19 February 2011

Tequila shots for cirrhosis research

View-The Fifth Estate "Hitching a Ride" 6 Jan. 1987
Eric Malling interview with Rick Hansen - Thunder Bay, Ontario as he was about to head into the Canadian prairies in the dead of winter before returning to British Columbia and completing his 'Man in Motion' world tour to raise funds for spinal cord injury research.

Malling also interviewed 'others' for this programme.

Peter Cavanagh who was disabled by polio and wrote the article, Stunt detracts from real issue in regards to the 'Man in Motion' tour.

Norman Kunc, who suffers from Cerebral Palsy and is the author of "Ready, Willing, and Disabled".

Judith Snow who has Muscular Dystrophy and works with an organization supporting the disabled.

Alan Arlette from the Canadian Centre for Philanthropy.

The 'others' raised some very interesting questions about how society deals with curing and caring for disease. As Hansen begins his twenty fith anniversary 'Man in Motion - Part II' world tour, maybe we all need to discuss why world governments, who control massive financial resources, rely on private fundraising, or super heroes, to cure and care for its citizens.

Peter Cavanagh on Brian Mulroney giving Hansen a cheque for one million dollars.
This is not the way you deal with fundamental social problems…you do not deal with it through stunts.
If that’s the way we solved problems, we move money around on the basis of ‘who’s wheeling through town’ and catches our attention next. Give him a million bucks.
I mean Brian Mulroney might have just taken the money in a lump, put in on his lap and watch it wheel out of town, counting votes as he did.
That wasn’t a serious response by a federal government charged with dealing with the affairs of Canadians, was it?

Judith Snow on Mulroney's million.
Snow: I worked for the federal government for a short period of time. I think that, probably, what’s happening is, is that someone is making political hay, which is not what Rick Hansen needs. He doesn’t need more political hay.
Malling: But that’s terribly cynical. I mean surely, politicians aren’t going to ride on the back of a wheelchair?
Snow: Why not?

Norman Kunc on the need for research funding.
Research becomes a charity, a privilege. People say, “we’re going to do you a favour. Here’s a hundred dollars, here’s five hundred dollars, so you can do research”. 
Research should not be a privilege but an ongoing right with funds being supported by the community.
You don’t see the Canadian Armed Forces travelling across Canada getting handouts so that they can buy new uniforms.

Alan Arlette being questioned by Malling in regards to government cuts to research funding
Arlette: We need a steady flow of government funds into medical research…that’s fundamental to a healthy society
Malling: What do you make of Governments in some cases cutting back on research money with one hand, but being happy to get in front of the cameras to give it to Rick Hansen?
Arlette: I think that it’s hypocritical and it’s exploitive and it harmful in the long run to what we need in this country.

Peter Cavanagh on fundraising.
The next time a society, be it the colitis and ileitis society, wants to raise money from you or from me or from anybody else, they’ll have to figure out some sort of stunt to get the money and maybe we’ll become a bit hardened and we’ll say, "I want to be impressed a bit more, I mean, the last guy wheelchaired across the country," so if you’re going to come up with a stunt to raise money, you better come up with a more extravagant, more spectacular stunt.

I suppose if you were the Kidney Foundation and you were planning ahead, you’d hope that some super human athlete would have some sort of kidney problem and maybe they could do a stunt and you could raise money.

Norman Kunc on competing diseases groups raising funds
So what happens is people with cerebral palsy want to do their fundraising and they're not as glamorous as Rick Hansen? Does that mean the public give more money to Rick Hansen than cerebral palsy? Then the whole medical research funding is turned into a beauty contest.

Of course, looking at all the comments in this interview with 2011 eyes there were some mistaken comments. Some in the interview said that the world would forget Hansen. That once the cameras stopped flashing no one would care about the rights of spinal cord injured people. They were wrong. Rick Hansen has gone a long way in raising awareness and money for spinal cord research, but twenty five years later, there is no cure for spinal cord injury.

I guess after transcribing these opinions, I don't have much more to say, except for one thing.

In the world of curing spinal cord injury there are a lot of new efforts taking place in regards to basic research and clinical trials. While everyone competes against each other for donations and private companies are at the mercy of their investors, will we ever get to the cure that is surely out there while having to compete for charity against much bigger and much better organized 'disease' groups?

Maybe it's time for a rethink.

04 February 2011

Italians and their scaffolding

The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel
First there was Michelangelo and his specially designed scaffolding which he used while painting the Sistine Chapel.

Then there was my father, laying on his back on the scaffolding with a cigarette jutting out his mouth, putting swirls on people's ceilings. I remembered seeing a picture of Michelangelo on his scaffolding when I was a kid and I wondered if my father and Michelangelo were related (I used to think all Italians were related).

If you've ever seen fancy design work on people's ceilings, you'll understand what plasterers and artists have in common; a beautiful mixture of art and construction. I grew up around a lot of Italian tradesmen when I was a kid. Plasterers, bricklayers, painters (one guy's name was actually Michelangelo), carpenters, and you can really see the art of Italy in their work.

Now, before you start wondering if I've given up on a cure for spinal cord injury and decided to comment on art or Canadian ethno-cultural history, let me tell you about two more Italians and their scaffolding.

Their names are Angelo Vescovi and Fabrizio Gelain. They aren't artists per se, they are researchers at the CNTE at Niguarda Ca'Granda Hospital, University of Milan-Bicocca and IRCCS Casa Sollievo Della Sofferenze, but we've all heard of the "art of healing".

Like always, I'll give you the link to the deep science of it all, but I would like to look at a few comments made by these researchers.

Gelain states, "we managed, for the first time, to obtain a consistent regeneration of the nervous tissue in chronicized injuries at the spinal cord by using a nanostructured composite scaffold with no cells in it." By this 'no cells' he is talking about things like stem cells or other blood derived cells that are also being worked on to regenerate the damaged spinal cord.

He then goes on to explain that, "By themselves, nanostructured scaffolds probably will not solve the problem of regenerating chronic and acute spinal cord injury" says Gelain. "However, they will become a necessary component of an effective multi-disciplinary therapy in the near future."

This 'multi-disciplinary therapy' comment is what most interests me. My concern is that, even though I really respect scientists and their work, no one seems to be coordinating this 'multi-disciplinary' effort. This is we have to get real people involved in a cure for spinal cord injury. Left only to scientists, they may miss things, or be so enthralled in their own work, that they forget that 'multi-disciplinary' efforts are best.

More government coordination of different approaches is what I feel is missing from the whole effort to cure spinal cord injury, and when I say government, you know that I mean your involvement, because you are the only ones that can make governments act.

If President Roosevelt could plan an atomic bomb in five years, and President Kennedy could lay down a challenge to put a man on the moon in ten years, then what we need now is a leader to demand that all these therapies are brought together to cure spinal cord injury now.

I would hate to see Vescovi and Gelain's very hopeful scaffolding technique lost to the world of Italian art.