Just thought I would log a quick update on how things are progressing. After taking Monday and Tuesday of last week off, I tried to finish up the voluntary movement studies with their final experiment but, unfortunately, I still had some blood pressure challenges. They concluded that it would be best for me to move on and move forward with the cardiovascular experiments.
For the past four days I have been successfully going through their cardiovascular protocol, and I begin a series of final cardiovascular experiments tomorrow. The goal of these experiments is to figure out the right type of electrical configuration on the stimulator that would help me to maintain a normal blood pressure with a systolic pressure of 110-120. As I mentioned before, it is very typical for people with spinal cord injuries to have very low blood pressure. My typical is in the high 80s over mid 50s. If someone had a 110/80 blood pressure and experienced a drop to 80/50, they most likely would feel lightheaded and possibly pass out. For people living with spinal cord injuries, it seems that over time our bodies get used to the new normal and the general medical community basically writes it off. Well, just because we learn to live with it does not mean this is healthy.
So, part of the objective of this study is to try and normalize blood pressures. For the last few days, I have sat in their chair with muscle monitors and blood pressure cuffs while stimulating for two hours making adjustments to the intensity of the current in order to keep that blood pressure in ideal range. I definitely can sense the change, especially when I am a bit lightheaded from sitting up for too long of a period. After they adjust the stimulation, I immediately find myself not laboring at all. Nice clarity.
Anyway, tomorrow starts a few more cardiovascular experiments, which involve standing me up to two different angle heights and seeing if they can continue to maintain my blood pressure in an ideal rate while the stimulator is on. Side note – some individuals have reported and the researchers have seen that blood pressures begin to normalize and stay there even after the stimulator’s off. That would be great.
The other important aspect of this phase is that they hopefully will learn some things about me in particular that they can then apply to the configurations they were using for voluntary movement and help me to move on a voluntary basis without struggling with very high blood pressure. Fingers crossed.
For your entertainment, a few extra photos of me sitting in what I call their cardiovascular throne.
More to come…
More importantly …
Today would have been my father’s 93rd birthday. He passed six years ago but I know he is sending down to me and the research team positive energy. He did live long enough to see the results of some of the first people to be implanted and he knew this field was turning the corner. We all miss him dearly and, as he taught us, will never give up the fight. Love you Dad.
A video tribute narrated by former New Jersey governor Tom Kean to Dad put together by the Reeve Foundation after his passing.