Implant Helps Quadriplegics Breathe

Implant Helps Quadriplegics Breathe

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Ed Yeates ReportingIt's already helping Superman, and now a unique experimental device will soon let a Utah quadriplegic breathe normally again.

It's similar to a –pacemaker and is the same system recently implanted in actor Christopher Reeve.

Braden Howe can only breathe through air forced into his lungs by a bulky 70 pound machine strapped to the back of his wheelchair.

Lindsay Howe, Braden's Father: "We normally breathe with our diaphragm and you're drawing air in. He's on a ventilator which pushes air in and it's not natural."

But that's about to change. Braden soon will become only the seventh quadriplegic in the country to get an experimental device - not much bigger than a television remote - implanted in his diaphragm.

Braden Howe: "I'm just going to be able to breathe on my own."

He'll also be able to cough on his own, clearing the throat and lungs.

Former Superman actor Christopher Reeve was the third person to get the experimental implant. Braden believes he might do even better on the device because of the way his spine was damaged.

Braden Howe: "The spinal column was just stretched and kinked and not ripped apart like Christopher Reeve's was. So I think I will do a heck of a lot better.”

Eight years ago when Braden was 13 years old, he was hit by a truck at an intersection only a half mile from his house. He's been a quadriplegic ever since.

But over that eight years he's marked a bit of history, become active in the community, an eagle scout, and he just recently graduated from Weber State. Now this 21-year old is getting ready to make two long trips. It won't be easy.

Nancy Howe, Braden's Mother: "We just cannot find anyone that has a plane that could accommodate a wheelchair at this time."

If they have to, the Howe's say they'll drive Braden all the way to Cleveland for the implant.

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