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JenniferFrench212 karma

When we think about implants, they really are not that unusual. We have thousands of people walking around with heart pacemakers implanted into their bodies. Think of these implants as a pacemaker used for a different application or perhaps a 'next generation'. However, this device did take some time to adjust to it. It is not just flipping the switch and your body performs optimally. In fact, prior to surgery I went thru an exercise protocol to build the muscle tissue. From there I had the implants surgically implanted, went thru a recover period and then started exercising again (for about 3 month) before getting to my first stand using the system.

I control the system using an external control unit called a UECU. The electrodes and receiver are all incapsulated in the body. Externally, I tape a coil over the area on my abdomen that has the receiver. The coil connects to the UECU. When I put an input into the UECU, the UECU then send the power and command using RF to the implanted receiver. The receiver decodes and sends the signal to the electrodes. The electrode stimulate the muscle to take action.

JenniferFrench139 karma

For the 2012 Paralympic Games, we chose not to use the implants in competition. If I did want to do so, it would need to be reviewed to the medical classifiers. It would have opened a big door of debate (which still needs to happen). We simply chose not to surface since we were so close to competition and it would turn into a mental distraction rather than a competitive advantage.

JenniferFrench112 karma

Technology progression is an interesting question. I think that consumer technology tends to progress faster than medical technology due to issues such as regulatory constraints, important safety and efficacy studies, etc. Of course, it is hard to predict the future. Based on the exciting technology that is in the pipeline, I believe that I will witness the 'cure' for paralysis in my lifetime. The important thing is that we need to help science move forward, encourage collaborations and create mechanisms to get the technology into the hands of the people for whom they were intended; out of the laboratory and into the hands of user/consumer/patients.

JenniferFrench101 karma

There are several commands programmed into the UECU or control unit. For instance, there is a 'Leg Lifts' program that only stimulates the quadricep muscles to perform leg lift exercises. There is also a 'Backs Only' program to only stimulate the muscles in the lower back. In addition, we can check each electrode individually. These are examples of singular or muscle group commands. There are also more complex commands that bring in the coordination of muscles. Think about how you stand and how many muscles are involved with this. There is a 'Stand' program which coordinates a variety of muscles to perform the task such as gluts, hamstrings, adductors and quad to name a few. The beauty of the system is that the engineers can program various commands to different tasks. Some are orchestrated from the designers and others are found accidentally. I have a 'Massage' program that massages my lower back which was found accidentally in the lab. How many people can say they have a mobile back massage system!

JenniferFrench70 karma

I was not into competitive sailing before my SCI. Prior to my injury, on our 2nd date with my now-husband he took me windsurfing for the first time. So, I was a windsurfer and a cruiser prior to my accident. I did not start racing until after my injury. I was introduced to competitive sailing over 12 years ago. I caught the bug.