PITTSBURGH, Pa. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – Jan Scheuermann was a 36-year-old married mother of two when she began to show symptoms of what doctors eventually diagnosed as a rare degenerative disease. By 43, she was paralyzed from the neck down. Now ten years later she is making medical history.
A seemingly simple task – taking a bite from a chocolate bar, but for Jan Scheuermann it was just short of a miracle.
"After ten years of not moving below the neck, I was causing something to move through space," says Jan Scheuermann from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. "It was just so exciting, I can't tell you. I don't think they stopped me smiling for six months."
Scheuermann is moving a robotic arm by what researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center call BCI, brain-computer interface. She thinks the movement and the arm responds. Surgeons implanted receptors in Jan's head where her motor functions originate. A computer completes the connection between her thoughts and her movements. As part of the BCI trial, Scheuermann spends four days a week in the lab. Researchers continue to study the reaction time between Scheuermann's thoughts and the arm she calls Hector.
Scheuermann explains, "I just see the target and I say to myself go there, and the arm goes there. It's a very natural brain function."
Scheuermann also speaks to groups about her experience and the cutting edge science that is giving her hope, starting with middle school students at her hometown parish.
"The one little boy was like, ‘she's like a superhero,' which I just loved that comment because she really is! She's doing things that nobody's done before," Medical Attendant Karina Palko tells Ivanhoe.
Scheuermann will continue in the trial for another year. Researchers call her work brave and selfless.
"She's really not getting any benefit out of the study for herself," says Jen Collinger, PhD, with the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Pittsburgh. "She's not able to take it home, but she's really just sort of giving of herself so then we can develop this technology for people down the road."
"Never give up hope," advises Scheuermann. "If you're in my situation or a similar situation, never give up hope."
Although Jan is the second person to use the robotic arm, clinical trials could start in a few years and UPMC researchers say the robotic arm could be available for quadriplegics to use at home within ten years.
The memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela on Tuesday is poised to be one of the largest such gatherings in generations with tens of thousands of local mourners and dozens of foreign leaders expected.
The Birmingham Police Department is investigating a homicide that happened early Sunday morning on the 2000 block of Pearson Avenue Southwest.
In death, Nelson Mandela unified South Africans of all races and backgrounds Sunday on a day of prayer for the global statesman — from a vaulted cathedral with hymns and incense to a rural, hilltop church with goat-skin drums and barefoot dancing.
Auburn wins the SEC Championship beating Missouri 59-42. Here's the full post-game press conference with Head Coach Gus Malzahn and MVP running back Tre Mason.
Stores like Academy Sports in Hoover have unleashed their 2013 Auburn Tigers SEC Champions gear.
The Auburn mascot couldn't help but show off some of his moves after Auburn's big victory!
Melissa Kim catches up with both Auburn and Missouri fans as they make their way into the SEC Championship.
Auburn amasses close to 700 total yards of offense on their way to winning the 2013 SEC Championship.