Sunday, February 15, 2004

Spinal Research Planned for Novi, Michigan

Doctors want to find a cure for spinal cord injury.
Patient advocates also want to help victims deal with the affliction better.

The answer for both might be a Novi outpatient facility planned by the Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan.

The $3.5 million facility would specialize in the treatment of spinal cord injuries and be a leading research center for discovering a cure, institute officials said.

The Detroit Medical Center, which operates the institute, is trying to raise $39.9 million for the facility, for the renovation of the DMC'??s main hospital and for a new outpatient center connected to the hospital. So far, it has raised $26 million, partly through grants.

Saturday night, the DMC raised an additional $1 million at its St. Valentine Ball in Dearborn through contributions and the sale of $250 tickets.

Maurice Jordan, executive director of the Michigan chapter of Paralyzed Veterans of America, was one of 396 people who attended the fund-raiser at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

"??We'?re incredibly excited about this,"?? said Jordan, who suffers from a spinal cord injury. "??Anything that gets us closer to the day where you can get up and walk, which is of course what all of us want someday."

Researchers in other nations are making inroads against the disorder, said Dr. Steve Hinderer, specialist-in-chief of physical medicine and rehabilitation at DMC.

"??Our purpose is to literally develop an epicenter of activity that studies worldwide practices,"?? he said.

Advocates for spinal cord victims say the search for a cure should not overshadow the need to help patients deal with their affliction.

Marcie Roth, chief executive of the National Spinal Cord Injury Association in Arlington, Va., said more needs to be done to develop drugs and programs that help patients lead fuller lives, and for insurance companies to pay for those expenses.

"??We want to make sure the message is very clear: There is life after a spinal cord injury,"?? she said. "??It'??s not a fate worse than death. There are many people living enriched lives."