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Moving Towards A Cure For Paralysis

No one wants to experience life with paralysis. Perry Cross is one such person whose life was unforeseeably and profoundly changed in an instant. In 1994, a devastating rugby union accident rendered Perry Cross a C2 quadriplegic, unable to move from the neck down and unable to breathe without a mechanical ventilator attached to his electric wheelchair.

Perry’s decision to set up the Perry Cross Spinal Research Foundation (PCSRF) came not long after the passing of his friend and well-known actor, Christopher Reeve, a leading advocate for those living with paralysis. Reeve became a quadriplegic after being thrown from a horse, and required a wheelchair and ventilator for the rest of his life. “Losing an advocate like him [Reeve] left a massive hole in the international paralysis advocacy effort,” explained Perry, “which I wanted to try and fill, in order to continue Christopher’s legacy and work.” He also credits his close friends and family and their encouragement as a massive support in starting the foundation.

Everything is Possible!

PCSRF has the motto “Everything is Possible” – a statement that serves as a reminder for those with limited mobility to stay focused, determined and to “never give up”.  The PCSRF vision and mission statement is to “unravel the mystery of paralysis” and one day, discover a cure. The foundation is firm in its belief that a cure for paralysis is possible – and that it is simply a matter of time before one is discovered.

Spinal Injury Research Brings Positive Results

The Perry Cross Spinal Research foundation is a leading advocate for the use of stem cell research in finding a cure of paralysis. “I’ve investigated many research projects and have personally taken part in a trial in India,” explained Perry. While he admits that stem cells are “not the Holy Grail” in terms of a cure, he still firmly believes that stem cell therapy can and has helped, those living with spinal injuries to “improve their situation”.

There have also been incremental advances in spinal injury treatment, research and therapy methods, the combination of which Perry believes will work together to bring about a cure for spinal paralysis.

“The last few years have seen an increase in clinical trials, including human trials, which are showing results like nothing we’ve ever seen,” said Perry. PCSRF is actively funding stem cell research – in particular a Polish trial utilizing olfactory (sense of smell) cells to cure paralysis. Perry urges people with paralysis to “not be disheartened”, but to have faith in the scientific research that they fund to someday deliver a cure.

The foundation also firmly recognises the collaborative effort required by a multitude of studies in different countries, and as such, is an internationally active foundation complete with its own scientific advisory board. The foundation believes that a multi-disciplinary approach to spinal injury health is the right way to go about things; in order for them to be as informed as possible and to take on board as much advice as they can. Keeping in line with this collaborative vision, the PCSRF is also happy to share its research findings with other similar organisations throughout the world.

Community Participation Goes a Long Way

Perry himself participated in the ‘Wings for Life World Run’ to raise funds for spinal cord injury research, which he found to be a great, enjoyable and “inclusive” experience. He recognises the wider community’s support – both emotional and financial – of the foundation. While he appreciates that not everyone understands the ins and outs of the science behind spinal injuries and the research for a cure, they can still “jump on board” and help out in anyway they can.

The PCSRF has a strong online presence, with a published blog, video content and a regular newsletter. This presence helps keep people informed of the progress made by the foundation. Perry is also a very active spokesperson for the foundation, and he regularly appears in the media to share his lived experience of spinal injury. He recognises the importance of his injury in making him “the best person to relay what it’s like” to the wider community. He is dedicated to being a voice for those living with paralysis.

Power Mobility Supports Perry and the Foundation

Here at Power Mobility, we are passionate about providing mobility solutions for those with limited movement capacity. We are proud supporters of both the PCSRF and Perry Cross himself. In fact, we supplied and customised his current power mobility chair. This, and the other devices and products we provide for people with various levels of mobility, are vital in getting people moving and helping them make the most of life. Perry relies “very heavily” on our products due to his frequent travels, and he also depends on our sister company, GS Electronics for maintenance and service. He frequently drops into GS Electronics’ workshop at Tingalpa to make sure his equipment is functioning correctly, as he often returns from overseas with bits “broken, bent or missing” from his equipment.

The latest chair we provided for Perry proved to be a “very involved process”, mostly due to the fact that it required several custom-made components, such as a chin control and loader mounts, to best suit Perry’s condition and needs. We were more than happy to take this time for Perry. Even after this, it took a month of him using it to work out precisely how to best customise the chair for him.

Perry needs a service he can rely on, as his chair is his legs. For example, the first time he travelled internationally, his chair malfunctioned! Once Perry arrived at his New York destination, Neil Schuler, founder and owner of both Power Mobility and GS Electronics, organised a phone call to a local engineer in order to talk him through the repairs that were required.

Any time Perry needs service, repairs or just a helping hand, we’re there for him.

An Exciting Future Ahead

So what lies ahead for the PCSRF and Perry himself? The foundation will continue its advocacy for those with spinal injuries, as well as funding scientific research, with the aim of eventually curing paralysis. Perry recognises that not everyone can easily understand the science and technology involved in finding a cure – so the foundation wants to continue to educate and inform the public about paralysis, and let people know that “everyone can make a difference”.

Perry wants to maintain the foundation’s focus, and for everyone with a spinal injury to be able to access treatment – not just in Australia, but globally as well. He has made this goal his life’s passion. He welcomes anyone to come to a PCSRF event, to see for themselves exactly what the foundation is all about.

For more information about the foundation, please visit their website.