Happy Holidays!

The team at Aim2Walk wanted to wish everyone a happy holiday season. Our clients and readers have backgrounds that can be traced across the globe, and so we would like to wish everyone a happy and merry (in no specific order):

– Hannukkah
– Christmas
– Winter Solstice
– Kwanzaa
– World Junior Hockey Championships
– New Year
– Festivus

If we missed anyone’s reason to celebrate this holiday season, please comment and let me know what you celebrate!

We’ll be back in the new year with more insights from the world of neurological rehab and the exciting prospects in innovative rehabilitation technology!

Happy Chrismahanukwanzakah from the team at Aim2Walk.

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Betting the future in Las Vegas

Gambling is by nature a risky business. You are placing all your hope into the offshoot chance that for a small “investment” you’ll reap the rewards of a big payout. Whether that is a Lotto ticket, a fast Horse, betting it all on red-36 or a penny stock, it’s all the same. All of them hopefully result in a financial gain. But, what about something potentially better than a materialistic gain?

Welcome to Las Vegas

What exactly happens in Vegas?

I’m talking about the much lauded stem cells. There are a few main locations that Scientists & Doctors can currently harvest stem cells from:

  • Olfactory – which are found in the lining of the nose and are involved in the sense of smell. If they are given the right chemical environment these cells have the same ability as embryonic stem cells to develop into many different cell types.
  • Bone marrow (Hematopoietic) – are found in the bone marrow and give rise to all the blood cell types.
  • Neural (Central Nervous System (CNS)) – Most commonly collected from hair follicles but also found from within various points in the brain. In particular interest to this blog, Aim2Walk and myself is that these cells can generate Schwann cells. A number of experimental studies since 2001 have implanted Schwann cells in an attempt to induce remyelination in M.S. afflicted patients. Also, In the past two decades many studies have demonstrated positive results and potential in a therapy for spinal cord injury
  • Umbilical – Probably the easiest to collect and definitely the best stem cells in that they can easily be taken from the umbilical cord after birth and are able to differentiate into nearly all cells.

It is the last type that has always interested me because of the relative ease in collection, potential and storage. Yes, storage! I always wondered what happens after the Doctor or Nurse collects the stem cell rich fluid. Do hospitals store it deep within their basements or is it sent to mad Scientists who keep it in their vast vats of cloudy liquid-nitrogen?

Well apparently “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” may be more than a city motto. There, outside the lights and action of stereotypical Las Vegas lies Cord Blood America. You will find that for an initial fee of $2075 USD you’ll receive the kit, transportation fees and one years storage. After that it is an additional $125 per year, which in the grand scheme of things, seems rather worth it! There the fluid is tested for any potential contamination, processed and stored until it is (hopefully not) needed.

Now, there are many arguments for and against stem cells which I won’t get into just quite yet as the point of this post was just about my fascination with the storage. But in the meantime, it also appears that other private cord blood banks are expensive, their marketing can be misleading and their practicality is suspect.

There is a strong debate about the future and potential of stem cells which by writing this I may have to cover in the future. As Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg, director of the Duke Pediatric Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant Program puts it, “If you have the money, and you want to bank your child’s own cord blood, you’re essentially investing in one of two things, One, the possibility that another child in your family will need that cord blood, and that it matches. Or two, that somewhere in the future there will be new developments and new uses for your child’s cord blood — say in regenerative medicine or cell therapy.” So although the future and possibly massive potential of umbilical cord stem cells are unknown, the storage and collection of such cells definitely sounds like a win-win to me!

– Brad

Therapist Shopping

In my area of work, I’ve heard all the horror stories involving a visit to the family doctor or emergency room doctor.  In nearly every case, the story-teller questions how the doctor could ever had earned his/her license to practice medicine.  The complaints cover everything: wrong diagnosis, crappy bed-side manner, doesn’t know English, made me feel worse, just gave me pills, and so on. But sometimes people just like to complain. Complaining can be therapeutic, and hey, I’m here to listen.  But sometimes people that complain about their doctor, or any health care provider for that matter, are completely in the right.  They should complain.  And they should seek a second, or even a third opinion if they see fit.  Unfortunately, although you could simply avoid that doctor if he/she is stationed at one specific hospital, it’s not as easy to just change your family doctor. Luckily, most family physicians and ER doctors are excellent at what they do.  But no Doctor is going to get EVERY diagnosis correct and it IS ok to ask for another opinion if you think it’s necessary. As of 2007, Ontario was short a whopping 2000 plus physicians!  As well, 85% of physician reports being at full capacity.  So, if you don’t like your doctor, good luck finding one of those 15% who aren’t full.  An easier way may be to find a future spouse who has a doctor you like, as most physicians will take a spouse onto their caseload.

The moral of the story? We don’t have a lot of choice when it comes to choosing a doctor – you have to hope he/she won’t miss anything during an evaluation and then trust that the correct treatment is given. Luckily, choosing a physiotherapist is a lot less strenuous!  Roughly 800 Physiotherapists graduate from the 14 accredited Canadian Universities each year, and that number will continue to grow. Don’t want to comb the yellow pages to to find someone to ‘fix’ your back?  Try the “Find a physio” link from the College of Physiotherapists of Ontario.  The site lets you narrow your search criteria so you find the exact type of physiotherapist you are looking for. This still doesn’t necessarily get you the best therapist for you.  You have to be the judge of that!  When you go for your appointment, use your instincts.  Does the therapist listen to you when you describe your symptoms?  Does the therapist ask you about YOUR goals?  Does the therapist answer your questions fully and definitively, or at least point you towards resources that can provide more information?  Do you feel comfortable with the therapist?  You may not be able to answer these questions after one visit, but you should have a pretty good sense if you think your therapist is a good fit for you.  

Unlike finding a physician, you have the luxury of being picky with your physiotherapist. Most clinics employ multiple physios, and if not, there is probably another clinic a few minutes up the road.  Just like any profession, some people are passionate about what they do, they care about the people they interact with and they go the extra mile to make sure that the job is done as well as it can be done…and others just like to get paid for what they do. Some injuries require a physiotherapist with special knowledge and extra training, while other injuries can be treated by any competent therapist with a license to treat.  You may have to do your own injury research prior to seeking out a physiotherapist to see what type of care is required.  When you schedule your initial consultation, ask if the therapist has experience treating your specific condition.

NOTE: This shouldn’t exclude new graduates from treating you! New grads can be much better therapists than older therapists, and all new grads have working experience as it is part of the entry-level education in the US and Canada. Don’t settle!  If you start a treatment program and you have a bad feeling about the therapist and the type of treatment you are getting, or if you’re not seeing results in a reasonable amount of time, ask questions – and if the answers aren’t satisfactory, change therapists!  There is nothing stopping you from doing so, and insurance companies WILL continue to pay for therapy if you need to change therapists for whatever reason.

If all else fails, make a trip to Toronto to see one of Aim2Walk‘s therapists! – Matt