Virginia Girl's Fundraiser supports search for a cure for spinal cord injury
Ten year-old MacKenzie Clare was looking forward to a day of fun at Port Discovery in Baltimore with her parents and two friends on April 2, 2005. But that rainy day took a different turn when a pick-up truck traveling on the opposite side of the highway lost control and veered into their lane, hitting their car, and injuring all five occupants.
MacKenzie sustained the most serious injury - a spinal cord injury, losing the ability to feel and move below her chest. During a three month inpatient stay at Kennedy Krieger Institute, MacKenzie was able to benefit from the newly established International Center for Spinal Cord Injury (ICSCI), led by Drs. John McDonald and Cristina Sadowsky. It was at Kennedy Krieger that MacKenzie and her family learned about advanced restoration therapies, which help the body "remember" how to move. A special bike using functional electrical stimulation (FES) was key in MacKenzie’s ability to participate in this innovative therapy regime.
"In order to continue MacKenzie’s progress, we knew we needed an FES bike at home and nobody around here had one," says Mrs. Clare. The family also wanted to purchase a prone stander, a device which enables those with mobility impairments to stand upright, promoting weight-bearing for the long bones, and preventing a host of other problems.
MacKenzie’s family created a fundraiser called "Miracles May Come" that sold bracelets in MacKenzie’s favorite colors, a blue, white, and purple tie-dye design that could be purchased for $5.00 each.
Derived from MacKenzie May Clare’s own name, Miracles May Come raised enough money to purchase an FES bike and stander for home, and to present Kennedy Krieger Institute with a $4,000 check for spinal cord injury research.
"One of the most important things about the spinal cord program at Kennedy is their philosophy. They truly believe there is going to be a cure," says Mrs. Clare, who wanted to give back to the place that provided so much help to her daughter.
"Some people think that therapy is too hard, but it helps you," says MacKenzie, "I’m stronger and more independent."
MacKenzie, now a sixth-grader, likes to play the trumpet and swim. Although she relies upon a wheelchair for mobility, all of the therapy she received during her inpatient stay, and continues to receive as an outpatient at Kennedy’s ICSCI, has helped her participate in these activities like any other girl her age.
"She can do things she couldn’t do before. She has more abdominal muscles now," says her mother, which helps with playing the trumpet. "Right after the injury she had a hard time breathing and was afraid of choking. She’s more confident now and isn’t afraid."
Mrs. Clare plans to expand "Miracles May Come" into a non-profit foundation this year, so that other families in need can benefit from using the same type of equipment that helped their daughter make important strides in her recovery.