary man, Berry has taken on the unofficial role of mentor to new Project Walk clients. He's someone they turn to when they have problems, questions or just need a little inspiration.
"I don't mind," he says. "When I started here, it took watching and talking to Mike Thomas (Project Walk's first client who now walks) to know that I could do it. If I can do that for others, that's cool."
former conductor wants his body to move in harmony
Taking a break from his Project Walk exercise routine, Mario Miragliotta sits in his wheelchair, huddled over a book. As he reads, his right hand makes small movements in the air.
"It's music," he explains, opening up a musical score. "I'm an orchestra conductor."
The emphasis is proudly on the present tense.
A quadriplegic since breaking his neck in an auto accident last year, the former assistant conductor of the Los Angeles-based American Youth Symphony is about to begin his new job as the conductor and artistic director of San Diego Classics for Kids.
"Music is my passion, and Project Walk is giving my passion back to me by giving me the strength and endurance to conduct again," says the 32-year-old Brazilian native.
Told by doctors he'd spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair and not to "try anything stupid like standing up," he works every day to prove them wrong. He's already gained back most of his arm movement, he can ride the bike with minimum assistance and has feeling in his legs.
Even greater than his love of music, however, is the devotion to his family.
"I want to do this for my boy. For the day he'll come to one of my concerts and see me up there and say, 'That's my daddy,' " say Miragliotta, looking over at his 2-year-old son, Sergio, who accompanies him and his wife to Project Walk most days. "I want to make him proud.
"Right now I'm trying to get some harmony in my life," he says. "I'm working on three things at once – my work, my family and myself."
her full-time job is overcoming obstacle
As Joy Dobler stretched out in her backyard hammock on that summer afternoon, she looked up at the Midwest sky and counted her blessings. A loving marriage to a well-known former NFL player. Six terrific children and stepchildren. And a thriving, temporary-staffing business.
Life was good for the former RN. But it can also be fickle. As she shifted positions in the hammock, it abruptly rolled over, throwing her to the lawn and breaking her neck.
At first, Kansas City doctors gave her a 1 percent chance of ever walking again. But, after a botched surgery (they mistakenly attached her esophagus to her spine), her chances of walking were reduced by half.
"I have no intention of living my life in a chair," said Dobler, 45, while exercising her legs with a Project Walk trainer. "I have children to raise and a lot of work to do. A chair just doesn't match my attire."
In fact, her attire sets her apart from the other Project Walk exercisers clad in T-shirts and sweats. She is dressed in tailored shorts and a pastel knit top, and her hair is perfectly coiffed, her long nails are freshly painted, and her makeup is expertly applied.
"Working out here is my full-time job right now," says a very businesslike Dobler, who has gained movement in her legs, can ride the exercise bike unassisted and improved her core strength since she came to the program nearly three months ago. "When I used to go to work every day, I wore makeup and had my hair done and wore nice clothes. I'm not going to compromise who I am because I'm a quadriplegic.
"I'm not in a dress and heels as I'd like to be at my job, but I know I will be again," she grinned. "And, then I can really strut my stuff."
he hopes to play again
With a set jaw and determined glare, paraplegic Ryan Collo focuses on his balance exercises, ignoring the laughter and conversation around him. He has come to Project Walk to work. He doesn't want to play games.
Unless, of course, it's football.
"I don't want to be in a wheelchair. I want to run again. I want to play football," says the 20-year-old former tailback for the University of Texas and Mesa College. "And now, thanks to Project Walk, I really think it's possible."
As he hurried off to football practice last April, his motorcycle hit a median and his body slammed chest-first into a tree.
He was paralyzed from the mid-chest down, and doctors credit his strong athletic frame for saving his life. Collo credits the drive and tenacity he learned on the football field for his physical improvement.
Despite being told he'd never walk again, today the Encinitas resident can ride the exercise bike unassisted and crawl on his hands and knees, and he is on the brink of standing up.
But, most importantly, he credits his family and friends for renewing his spirit.
The gospel choir he sang with held a benefit concert and raised $16,000 to help pay Project Walk tuition. A friend's mother donated money to make his home wheelchair-accessible. And his parents left their jobs for three months after the accident, "just to be with me," he says.
"This has taught me who and what really matters in life," he says. "I couldn't have gotten through this without these people."
For more information about Project Walk, call (760) 734-4588 or www.projectwalk.org (http://www.projectwalk.org)
Financial aid to help cover Project Walk fees may be available through the Orange County-based SCI Special Fund, a nonprofit foundation dedicated to helping people with spinal-cord injuries. For more information, contact Project Walk's financial director, (619) 224-0868.
Copyright 2002 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
Project Walk (http://www.projectwalk.org)