This does not sound like the stuff that groundbreaking stories are made of but it is. Scenes of a formerly paralysed fire fighter walking again after a nerve transplant from his brain have rightly caused quite a stir recently to say the least.
Media coverage and medical discussion of this potentially mind-boggling step forward in treatment for the disabled has been reserved, even constrained: After all it’s no good to get one’s hope up only to be let down, sufferers of spinal paralysis have been known to recover by themselves. But wait, before he got near an operating table Darek Fidyka agreed to eight months of gruelling physiotherapy to test whether there was any possibility of a natural recovery.
After this proved false, doctors removed one of Mr Fidyka’s olfactory bulbs, which have an incredible ability to heal themselves and link back up with adjacent nerves, from his nasal cavity and implanted parts of it in the gap in his spine. A short time later a completely paralysed man was clinically made to walk again for the first time in history.
There has been much talk of the need for the procedure to be repeated in a number of patients with varied injuries and of the limits of the surgery. All of these points are very good ones but I believe that, when our medical researchers have overcome paralysis for the first time they deserve to let their hair down with at least a little self-congratulation. So perhaps we should stand for a toast to Dr Tabakow, his team, fundraiser David Nicholls and all who supported the research; thanks to them one more person can now stand with us.