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Benefiting from a pioneering spinal stimulation implant

Interview with Ian Witney

Ian Witney joined the army aged 16, touring every desert in the world and loving every moment in his career.

However, he was pushed over a low wall in a violent assault in 2016, resulting in a fall which damaged his spinal cord and left him paralysed.

Ian was initially taken to the James Cook spinal unit before he went to Headley Court.

Despite having to adjust to an incredibly challenging situation, Ian used the camaraderie of others and his army “never give up” attitude to make the early months more manageable.

Exploring Research Options

During rehabilitation, Ian heard about people with spinal cord injury (SCI) being able to stand unaided after receiving (implanted) spinal virtual stimulation.

After further investigation, and discussion with his consultant, Ian was introduced to Lieutenant Colonel David Baxter – a military neurosurgeon who was capable of performing the operation required.

Gaining Function

The surgery was minimally invasive and involved placement of an implantable device over the spinal cord, below the site of injury.

The device can be switched on via an external remote, allowing for targeted, programmed stimulation in areas of the body that modify the activity of nerves to induce function.

After the surgery, Ian underwent rehabilitation for several months, gradually experiencing multiple benefits from the electrical stimulation.

To find out more about electrical stimulation of the spinal cord (neuromodulation) and the research we are funding, read the Neuromodulation section of our Spring Connections online magazine.

I am regaining leg movement. I’ve also noticed improvement in bladder sensation, sexual function and circulation.

Ian had also been taking medication to manage spasms, which unfortunately caused considerable fatigue. However, he found that the electrical stimulation has now reduced his spasms to the point where he has reduced his medication and feels more energetic.

I want to set an example for my kids that you can have a happy and successful life, regardless of the hand you’re dealt.

Help Support this Research

This August, Lt. Col. David Baxter will be raising money for further research by swimming around the Isle of Wight in the Racing the Tide challenge – a feat only five people in history have accomplished.

He will swim an incredible 62 miles, the equivalent of 2.4 marathons, across open water in 32 hours.

The completion of this colossal challenge will help fund further neuromodulation trials for the thousands like Ian living with SCI.

If you can, please support David and help improve the quality of life for people living with paralysis. The generosity of our supporters make these treatments possible.