Harvey Sihota, the founder of Neurokinex, and his team have opened a brand new, ground-breaking children's facility which treats patients with paralysis. Among the guests at the launch were the families and clients of Neurokinex, who are making great gains with this innovative treatment, and also Matthew Reeve, elder son of the late Christopher Reeve and supporter of spinal cord injury research and development. Here, Harvey describes to Education for Everybody how the paediatric facility near Gatwick came to be...
What is the background of Neurokinex: where and when did the concept begin?
Neurokinex was conceived in 2013, following my own injury in 2009 which left me paralysed.
After my own injury I felt that whilst the emergency and in-patient care provided by the NHS was excellent there was still a great deal of scope for continued recovery and maximising potential after discharge. Not only was there a need for continued recovery but also one for ongoing health and fitness in a population that struggles to participate in sufficient physical activity. With these two huge unmet needs and with the help of friends and colleagues decided to build a not for profit social enterprise model to deliver activity-based rehabilitation & wellness programmes into the UK community.
Why is the new paediatric facility needed in the UK?
The need for continued community-based paediatric rehabilitation and wellness not only mirrors that of adults – but in fact exceeds it. The nervous system brain and spinal cord, in children is remarkably “plastic” – capable of adapting and rewiring – even more so than adults. With this in mind, it’s imperative that young children have access to high quality and regular rehabilitation programmes to continue to build upon their abilities, promote normal skeletal growth and minimise secondary complications such as pressure sores, bone fractures and scoliosis. The last thing growing children need are long and complicated hospital stays. By making rehabilitation programmes available in the community setting children can continue with their school calendar and extra-curricular activities whilst continuing to tap into their neurological potential throughout their childhood and get them back to doing what they do best, exploring the world and having fun.
What injuries and conditions can Neurokinex Kids help to treat?
The Neurokinex Kids rehabilitation and wellness programmes are suitable for children with conditions that result in neuromuscular impairments such as spinal cord and brain injuries, childhood stroke, cerebral palsy and transverse myelitis to name but a few.
How are the treatments at Neurokinex Kids ‘groundbreaking'?
The groundbreaking Neurokinex Kids activity-based rehabilitation programmes available includes (i) locomotor training – which aims to reawaken dormant neural pathways by repetitively stimulating nerves and muscles in the lower body and thus retrain the spinal cord to ‘remember’ the pattern of walking. During a locomotor training session the child is suspended in a harness above a treadmill and practises standing and stepping with the aid of expertly trained therapists and (ii) wide-pulse Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation (NMES) – which is a unique form of electrical stimulation that is administered as part of an activity during which electrodes are applied to the paralysed muscles and stimulus is delivered to the spinal cord circuitry to reawaken or strengthen neural pathways. These ‘protocols’ have been imported from world-renowned Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation’s NeuroRecovery Network and are considered the leading-edge rehab protocols for spinal cord injury.
What can policymakers in the UK do to further help treatment and research in paralysis?
It’s important that policymakers recognise the need for greater availability of community-based rehabilitation and wellness programmes for the UK paralysis community in order to promote function, health, independence and wellness which in turn would increase inclusion and productive amongst this deserving population. Not only would it increase productivity and participation in society but it would also reduce the strain on the NHS which is currently struggling with dealing with secondary complications that arise from the lack of physical activity and rehabilitation in the form of osteoporosis, bed sores, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and significant daily doses of anti-spasmodics, anti-depressants and pain medication. The health economics case is compelling.
How can SEND schools improve their support for children with paralysis?
SEND schools could improve their support for children with paralysis by factoring in rehabilitation and wellness as a mandatory component in a (extra)curriculum. Recognising the valuable long-term investment and compelling benefits – physical and mental - in continued rehabilitation of paralysed children is absolutely vital to their continued education, extra-curricular activities and home life in their most important years.
For more information about Neurokinex please click here