Letter From the Director

Dr. Cristina Sadowsky

Happy Spring. I hope wherever you are, the sun is shining and the birds are chirping. We have so much exciting news to share and hope you enjoy reading the latest information from the International Center for Spinal Cord Injury (ICSCI).

Just when you thought our construction efforts were over, read about another project at our Maple Lawn location—the digging will start this summer for a pool! We are in the midst of raising funds to make the pool a reality but we know how important it is to bring the healing benefits of water to Maple Lawn so we have made that a priority. 

Please take some time to read about the activities and opportunities in this newsletter. We appreciate the confidence that all our patients, families, donors and supporters have placed in us and our work. We strive to be better each day and look forward to advancing care and research for individuals with spinal cord injuries and disorders.

Enjoy the spring weather, and we hope to see you in the next few months at one of our upcoming activities or events.

All the best,
Cristina L. Sadowsky, MD
Clinical Director
International Center for Spinal Cord Injury

Trends in Spinal Cord Rehabilitation

The ICSCI hosted its 14th annual Trends in Spinal Cord Rehabilitation Symposium on March 18. The symposium featured two speakers from the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation:  Linda Jones, PT, PhD who presented “Clinical Trials in Spinal Cord Injury: A View of the Present with an Eye to the Future” and Alan Brown, who presented “Clinical Spinal Cord Injury Trials; The Lived Experience”. Over 160 people attended the virtual event and engaged in riveting discussions on clinical trials.

Additionally, the ICSCI presented its annual service awards to

Leader in Spinal Cord Research & Education Award: This award is to recognize an outstanding individual who has made significant contributions in the areas of spinal cord related paralysis research and/or education. Nominees have shown dedication to improving scientific or educational knowledge within the spinal cord injury community.

Winner: Elizabeth Neighbors, PT, DPT

Lizzie joined ICSCI in 2012 as a new graduate and over the past twelve years, she has become an integral part of our clinical and research initiatives. As noted by her colleagues, Lizzie is thoughtful in her approach to patient care, which extends to her involvement in research. She is innovative in her treatments and often inspires others to push their patients into achieving better outcomes. Lizzie is selfless with her time, picking up coverage, offering hands, taking on new responsibilities, and providing mentorship across sites. Her passion for clinical research and education is evident in her work. She has grown into an exceptional therapist with great potential to change the standard of care through her research and education activities. We are lucky to have her as a part of our team.

Dedication to Improving Lives Award: This award is to acknowledge and honor a current ICSCI employee who demonstrates consistent dedication to the Center's mission of Improving Lives. Nominees have made valued contributions in at least one of the following areas to support ICSCI, its mission, and its patients:

  • Direct patient care
  • Mentorship
  • Operational support

Winner: Chanelle Johnson, RN

Chanelle also joined ICSCI in 2012. Her colleagues all agree that she is not only knowledgeable and experienced but she is also compassionate, committed, and dedicated to patient care. She is known as a problem-solver that not only understands the needs of the spinal cord injury population but also the needs of the health care providers that are tasked with their care. She is dependable in ensuring that our patients receive the appropriate resources, care, supplies, and education needed to maintain their lifestyle. Co-workers see that she is always willing to go above and beyond for our patients and their families.  Chanelle demonstrates exemplary leadership and mentorship skills and is a consummate professional, even in the most stressful situations. Thank you for your dedication to improving lives.

We Are Bringin' the Hon from Baltimore to Boston

The front and back of a blue long sleeved Boston Marathon participant shirt. On the back, it says "We're Bringin' The Hon" in yellow and white letters.

ICSCI is excited to share that two of our hand cyclists have qualified for this year’s Boston Marathon, taking place on Monday, April 15. Boston has one of the biggest, if not the biggest, handcycle divisions so securing a spot in the race it is highly competitive. We are excited to cheer on Nick Antlitz and Jordan Christman as they handcycle their way through the streets of Boston. Nick has been a member of Team Kennedy Krieger for 10 years and Jordan for the past 4 years.

In order to help support our Team Kennedy Krieger athletes competing in this prestigious event, we are offering this limited run special edition shirt. Visit KennedyKrieger.org/HOPEshirts to purchase one today and support Nick and Jordan.  And be sure to follow up on social media to get live updates from the race course on the day of the event!

Mental Health Campaign Features Former Patient

An animated aviator of Chris sits in a wheelchair inside a gym.

Kennedy Krieger launched a mental health series targeting teens for support on their mental health issues called Chill Out Mind. The series is filled with animated stories and real-life adventures that help teenagers understand how their minds work, why they feel the way they do, and most importantly, how to navigate the ups and downs of life.

The first episode of the series features Chris Mason-Hale, an ICSCI patient who was paralyzed in a football game when he was 16.  In addition to the videos, we have a landing page that will provide more information, interviews, and a list of resources.

Click here to view Chris’ story.

Adaptive Sports

A line of boats in Baltimore's Inner Harbor featuring colorful sails with the Kennedy Krieger Institute logo.

If you have a spinal cord injury, adaptive sports and recreation may be key to your lifelong wellness. These activities may also help you engage with your community.  Even if you have never taken part in these types of activities, you can find an adaptive option that is right for you!  Learn more about our recent activities and what we have coming up.

We kicked off 2024 with an afternoon of bowling and added duckpin bowling which was a real crowd favorite. We moved outdoors for our next event when we headed to Whitetail Resort in nearby Pennsylvania for a day of skiing. The weather was gorgeous and the instructors provided by Two Top Mountain Adaptive Sports were superb.

Coming up:

  • Friends of Patapsco Valley State Park events (all equipment needed is provided):
    • Adaptive fishing - April 13
    • Adaptive mountain biking – May 5
    • Adaptive Playground – April 14 and June 22
    • Adaptive Kayaking – May 19 and June 22
    • Bowling - April 10
  • Boston Marathon April 15 – Cheer on two of our own handcyclists who qualified for the Boston Marathon! Follow us on social media to see how they do.
  • Nashville Rock N Roll Marathon April 27
  • Second Annual Adaptive Sports & Recreation Resource Fair May 4 – Currently seeking vendors and volunteers. Registration for attendees will open April 1.
  • Handcycle Loan application to open April 16
  • Sailing with the Impossible Dream in June (Exact date TBD)

Contact Us: Please email AdaptiveSports@KennedyKrieger.org with any questions or for more information on a specific program or opportunity.

Follow Us! Join our Adaptive Sports Facebook Group. To join, simply search for “Team Kennedy Krieger Adaptive Sports” on Facebook. Request to join the group by answering the questions and acknowledging the group’s rules.

Follow us on Instagram! Find us @teamkennedykrieger.

Not interested in competitive adaptive sports? Join anyway! We offer noncompetitive adapted recreational activities such as the ones above, plus you can learn about what Team Kennedy Krieger is up to and how to get involved.

Maple Lawn Pool is Coming!

Since 2005, our center has provided exceptional patient care and rehabilitation to more than 3,750 adults and children from across the country and around the world. The center’s vision is for every person with paralysis to have meaningful recovery and quality of life improvement. 

Utilization of advanced technologies in conjunction with expert rehabilitative care are distinguishing features of the high quality therapy provided by and a hallmark of the ICSCI. Providing patients with high levels of activity above and below their injury level is essential in optimizing the nervous system’s improvement.

In addition to traditional physical and occupational therapy, aquatic therapy offers patients with spinal cord related paralysis an escape from the limitations of gravity and improves strength, balance, endurance and range of motion. The water’s buoyancy allows freedom of movement and muscle strength occurs quicker as movements are performed against the resistance of water. Aquatic therapy is beneficial for patients of all ages.

We plan to bring the healing benefits of water to our patients at Maple Lawn. The total cost of the buildout for the pool, installation and materials is $1,000,000. We plan to break ground sometime this summer.  If you are interested in contributing to this important project, please visit KennedyKrieger.org/pool.

Recent Publications

Below are some recent publications by ICSCI staff members:

Escorpizo R, Naud S, Post MWM, Schwegler U, Engkasan J, Halvorsen A, Geraghty T, Sadowsky C (2024) Relationship between employment and quality of life and self-perceived health in people with spinal cord injury: an international comparative study based on the InSCI Community Survey. Spinal Cord. 62(3):110-116. PMID:  38160224

Rivera GS, Stokum JA, Dean J, Sadowsky CL, Belzberg AJ, Elrick MJ (2024) Nerve Transfer Surgery in Acute Flaccid Myelitis: Prognostic Factors, Long-Term Outcomes, Comparison With Natural History. Pediatric Neurology. 150:74-81. PMID: 37981447