25-year old Rob Summers, formally a successful college pitcher, was left paralyzed from the waist down after a hit-and-run incident four years ago. And now, thanks to an experimental new form of therapy, has been able to take the second first steps of his life.
What we've really discovered is the neurons in the spinal cord can do all the same things as the nerves in the brain," says lead study author Susan Harkema, of the University of Louisville.
Summers' injury disrupted the nerve pathway that normally triggers walking. Researchers implanted an electrical stimulator at the base of the spine that - along with special exercises - allowed his legs to move without input from the brain.
He's also made other meaningful progress - regaining bladder and sexual function. But he's still wheelchair-bound, and doctors cannot say whether he'll walk again on his own. But, every day, he remembers the first time he stood up.
"It's that moment that continues to give me the hope for tomorrow, and the future for this project - and helping out millions of other people in my same situation," Summer says.
*wiping tear* Heartwarming. Plus he regained bladder and sexual function -- you can't beat that with a stick! I mean, you could, but I'd try sweet-talking a nurse first.
Thanks to Terence, who's hard at work on the exact opposite problem: how to spend less time standing and more time lying down.