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Holding steady

I wish I had some interesting news, but I really don't.  We're still pretty much on a slow course right now as she consolidates what she's learned to this point.  Hopefully, she's about ready to make another hop forward.  Occasionally, she'll say two or three words at once, but usually it's just No or Yes, or someone's name.

The biggest excitement was about a month ago, when the caregiver forgot to lock the bed rail in place before rolling Carolyn on her side.  When Carolyn grabbed the rail, it collapsed and she fell to the floor.  Fortunately, the caregiver was able to grab her and at least slow her fall.  We took her to the ER to get her checked out, and she had some bruises but nothing broken or torn.

On the way back from the ER, we loaded her in her van and took her on a tour of downtown Excelsior.  As mayor, she had worked so hard to get a city master  plan in place, which included demolishing most of the buildings on Excelsior Street and replacing them with a new housing development, now completed.  She was so happy and all smiles as she got to see the finished product for the first time.  I would have taken her out for a walk, but it was too hot outside and she overheats very easily.  But she was definitely pleased by the tour.

A couple of weeks later, the weather was unusually mild, so we took her to the BBQ contest downtown.  She was so happy to see the people she knew, especially John McGovern, our police chief, who had been a friend of hers since she worked for the city back in the 1980s. 

Right now, I'm looking for stem cell studies that might have the capability of repairing the damaged parts of her brain.  Granted, new brain cells can't replace old memories, but there don't seem to be any problems with her memories. She clearly understands what is said and recognizes people.  And she also takes great enjoyment in looking at the many photo albums she compiled of our travels abroad.  It's the motor and speech skills that are problematic.

I've sent Carolyn's records in for one study, but I'll be surprised if we get accepted.  Carolyn's case is highly unusual, and most studies are addressing very specific and common forms of injury.  Also, most of the early studies haven't been very promising, so I'm not even sure I want her in a study just yet.  What I do want is to start getting her data into the system so that, when a study is promising enough that the researchers start expanding their targeted patient base, we'll be at the front of the line.

Another concern I have is that, because there's so much money to be made from this kind of research, there are also hucksters out there exaggerating or even falsifying their results.  Even studies conducted in university hospitals can't be trusted, given that influential professors are sometimes paid "consulting fees" of over a million dollars each to tout the benefits of a treatment at professional meetings.  The financial conflicts of interest and even outright corruption involved in medical research these days is mind-numbing.  In 2008, Sen. Chuck Grassley held Senate hearings on the connections between big pharmaceuticals manufacturers and supposedly "independent" medical researchers.  Google "Grassley Senate Pharma Hearings" to learn more.

None of this is to say that all medical research is tainted and that no genuine progress in treating people is being made.  There are important discoveries made every day that will help people, and some day brain injuries will be as treatable as broken bones.  But where there's money to be made, there are always hucksters looking for a way to cash in.  So be skeptical and do your own research by checking out the treatments and those touting them online.  If you're being lured into a scam, there's likely at least one blogger out there who knows the scoop and has posted a warning.  Keep your eyes open.


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