Langevin Recognizes Rhode Islander's Remarkable Efforts to Raise Spinal Cord Injury Awareness
Ten years ago, Trent Theroux of Barrington was nearly paralyzed in an accident in Narragansett Bay when a powerboat propeller sliced into his back four times. Fortunately, his spinal cord remained intact, and Theroux, now 44, was rehabilitated through hard work and perseverance. In the past decade, he has not only demonstrated his determination by competing in triathlons and Ironman competitions, but also in his commitment to improving the lives of those with spinal cord injuries by working with the non-profit RISE above paralysis, which supports injured individuals and their families.
Today, Theroux joined Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) at the Congressman’s Rhode Island Office in Warwick to address spinal cord injury issues and outline initiatives to improve treatments. On September 8, the ten-year anniversary of his accident, Theroux plans to complete a “Back to Block” backstroke swim of 13 miles from Point Judith to Block Island to raise money and awareness. More information is available on his website at www.backtoblock.org.
Langevin, the first quadriplegic to serve in Congress after a gun-related injury left him paralyzed at the age of 16, offered an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2013 Defense Department Appropriations Act (H.R. 5856) that would add $15 million to the Department’s Spinal Cord Injury Research Program, bringing the total allocation to about $30 million. Severe cuts to the initiative in the years since its inception have threatened progress of groundbreaking medical interventions and treatments. The amended bill passed the House last week.
“I commend Trent’s tireless and selfless dedication to this cause,” said Langevin, who co-chairs the Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus in Congress. “People with disabilities, including victims of paralysis, can still make incredible contributions to our society if given the opportunity, and Trent’s inspiring work will help give those with spinal cord injuries the chance to make the most of their abilities. I personally want to thank him for putting his amazing spirit into this effort.
“We have recently seen significant progress in spinal cord research, but without sufficient funding, the recently discovered therapies will not undergo further development or clinical trials. It is my hope that by providing resources to continue research and expanding partnerships with people like Trent, many will soon benefit from major medical breakthroughs.”
According to a study by the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, approximately 5.6 million people report some form of paralysis, over 1 million of whom are paralyzed as the result of a spinal cord injury. Because spinal cord injuries predominantly occur in people under the age of 30, including military service members, the human cost is high. Major improvements in emergency and acute care have improved survival rates, but have also increased the numbers of individuals who have to cope with severe, chronic disabilities. The societal cost, in terms of health care, disability payments, and lost income, is disproportionately high compared to other medical conditions.
“During my rehabilitation following a spinal injury, I faced the stark reality that most durable medical goods necessary for basic life functions were not covered by health insurance,” said Theroux. “I created Back to Block as a means to help those whose lives changed as quickly and dramatically. The fund developed through RISE Above Paralysis will benefit those living with spinal cord injuries and their needs for durable medical goods.
“While my cause benefits those currently living with spinal cord injury, Congressman Langevin’s recent amendment seeks to improve their quality of life through medical research. I applaud the Congressman for his leadership in assisting this underserved community. Medical advancement in the spinal cord field will ultimately yield a more vital and vibrant population.”
Langevin’s amendment to increase research, which is fully paid-for by a reduction in defense operations and maintenance funding, and Theroux’s work have coincided with an opportunity to capitalize on recent scientific advances. Last year, a paraplegic man in Kentucky was able to stand on his own with the help of an implanted “pacemaker-like” device and rehabilitation. In the United Kingdom, researchers have produced a treatment that has allowed rats to walk, run and climb stairs after suffering serious spinal cord injuries.
Specifically, Langevin’s measure would add $15 million to RDT&E (Research Development Test & Evaluation) in the Defense Health Program for the purpose of augmenting the Spinal Cord Injury Research Program (SCIRP) within the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program. In Fiscal Year 2009, SCIRP received $35 million, but in subsequent years that level was reduced significantly to $11.25 million in FY 2010, $12 million in FY 2011 and just $9.6 million in FY 2012. This decline has risked researchers’ ability to continue their progress and even their presence in this field.