National Spinal Cord Injury Month – The Miami Project
Someone in the U.S. is paralyzed every 48 minutes.
Paralysis is something most people don’t think about much unless they, or someone they love, is paralyzed due to spinal cord illness or injury (SCI). Millions worldwide are living with paralysis, and to date there is no known cure.
To honor this mission and raise awareness, we want to highlight an organization that is doing so much to improve the independence, health, and quality of life of individuals with Spinal Cord Injury, and which is working tirelessly towards a cure for paralysis: The Miami Project.
About The Miami Project
The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis is considered the premier investigative research program conducting cutting edge discovery, translational, and clinical investigations targeting spinal cord and brain injuries. The Miami Project’s international team includes more than 200 scientists, researchers, clinicians, and support staff who take innovative approaches to the challenges of spinal cord and brain injuries.
The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis was founded in 1985 with the help of Barth A. Green, M.D. and NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Nick Buoniconti after Nick’s son, Marc, sustained a spinal cord injury during a college football game. Since its inception, research at The Miami Project has changed the landscape of knowledge and therapeutic strategies for spinal cord and traumatic brain injury.
The founders envisioned that to find a cure for paralysis, they needed to gather a committed group of scientists from various clinical and scientific disciplines in one center. Out of this vision, The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis was born.
Impact of The Miami Project
We spoke with one of the beneficiaries of The Miami Project’s mission: Ryan Gebauer.
On June 19, 1995, Ryan fell about 36 feet while climbing a tree to jump into a canal. Upon hitting the water, Ryan severed his spinal cord and instantly became paralyzed from the shoulders down, which ultimately led to his becoming a complete quadriplegic. He was only 16 years old at the time of his injury and had just finished his sophomore year in high school.
Ryan talked to us about his involvement with The Miami Project, and how their work has improved the quality of life for people with SCI across the country:
“The Miami Project researches and strives to improve upon all aspects of life with a spinal cord injury, as well as with the secondary complications that can occur, including topics like high cholesterol, fertility, appetite, nutrition, and fitness. I participated in several of these studies, as The Miami Project includes the individuals directly impacted by SCI and their loved ones as they develop and research new technologies.”
Advancements researched and developed by The Miami Project have led to more independence and autonomy for people with SCI in many ways. Ryan spoke to us about some of the advancements he has witnessed over the years.
“Today, there are people able to move independently in power wheelchairs, people driving, skydiving, scuba diving, etc. because of advances in technology due in large part to the work of The Miami Project. These new developments allow people like myself to go back to school, which I ultimately did, to go to college, which I ultimately did, to work and start a company, like I ultimately did, and to provide.
The Miami Project was instrumental in developing a post-injury treatment where the spinal cord is frozen before it begins to heal, which means less scar tissue around the injury that helps prevent further injury due to scarring and allows someone to have more function. This advancement means that if I were injured today, I would probably have a lot more movement in my biceps and in my deltoids than I currently do.”
Other impactful advancements developed by The Miami Project include the production of a vehicle designed specifically to be wheelchair compatible, thus eliminating the expense and need to modify a regular-model car. They helped to develop catheters that work well for someone with limited hand dexterity who can’t use their fingers to open the bag, and power-assist wheelchair that allows users to give a small push to propel the chair forward instead of having to use arm and hand strength exclusively. These are but a few examples of the important outcomes resulting from The Miami Project’s mission.
As Ryan summarizes:
“While The Miami Project is best known as an organization seeking a cure for paralysis, which they are doing, they have also been instrumental in helping with research, working with other institutions, and collaborating with people and organizations around the world to create advancements and improve the quality of life for individuals with SCI. They aren’t only working towards a cure; they also help people like myself have a better quality of life and to live a lot longer.”
How to Raise Awareness About Spinal Cord Injury Month
- Wear a Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Ribbon: The spinal cord injury ribbon color is lime green, and wearing a vibrant green ribbon can prompt people to ask questions, enabling you to educate and share information to expand awareness of spinal cord injuries and the need for resources, research, and funding.
- Raise Funds for Research and Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Efforts: Start an online fundraiser or crowdfunding campaign for organizations like The Miami Project. The idea of a campaign is to raise funds, but also to create more awareness about the pervasiveness of Spinal Cord Injury as well as educate on resources that are available to help.
- Host a Community Event: There are many community events you can host to raise awareness about spinal cord injuries. Ideas include sponsoring a walk/5k or hosting an educational session at a local school or local library.
- Talk About Spinal Cord Injury: Even if it isn’t feasible to raise funds or host an event, simply talking about Spinal Cord Injury, the need for further funding for research, and the resources available to help people and their families makes a difference.
- Volunteer for The Miami Project: The Miami Project has Chapters in Massachusetts, Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and South Carolina. To learn more about volunteer opportunities https://www.themiamiproject.org/
- Email Enemeez customer service for a free wristband in celebration of Spinal Cord Injury Month: [email protected]