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Thread: Gymnast's family considers cell therapy

  1. #1
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    Aug 2004
    Trang ,Thailand

    Gymnast's family considers cell therapy

    Gymnast's family considers cell therapy

    Published December 27, 2005

    The paralyzed teen might benefit from stem cell therapy that is available overseas, her family says.

    [Times photos: Zach Boyden-Holmes]
    Samantha Slusak, 16, uses a tilt table in her bedroom with help from her mother, Cellie, right, and nurse Jean Felgenhauer one afternoon this month. The table helps Samantha, who was paralyzed below the shoulders after a gymnastics accident this summer, improve her range of motion.

    Samantha, shown with her mother, Cellie, must use a ventilator attached to her trachea. Samantha's family hopes stem cell therapy that is not available in the United States holds the key to her recovery.

    [Slusak family photo]
    Samantha competes in a regional gymnastics meet at age 14. She did her first handstand when she was just 3 and started taking gymnastics lessons soon afterward. Her family is suing Suncoast Gymnastics Academy.

    This photo shows Samantha just weeks before the accident that bruised her spinal cord and left her paralyzed below the shoulders.

    To donate to Samantha's Trust Fund, go to

    NEW PORT RICHEY - Samantha Slusak was just 3 when she did her first handstand. Her mother almost immediately put her in gymnastics classes
    "I said, "Nobody does that,"' Cellie Slusak said. "She's always had exceptional strength. That's why we just can't count her out." Samantha has been a gymnast ever since. But five months ago, the 16-year-old was injured during what witnesses described as a routine front flip. The accident bruised her spinal cord and left her paralyzed below the shoulders.
    Now, the Slusaks hope that stem cell therapy not available in the United States could be the key to Samantha's recovery. Insertion of stem cells could repair damaged spinal cords.
    But an overseas trip would be expensive, and the family already has spent $10,000 on therapeutic equipment. It also is difficult to gauge the effectiveness of the stem cell treatments.
    "Overseas, they don't have the same FDA requirements, so it (stem cell therapy) is being done on humans over there," said Dalton Dietrich, scientific director of the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis at the University of Miami School of Medicine.

    "It's a little early to be putting stem cells in people's spinal cords. We really don't have all the answers on it yet." This month, the Slusaks sued Suncoast Gymnastics Academy, where Samantha was injured, alleging that the academy pushed their daughter "to perform a new gymnastic maneuver that was beyond her skill level."

    Neither the Slusaks nor the owners of Suncoast Gymnastics would comment on the suit.
    Hope has come in the form of small movements Samantha has made since her injury. In mid October, Samantha moved her shoulders, her foot and, sometimes, her thumb. But doctors say it will take another 12 to 18 months to determine the full extent of her injuries.

    Meanwhile, Samantha, sitting in a living room chair, uses a ventilator attached to her trachea. She speaks slowly and softly. "I miss being able to do everything," she said, "like gymnastics and school."

    * * *

    On July 12, paramedics responded to a neck injury call from the gymnastics academy where Samantha had trained since she was a little girl. It was a rainy Tuesday about 4:15 p.m.
    Pete Gelardi, a firefighter-EMT, arrived at the scene. Ambulances had gotten there shortly before.

    "She was lying in the pit, as they call it, and she was blue," Gelardi said. "It was kind of difficult for us to get her out of there, to not move her. The adults there were trying to keep the younger kids out who were crying. Some of the adults were teary eyed."
    It was a scene Gelardi said sticks with him. "I've been doing this 20 years, and every once in awhile, you run into a call that really gets to you," he said. "Because she's so young, and the situation that she was in, it bothered me."

    Cellie, a special education teacher, and her husband, Frank, who works for an extermination company, were on their way to the academy when they got a phone call.
    "They said they'd tried to Bayflite her, and we knew what that meant," Cellie said. "The ambulances were out there, and they were trying to get her breathing. I screamed, "Please let me in there with her,' but they wouldn't let me."

    Later, at Tampa General Hospital, the Slusaks were told their middle child was brain damaged and would never walk again. It was the first day of a long journey that began with a three-week stay at the hospital.

    "My husband kept saying, "Please, don't give up on her,"' Cellie said. "She'll surprise you. Out of all my kids, she's my fighter. She's the one who could handle something like this."
    Community fundraisers organized through school clubs and New Port Richey's fire department have raised hundreds of dollars for the Samantha Slusak Trust Fund.

    Samantha's days are peppered with hours of therapy, visits from friends and trips to restaurants with her family.

    Her bedroom walls were painted sky blue by her boyfriend, Wesley, and sister, Sarah, 19, when Samantha and her parents went to Shriners Hospital in Philadelphia last month to get therapy ideas and run tests.

    Sarah, a sophomore at the University of Alabama, took the semester off to care for brother Frankie, 14, while Cellie and Frank cared for Samantha.
    Samantha spends time each day on a thin, cushioned tilt table that resembles a bed in the blue room that once was occupied by her parents.

    Samantha lies on her back, her thin body secured to the table by black straps. The table, Cellie said, helps Samantha with her range of motion as it moves slowly in a movement similar to a seesaw.

    Some things haven't changed, Cellie said. Samantha's love for candy is evident by the bowl of Dove chocolates on her bedside table.

    Support from friends and family helps Samantha cope with her slow recovery. She will continue school in the spring through a program that will allow her to learn from home. And she plans to attend college someday to become a physical therapist.

    "Some days are good, some are bad," she said. "I just take it day by day."
    [Last modified December 27, 2005, 10:40:41]
    Matt , Thailand.

    C5-C6 Complete - ASIA A
    10 Years Disabled Man
    I will be walk again !!!

  2. #2
    why are they suing the gymnastics ppl?

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by cass
    why are they suing the gymnastics ppl?
    Further down in the article it said the gym pushed her to do something that was above her class.

    Usually, but may not be with this story, it is the parents who do the pushing. Same thing goes for childhood modeling
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  4. #4
    ah yes, earlier in the story witnesses said it was a routine maneuver. which was my point. her mom signs her up at age 3, 13 yrs later she's hurt. so the blame is on the gym? sorry. my son is in taekwondo. he could be hurt there.

    i dislike lawsuits that have only one thing in mind and it has nothing to do with fairness. of course, i am only questioning based on a news article.

    i am very sorry for this kid, of course. but i question blame being cast for an accident.

  5. #5
    Poor darling! Such a beautiful girl! I pray that she comes back better than before. Much love to you, Samantha.

  6. #6
    Senior Member
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    May 2005
    Dear Samantha

    My best wishes and many many prayers for your success and return to normal life. Samantha you are the beautiful girl and i have heard that God keeps His beautiful things in trials so be brave and fighter. You will win the battle soon. I am 26 and SCI too.



  7. #7
    ya know...what does beautiful have to do w/it? no insults intended here, but am i the only one (i doubt it) that notices if someone is good looking, there's more sympathy?

    i don't know how often i have heard "what a shame, he/she is so pretty, too." i mean, if you're not so good looking, somehow it makes a diff???

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by cass
    ya know...what does beautiful have to do w/it? no insults intended here, but am i the only one (i doubt it) that notices if someone is good looking, there's more sympathy?

    i don't know how often i have heard "what a shame, he/she is so pretty, too." i mean, if you're not so good looking, somehow it makes a diff???
    I hope I didn't offend. I just noticed how beautiful she was in her form. I think many people wish they were as strong as she was physically.

  9. #9
    oh no, you did not offend. it was just an observation on my part.

  10. #10
    To answer your question: Yes, beautiful people are treated more cordially in many instances than average-looking to below average-looking people.

    I often think the only reason I am not a pariah in many public places is because I am a good-looking person and I am very young. Beyond that and my warm personality, my condition would probably keep people at a distance. I notice people are nicer to me than they are to older people because I think they sympathize with a 20 something using a wheelchair.

    Unfortunately, prejudices exist in our society in many forms. My heart truly goes out to the disfigured and burned victims because so many treat these people less than human and it simply isn't fair. Those people have enough to deal with in their condition; to ostracise them is cruel. "Do to others as you would have them do to you."

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