Jen French, Standing By
The August 2010 Abilities Buzz featured a spotlight on Jennifer French, an incomplete C6-7 quadriplegic from a snowboarding accident, who uses an implanted FES (Functional Electrical Stimulation) system to extend her mobility in many ways that improve her daily life and health.
Most notably, the system allows Jen to stand by stimulating her own muscles. It is experimental and is part of a clinical trial at the FES Center in Cleveland. Jen is the first woman to receive this type of device and has now used it for 11 years. When we talked with Jen in August we learned that it was time to update the system, which meant surgery and months of recovery and rehabilitation. She and Mary Buckett, Communications Manager of the FES Center, shared with us how Jen’s system works, what it’s like to participate in a clinical trial, and what they were expecting from the update.
Four Months Later...
It’s been a little more than four months since the surgery, and we wanted to catch up with Jen and Mary to see how things were going. The timing was perfect since Jen just spent an important four days with the research team using the system for the first time! Here are some of the insights they shared on the experience of surgery, recovery, and Jen’s very first stand with the new system.
The update to Jen’s system involved major surgery and, as Jen told us back in August, any time you have surgery it’s important to understand the risks. It helped that she had been through the process once before, back when she received the original system. Still, Jen approached the surgery with some anxiety. Mary Buckett noted that this anxiety is normal. In fact, it’s a healthy emotion for anyone undergoing surgery. “The research team worked closely with Jen to educate her on the procedures during surgery. The more knowledge she gained the more comfort she felt.” Mary notes. Jen also worked with a sports psychologist to gain tools for managing her fears.
Jen also found that her conversations with the research and surgical teams helped her approach this surgery in a more relaxed frame of mind. The team met with her for several hours before the surgery—they reviewed the procedures in detail, giving Jen the opportunity to ask many questions. Mary credits Jen’s inquisitive nature as a major reason for her success in the trial. Jen emphasized the importance of asking many questions to anyone participating in a clinical trial. Questions help her gain a better understanding of what is happening to her body, from surgery through recovery and use of the system. With a better understanding Jen finds that she gets more from the system and can be the best possible participant in the research.
Read the full article at AbilitiesExpo.com.