CURE NATION: United 2 Fight Paralysis is a passionate, volunteer-based, community-driven organization, dedicated to the realization of curative therapies for paralysis in our lifetimes. To achieve this goal, they present a united and consistent message to government, industry, science, the media and the general public about the need for continued funding for related medical research for a cure.
Matthew Rodreick serves as the Executive Director for Unite2Fight Paralysis. He entered the SCI community after his son Gabe sustained a C5 injury while body surfing in Costa Rica. After leaving his position as Emergency Department Operations Supervisor for the Fairview Health System, he and Gabe traveled the world in search of the best therapeutic options, only to end up back in Minnesota advocating for cure research. He credits U2FP and Working 2 Walk with providing the knowledge, focus and energy to see the real possibility of an end to the debilitating effects of paralysis.
We invite you to meet Matthew below as he shares his family’s personal journey with paralysis along with an invitation to join the U2FP team at their upcoming Working2Walk conference on Oct. 4-5, 2019.
Matthew Receives the Call Every Parent Dreads
Matthew Rodreick is 56 years old and lives in Minneapolis, MN. About 11 years ago, he received a call that every father dreads. His son Gabe, who was in in Costa Rica at the time, had been in an accident while body surfing on the beach and it was bad.
From Gabe’s point of view, it was even worse. He’d hurt his neck, couldn’t move his body and was in a foreign country that wasn’t exactly known for health care. It took them four hours just to get him off the beach and to the local hospital, then he had to while endure a painful four hour ambulance ride on a backboard through the jungle to get to a hospital called Clinica Catolica where, luckily, the doctors had been trained to deal with traumatic spinal cord injury.
VIDEO: MUSIC IN MINNESOTA SHARES GABE’S STORY
Matt boarded the next plane to Costa Rica with Gabe’s words ringing in his ears, as they were prepping his son for surgery thousands of miles from home.
Gabe came home 10 days later on a medical jet back to Minneapolis where he spent the next four months at Gillette Children’s Hospital. Then his family began a quest for intensive therapy and anything that would lead him to walking again.
“I’m one of those parents that didn’t go quietly,” Matt says.
“After Gabe was injured and I used up all my Family/Medical Leave at work, I quit my job to become his full-time caregiver. We went to Project Walk in San Diego and began our journey to what we hoped would be his full recovery. Of course, for sure we thought he would walk again. I took most of my garage and converted it into a rehab gym.”
TAKING NEW DIRECTIONS for the road to recovery
“My son’s a musician,” Matt boasts. “We are a musical family. He was a really good piano player, but after his injury he became a singer/songwriter and went on tour. He’s pretty independent. He’s done three tours just this past year all around the country. Singing has added so much to his recovery.”
“When I got back from our trip to India for stem cell treatment, I switched my focus from a cure and healing to fitness and living my best life,” Gabe explains. “That opened me up to get back into music. I can be a musician and stay healthy until a cure is found. It’s gonna come. It’s just a matter of when.”
VIDEO: GABE SINGS BEAUTIFuLLY IN STUDIO
While Gabe returned to his musical ambitions, Matt started connecting with Unite2Fight. In 2010, he attended his first Working2Walk conference in Phoenix where he connected with people in the same situation as he was in.
Immediately, he discovered that the scientific programs where paralysis research was advancing were located in places where they were getting state funding.
As soon as he returned to Minnesota he pitched the idea to his senator and the senator said “Yes.” Little did Matt know that it’d take several years for him to learn how to get a bill passed. “I got beat up a bunch of times before I figured it out,” he confesses. “But in 2015 our bill passed!”
UNITING PEOPLE AND SCIENTISTS IN ORDER TO FIND A CURE
“It was the connections I made at Unite2Fight and funding from them that allowed me to do that,” he says. “I wanted to make sure the money went to projects that seek to change the nature and course of the injury, so that’s what we did.”Now serving as the Executive Director of U2FP, Matthew has learned a lot about SCI research, but he continues to strive to make the right connections as they try to find a cure for paralysis.
“Of course that’s our goal here” he confirms. “And so how do we best do that? First we have to increase the funding for research. We have help scientists to be more collaborative, and then we have to bring the SCI community together with the scientific community. That’s the heart of U2FP.”
Attend the 2019 Wheels2Walking Symposium in Cleveland
Unite2Fight Paralysis is bringing its 14th Annual Working 2 Walk Science & Advocacy Symposium to Cleveland this year! The conference is a collaborative gathering that prioritizes the voice of the Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Community. U2FP leaders bring together research scientists, clinicians, and community advocates, along with investors and industry leaders to exchange information and strategies for achieving recovery from SCI.
Confirmed speakers of September 13th, 2019 include:
- David Darrow, MD, MPH | Department of Neurosurgery, University of Minnesota; Principal Investigator, E-STAND clinical trial
- Marc DePaul, PhD | Director of Research & NVG-291 Project Leader, NervGen Pharma Corp.
- Alina Garbuzov | Postdoctoral Researcher at University of California, San Diego – School of Medicine
- Hal Hargrave | Founder, Educational & Marketing Director, The Perfect Step
- Jessica Kwok, PhD | University Academic Fellow, University of Leeds
- John H. Martin, MD | Medical Professor, CUNY School of Medicine
- Rebecca Martin, OTR/L, OTD, CPAM | Manager Clinical Education and Training, International Center for Spinal Cord Injury (ICSCI), Kennedy Krieger Institute
- Dana McTigue, PhD | Professor and Vice Chair of Research in the Department of Neuroscience and in the Center for Brain and Spinal Cord Repair, Ohio State University
- Susan Miller, M.D. | Coverage and Analysis Group, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
- P. Hunter Peckham, PhD | Donnell Institute Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Orthopaedics, Distinguished University Professor
- Vivek Pinto, PhD | Chief, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Devices Branch at FDA
- Phillip Popovich, PhD | Professor and Chair, Department of Neuroscience; Co-Director of the Neuroscience Research Institute; Director of the Center for Brain and Spinal Cord Repair; Faculty Affiliate, Chronic Brain Injury, Ohio State University
- Jerry Silver, PhD | Professor, Department of Neurosciences, Case Western Reserve University
- Lyandysha Zholudeva | Postdoctoral Researcher, Drexel University College of Medicine
The Wheels2Walking Symposium is open to everyone and they want everyone to attend. That’s why they provide 50% discounts to people with an injury and 100% for needed caregivers. Click here to register.
Why You Should Get Involved with U2FP Too
Matthew explains, “In the quest to reverse paralysis, we have very few opportunities to meet and share information. Scientists in the field do not have the opportunities to hear directly from people with a SCI, and most people with a SCI have insufficient knowledge of the current state of research, trials, and the numerous problems that must be solved in order to find a cure.
The Annual Working 2 Walk Science & Advocacy Symposium fills these gaps. It provides a unique setting where participants can engage in open, honest and supportive discussions of how we can work together toward a common goal.
Simply put, we are working to connect those who research the injury with those who live with the injury. We believe that providing this two-way connection leads to a better understanding of the problem, which is the first step to arriving at a solution. Please come join us.”
CURE MEDICAL FUNDS PARALYSIS RESEARCH WITH EVERY CATHETER WE MAKE
Founded by a quadriplegic, Cure Medical is the only catheter manufacturer in the world that donates 10% of net income to support research programs in pursuit of a cure for urinary retention, paralysis, spinal cord injury and central nervous system disorders.
Matthew Rodreick believes the Cure Commitment to support medical research is much needed in our community, and hopes more medical organizations will join the effort too.
“Thanks to Cure Medical for committing 10% of its net income to Spinal Cord Injury Research,” he explains. “Imagine what we could accomplish if more companies like Cure Medical did the same! We need many partners in the for-profit world to help shepherd research to cures.”
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