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Saturday, December 15th 2007

Kevin Everett Walking

Kevin Everett Is Walking…After This

Kevin Everett is up and walking, with some credit being given to induced hypothermia therapy for his spinal injury.

[H]e gets up. He rises from his chair and walks easily to the kitchen, opens the refrigerator and takes out a drink. Then he walks back. Simple as that. And yet not simple at all. “I’m making strides every day,” he says. “Way back when I was first in the hospital the doctors were saying I might not ever walk again, and they didn’t know the outcome for me moving my limbs anymore. So how much do I believe about all this? The sky is the limit. I’m going to take this as far as I can.”

Hypothermia for closed head and spinal injuries isn’t exactly new, but it isn’t a standard of care either.

In November 2006, [Dr.] Cappuccino had attended a seminar of the Cervical Spine Research Society and sat in on a talk by Dalton Dietrich, scientific director of The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. Dietrich devoted the last 10 minutes of his presentation to the potential benefits of induced hypothermia for neuroprotection — the rapid cooling of the body to reduce metabolic demand and to prevent further damage from swelling and other inflammatory mechanisms. It is a controversial treatment that has not been established as a standard of care in spinal cord injuries and is the subject of considerable debate in the field. Partly motivated by that talk, Cappuccino had instructed the EMTs at Bills games to stock their ambulance with three bags of saline solution in a cooler.

There was contentious debate at the hospital. At least two doctors, including Gibbons, did not want to induce hypothermia, which can have dangerous side effects such as heart arrhythmia, blood clotting problems, pneumonia and organ failure. “Dr. Cappuccino was pushing the cooling, and it became a dynamic issue,” says Snyder, 35. “He had been saying all along, ‘We should do the cooling. We should do it.’ ”

Only when Everett started developing a low fever did Gibbons and others assent.

For spinal cord injury, there is some debate apparently still considerable debate on using hypothermia.

“The Miami Project made some strong statements in the aftermath of Kevin Everett’s treatment, saying that hypothermia helped get Kevin Everett up walking,” says Brian Kwon, 36, a spine specialist at Vancouver (B.C.) General Hospital, who is not convinced that hypothermia is helpful to patients with spinal cord injuries. “They have tremendous scientists in Miami who are doing fantastic, cutting-edge spinal cord injury research. But Kevin Everett is one patient, and there has never been a published study of the treatment he received.”

Cappuccino has also felt some blowback. “There are doctors out there who think I’m some kind of monster for experimenting on a human being,” he says. “There are colleagues of mine who think I’m crazy for doing what I did.”

But why-ever he’s walking, I’m just happy to see him making such remarkable progress.