This is why we do it!

“Look, Susie, I can move my toe,” isn’t that impressive, unless the man saying it is completely paralysed from the neck down. And those words could change the course of spinal cord research forever.



After a car accident, Rob Summers was told he would never walk again, but just a few weeks after Dr. Susan Harkema wired an electrical stimulator to Rob’s spinal cord, the unthinkable became reality. Rob slowly started to move his limbs. A toe-wiggle on a path to a true medical miracle, in a world where spinal cord injury is still deemed irreversible.

This is what thousands worldwide ran for on May 4, 2014 – a cure for spinal cord injury – but there is still a long way to go. Dr. Harkema’s groundbreaking experimental therapy in epidural electrical stimulation is just the very start.

The Wings for Life Spinal Cord Research Foundation and the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation have joined their superpowers to drive Dr. Harkema and her team on the next step of their journey: a breakthrough clinical study that will likely commence in mid-2015. 

The study, called The Big Idea, will test the hypothesis in 36 individuals living with spinal cord injury that epidural stimulation can be used to recover a significant level of autonomic control. A special group of eight patients will be funded directly by the Wings for Life World Run 2014.

“Our ultimate goal is to get to the finish line as quickly as possible,” said Peter Wilderotter, President and CEO of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. “Wings for Life and the Reeve Foundation share the same philosophy when it comes to research, and we certainly share the same mission. It is rare for two non-profits to join forces, but when you have the ability to change lives in the here-and-now, it is critical to leverage resources and lock arms for the sake of the millions living with paralysis worldwide. We believe that, together, we can help mobilize people to support this research and get us there quicker.”  

Wings for Life scientific director Jan Schwab added “Dr. Harkema’s study is a unique example based on solid science, culminating over the last 30 years into a frontrunner study, aiming to make a difference for patients with spinal cord injury.”

So now we have a real, tangible reason to run. Rally your family, register your friends. Get everyone you know out there on May 3, and let’s make this happen. Let’s find a cure for spinal cord injury and run for those who can’t … yet.

For more information about the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation and Wings for Life partnership see here 

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