What's the most catastrophic illness that can befall us? To me, it's a spinal cord injury (SCI) that results in total paralysis. During a recent visit to Israel, I interviewed Dr.
Shimon Rochkind, world-renowned neurosurgeon at the Tel Aviv University Sourasky Medical Center, an expert on SCI.
Every year 12,000 North Americans sustain spinal cord injury. The people involved are usually under the age of 30 and 80% are males. Some, like Christopher Reeves of Superman fame, fall from horses. Others dive into shallow water or are involved in car accidents.
Dr. Rochkind has spent his life trying to accomplish what's said to be impossible. Time and time again we've been told that some tissues of the body can regenerate, but never the spinal cord. Christopher Reeves received the best treatment money could buy, but he never walked again. What I witnessed in Rochkind's laboratory shows that what we've accepted as gospel for centuries is no longer true.
Rochkind first showed me motion pictures of a rat running around his cage. Later, he surgically removed half a centimetre (a quarter of an inch) of the rat's spinal cord which resulted in complete paralysis of the hind legs. Normally without a complete spinal cord, the rat would never walk again.
But motion photos taken several weeks later revealed that the rat was now moving his legs. It was not doing so as perfectly as before, but good enough to get around his cage quickly