Cautious Optimism: an exciting time to be working in spinal cord injury rehabilitation

The recent announcement of the recovery of a spinal cord injured patient from complete injury to motor incomplete gives me an opportunity to reflect on this eighth year anniversary of my working at Helen Hayes Hospital (HHH) as the Director of the the Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Rehabilitation program.

When I first started here, I was interviewed by The Journal News, and quoted as being “cautiously optimistic on the future of spinal cord injuries and the potential for recovery.” I continue to believe this and am further supported by the more recent and publicized scientific studies, such as the case form Poland on the regeneration of supraspinal connections in a patient following transplantation of bulbar olfactory ensheathing cells along with peripheral nerve bridging ( http://www.bbc.com/news/health-29645760 ), as well as a study earlier this year on epidural stimulator implantation and spontaneous recovery (http://www.nih.gov/news/health/apr2014/nibib-08.htm ).

Overall, it is an exciting time to be working in this field and I feel privileged to be able to work at Helen Hayes Hospital alongside some exceptional professionals dedicated to the recovery of individuals who have sustained spinal cord injuries. I am humbled everyday by the miracles that take place here and the patients’ lives that we touch.

Since I have been here, our program has grown and matured and I am very proud of the accomplishments I have helped nurture, bring forth and achieve.
Highlights include:

  • The development of a peer driven mentor support service
  • Adaptive sports and recreational activities programming
  • Audiovisual and written patient education programs
  • Comprehensive outpatient medical continuity of care services, including
    • spasticity management
    • urological services
    • osteoporosis services
  • Improved wound prevention and care protocols
  • Neuroscience translational research on H reflex training and recovery
  • New equipment and treatments such as
    • Partial Weight Supported Treadmill Training
    • Functional Electrical Stimulation bicycles
    • Weight supported elliptical trainers
    • Vibration therapy
    • Exoskelton gait training
  • Smart Apartment assistive technology center

Instrumental to our maturation was my development and procurement of the SCI staff education fund, generously supported by the HHH Foundation. The fund has provided resources for staff training and on-going education. This has led to professional excellence, strong team unity, and poster presentations at annual conferences. In the past year, I become a committee member of the American Spinal Injury Association in an effort to network and further HHH’s ability to remain competitive in the treatment of individuals with SCI.

I remain cautiously optimistic that Individuals with SCI can, do and will recover and go on to live happy and productive lives.

-Ferne R. Pomerantz, M.D.
Director, Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation