This is something that has been in the pipeline for a few months now, and I only told a few people about it… But now the flights have been booked and final preparations are taking place, so I can share with everyone. I am going to China to join the Kunming Walking Programme, which I am SO excited about. (And also slightly terrified!)
First I will explain what the programme entails, but please bear in mind that I am not going there with the expectation that I will be ‘cured’. The theory sounds logical and straight forward, but of course they do not promise any results, and if it was a guaranteed method of making paralysed people walk again then, well, there wouldn’t be any paralysed people!
The walking programme focuses on prolonged periods of standing and walking in an attempt to make the brain reawaken connections and recruit related muscles. First the patient must learn to stand with a frame and just the help of therapists blocking the knees. Once this has been mastered, then it is on to taking steps… with the assistance of the therapists again. And then it is a case of repeating this over and over again.
Their very simple looking progression is demonstrated in the pic below…
As I said, the theory looks very straight forward, but in reality it is not like that at all. The walking programme in Kunming is 6 hours a day, 6 days a week for at least six months. So it requires a great deal of strength, both physical and mental. My body will adapt to the intensity of the exercise, but I will have to learn to deal with a great deal of frustration as progress can be extremely slow (and I have to be prepared to make no progress at all).
So why am I choosing to do this?! Well, ever since I heard about the programme I have been extremely interested. Originally it was a Chinese military programme and was not available to anyone outside of China. But the founder of the programme, Dr Zhu Hui retired from her position as a medical corps officer and was recruited by the Tongren Hospital Group, where she is now the head of the new neurosurgery and spinal rehab department. This development has allowed them to open their doors to international patients. Currently there are just a handful of international patients there, and I will be the first UK (and I think possibly European) patient to attend the programme… that’s pretty crazy!!
I have had my heart set on going to China because honestly, I think it is too much of a good opportunity to miss out on. Anyone who is a regular reader knows that I am a pretty impatient person and I am not going to just sit around and wait for something to come to me. I have a great deal of determination, and I am not afraid of hard work. I love my rehab sessions here, but China offers something that isn’t available anywhere else… their programme is quite unique, and the intensity of it is something that nowhere else really offers. And the cost is extremely reasonable for the amount of therapists and hours of training that are involved.
So on October 29th I will be flying out to Kunming to join the programme and head out into the unknown. The programme claims to have had some remarkable results and Dr Zhu Hui has treated and rehabilitated over 4000 spinal injured patients since 1989. She most definitely has more experience than anyone else in the world when it comes to spinal injuries, so I am very privileged to have the opportunity to be one of her patients. I am going out to China with a complete open mind… I am prepared to put in the hard work and hopefully I will see some results, but if I don’t then at least I know I tried. One thing is for sure, this is going to be a massive adventure for me!!