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Thread: 11 years post injury...Girl walks again

  1. #1

    11 years post injury...Girl walks again

    'When I took my first steps I didn't feel like Supergirl - it just felt natural'
    (Filed: 12/10/2003)

    At the age of seven, Gemma Quinn was paralysed in a car crash. Doctors said she would never breath unaided let alone walk again. Now, 11 years later, she has proved them wrong. Elizabeth Day hears her astonishing recovery tale

    The television screen flickers into life. A beautiful blonde teenager in a red, velour tracksuit stands shakily upright and takes a single step.
    The lounge room erupts in shrieks of joy, screams of disbelief, the sound of clapping hands and muffled crying. In the middle of it all, the girl in the red tracksuit smiles - composed and separate from the mayhem that surrounds her. Then the screen goes fuzzy.
    'This accident has made me who I am': Gemma Quinn with her therapist, Hratch OgaliGemma Quinn's first step in more than a decade was captured on video as a 44th birthday present for her father.
    "I wanted to do something special for my dad, because we have a really strong bond and he's always been so supportive of me," says Gemma. "By the end of it, everyone in the room was crying. There wasn't a dry eye, but I didn't cry. I always thought it would feel different when I walked, but it didn't. It was instinctive. I didn't even think about it. I just did it."
    "Just do it" is a catchphrase that encapsulates Gemma's attitude to life. On the day we meet, the motto is emblazoned in loopy white writing across the grey sweatshirt she is wearing. The three words sum up the cast-iron determination that has characterised the years that have passed since Gemma was paralysed from the neck down in a car crash at the age of seven.
    On June 6, 1992, Gemma was asleep in the back seat of a Rover Maestro driven by her father, Mike, on the way to a family holiday in North Wales. On a winding country road, the car was clipped by an overtaking lorry, ploughed into a wall and flipped over into a field.
    The accident left her with a severed spinal cord and a categorical declaration from her doctors that she would never walk again. She would, they said, be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life, dependent on 24-hour care, unable even to breathe on her own.
    "I never let that get me down," she says with a smile. "I just got on with it."
    After nine months in hospital on a ventilator, Gemma had recovered the ability to breathe independently. The doctors, amazed by her determination and their own misdiagnosis, still insisted that she would never recover any movement from the neck down. But last November, after a decade of immobility, she began to regain sensation in her feet.
    In all, it took 11 years of "getting on with it" before Gemma's star turn last month in the video for her father. He broke down in tears when he watched it. Within a fortnight, Gemma could walk 20 paces, ride an exercise bike and kick a football.
    Now she talks of having the metal rod in her back surgically removed, of regaining full movement and of her desire to travel to Kenya. The medical profession, slack-jawed in astonishment at her transformation so far, would be wise not to say "never" now.
    Last week, as her inspiring story became public, the media gave Gemma, whose spinal injury is similar to that sustained by Christopher Reeve in a horse riding accident in 1995, the nickname of "Supergirl".
    "I wouldn't go that far," she says, in response. "I've just never given up hope and never thought it was too hard to continue. When I took my first steps it didn't feel like a Supergirl - it just felt natural."
    The man Gemma and her family credit with her cure has no formal medical training. Hratch Ogali, a former Armenian jeweller with a formidable white handlebar moustache, styles himself as the "Mind Instructor" and has worked with Gemma for almost 12 months.
    Mr Ogali claims that through mind therapy, breathing exercises and physical training he has "re-connected her body back to her brain" and taught her mind to use "different paths to movement".
    However, the British Medical Association has been scornful of the claims, stating last week that "some people over time do simply get better".
    "There is no way of proving that it has been linked to her treatment," a BMA spokesman said.
    While the therapy might sound implausible or unscientific to its critics, the proof of Gemma's recovery is before my eyes: her legs are moving. "It's real," she says simply, in a soft Liverpudlian accent.
    "This treatment is here now and can help people who don't need to wait years for a research breakthrough. There needs to be more funding of this work so that more people like me can get better."
    According to Mr Ogali, his technique enables the mind to tap into the memory of movement. "Traditional medicine treats the body and the mind as separate," he says, "but you have to learn to reconnect them.
    I tell Gemma to close her eyes, go into her brain and down the spinal cord and activate all the nerve endings that were connected before her cord was severed. I then tell her to allow that energy to flow, and focus as deeply as she can on different parts of her body until she can feel them.
    "Gemma's body was very tired and very tense from being in the same position for many years. By freeing the mind, we relax the body and make it more flexible. If we took an X-ray of her broken spinal cord, I wouldn't be surprised if it had reconnected."
    The therapy doesn't come cheap. A one-hour session with Mr Ogali costs £80, but, to a 19-year-old who was once told that she would be wheelchair-bound for life, the treatment is worth every penny.
    "It was fate coming to H [Ogali]," she says. "My dad saw him featured on a morning television programme and I came to London from Liverpool to meet him. On the strength of that one meeting, I moved to London to work with him full-time.
    "Now I get bullied mercilessly by H for three-and-a-half hours a day," Gemma says wryly. "It's a real battle of the wills, but I always win. Then I go home and do another five hours on my own, lifting weights with my arms and concentrating on my breathing.
    Then I crash back in my flat, watching junk on TV such as EastEnders or The Osbournes. I generally find that a bottle of red wine sorts most things out at the end of the day."
    This week's media coverage aside, Gemma Quinn's name might sound familiar to some. At the age of 10 she wrote a letter to Christopher Reeve, the former actor who played Superman, after he broke his C1-C2 vertabrae (Gemma's injury was to the vertabrae below, C2-C3) in a fall from a horse.
    "I know it seems like the end of the world," she wrote, in July 1995, "but you will be surprised. It took me three years to adjust to my new life, but now I am a very happy girl. I just hope this letter has given you courage to carry on and not to give up."
    In the 11 years since her car accident, Gemma has raised more than £100,000 for spinal research charities, won a Child of Courage award in 1996, passed five GCSEs and four A-levels in English, history, psychology and maths, by dictating the answers to her exam papers to her team of carers. As with everything else in her life, she tells me that she "just did it" with the minimum amount of fuss.
    On meeting Gemma it seems incredible that such a petite, delicate-featured woman could have achieved so much. With sleek caramel highlights in her hair, big blue-green eyes, high cheekbones and toenails painted gold, she looks more like a member of the pop group Atomic Kitten than a fearless pioneer.
    But despite all her achievements there are, inevitably, things she misses. They are generally the mundane, abilities that others take for granted such as brushing her own hair or cleaning her own teeth.
    "But I couldn't give you a list of things that I want to do more than anything else. My ultimate aim is to make a full recovery. I just want an improved quality of life. I'm always pushing myself, thinking about how to use what I've gained and where to go next.
    "There's so much I've missed out on. I have a huge family and a lot of my cousins have had babies and I haven't been able to hold them. Now my aunt is expecting in December, so I'm determined that this is the first baby I am going to hold."
    For someone injured so young, she displays a surprising lack of bitterness about the accident that cost her her formative years.
    "There's no resentment," she says. "Some days, I wish I had my youth back and had experienced more of a normal teenage life, but this accident has made me who I am. I always had a good imagination and would create little worlds for myself even before the accident, which I think has helped, and I write a lot about what I'm feeling."
    Only once during our conversation does Gemma come close to expressing any resentment - and even then it is only at the disappointing performance of Liverpool Football Club, the team for which she makes the long journey north for each home game.
    "H hates football because it interrupts my work and distracts me," she says, glancing at her therapist as he shakes his head, "but I'm not too pleased with Liverpool at the moment. I went all the way back for the Arsenal game [on October 4] and sat in the rain for hours with all my muscles tightening up because I was cold. Then we lost 2-1 and I was sorry I bothered."
    It is dark outside when our conversation comes to an end, but Gemma carries on working. She stands slowly, gritting her teeth and focuses her gaze on the wall opposite. Her breathing deepens and, grimacing with the supreme effort, she locks her knees and pushes herself forward to take a single step.
    If Gemma Quinn, paraplegic, can walk, then perhaps anything is possible. Liverpool FC, in eighth place on the Premiership table, take note.
    13 July 2003: New hope for the paralysed as scientists re-grow spinal cords23 March 2003: Christopher Reeve gets back his sense of smell11 September 2002: Paraplegic Reeve's 'remarkable recovery'10 October 2000: Curtains for girl with musical ambitions
    Gemma and her will to walk conquers all [8 Oct '03] - Liverpool Echo

    Gemma Quinn - Spinal Research

    Chritsopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation

    British Medical Association [BMA]

    ...You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you...

  2. #2
    A friend of mine saw this on Discovery and I find it very....I dont know interesting
    After her spinal cord was severed 11years ago she can move her legs..... IS SOMETHING LIKE THIS POSSIBLE?
    Last edited by Romeo; 04-28-2006 at 07:19 AM.
    ...You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you...

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Ogali
    If we took an X-ray of her broken spinal cord, I wouldn't be surprised if it had reconnected."
    If the story is true as written then her recovery could be labeled a "miracle".

    So why haven't they bothered to take a simple x-ray to see what's going on in there? Or an MRI? The story was filed over 2 years ago.

    Gemma has raised more than £100,000 for spinal research charities
    She seems to be socially concerned and responsible so why isn't she and those around her interested in learning about the epidemiology and reason for her recovery? Perhaps the knowledge could help others.

    I'd like to see a video of her walking and kicking a football.
    "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle." - Philo of Alexandria

  4. #4
    Senior Member jukespin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bob clark

    I'd like to see a video of her walking and kicking a football.
    I'd like to see a video of her...oops, wrong forum.
    "Sometimes I just sets and thinks...
    and sometimes I just sets.
    "

    Otis Redding I think

  5. #5
    Hi Romeo,

    It certainly is interesting. Gemma has been discussed here before.

    http://carecure.org/forum/showthread...ht=gemma+quinn

    Being in the UK, I had done some research on Gemma after my accident and the jury was always out on the severity of damage to her cord.

    As Wise often mentions, very few cords are 'totally severed'. Gemma undergoes strenuous daily physio too.

    If only a mind doctor was the key, you cant get any less intrusive!

  6. #6
    Does everyone else have mixed feelings about stories like this? Is there anything to what was reported about training the mind regrowing nerves?

    I know that darlagee's posted in the exercise forum about mentally trying to move the muscles of her legs even though it doesn't look like it's doing anything. I try to spend 20 min or so each day to do this. Maybe it's just cuz I'm in my first year post-SCI. So far, I've had a few minor muscles in the foot move (I'm a low para) but I keep trying every day. A bunch of the traditional chinese medicine professionals I've consulted talk about this "dao-ying" technique to regain function. Is there anything to this?

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by dan_nc
    Does everyone else have mixed feelings about stories like this? Is there anything to what was reported about training the mind regrowing nerves?

    I know that darlagee's posted in the exercise forum about mentally trying to move the muscles of her legs even though it doesn't look like it's doing anything. I try to spend 20 min or so each day to do this. Maybe it's just cuz I'm in my first year post-SCI. So far, I've had a few minor muscles in the foot move (I'm a low para) but I keep trying every day. A bunch of the traditional chinese medicine professionals I've consulted talk about this "dao-ying" technique to regain function. Is there anything to this?

    Dan, Dr. Young explains beautifully regarding training the mind regrowing nerves on here: (Dr. Young, the power of our mind.) check it out.

  8. #8
    obviously she was originally mis-diagnosed.

  9. #9
    chasb !!!!!!!!!!!! hi!!!!!

    I remember that what was "complete" that long ago...now is completely incomplete when assessed by people like me. So agreeing with Chasb...
    1FineSpineRN

  10. #10
    Senior Member ChopperChick's Avatar
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    If that is how so many of you feel about this story, consider this...... How many here have been misdiagnosed??..............

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