Hello!! As most of you know, our dear Ryan Walsh died suddenly in his sleep in early December 2016 as the result of a traumatic brain injury suffered in a car accident four years before that. During the years that followed the accident, we watched helplessly as Ryan’s condition grew worse, rather than better. While he returned to work and playing music a few weeks after the accident, his walking became less stable as time progressed until he needed a cane…and even so, fell frequently.
In the beginning, he could sometimes stand up while playing music (he had toured on 3 continents and played 100’s of shows around the world) …and then he needed to sit while playing…and finally Ryan could no longer play at all as the pain grew too intense and he lost feeling and sensation in his fingers.
Concentration also became more challenging for Ryan. Tasks that had been easy for him started to cause headaches that disabled him for hours. When you spoke to Ryan, he was still the same funny, sweet, articulate guy, but spreadsheets became impossible to create or read, and his short-term memory never improved.
Aside from the obvious physical disabilities that the traumatic brain injury left Ryan with, one of the most frustrating aspects for him and for us was that the currently available diagnostic tools (MRI, CT scans, many tests) failed to show any significant brain damage. Because of this, Ryan failed to qualify for disability insurance and benefits repeatedly. So, he could not walk, he could not play music, he could not work on a computer or even do repetitive tasks and therefore could not work…but he also could not prove that he was disabled.
After Ryan’s sudden passing, we decided to try to find a facility that was exclusively focused on research in this area so that others with similar injuries could be diagnosed (both to help them be cured AND to help them prove their short or long term disability) and treated. Concussions happen all the time…accidents, sports, etc. There must be better tools to diagnose and treat!! An arduous search led us to the Miami Project. Some of their current endeavors include:
- The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis is a Center of Excellence at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine that is dedicated to developing new treatments for brain and spinal cord injury
- 300 investigators working on basic, translational and clinical programs for improving function and quality of life issues like neuropathic pain and emotional problems
- Helped pioneer the use of therapeutic hypothermia for the acute treatment for patients with severe TBI
- Described neuron-specific inflammatory processes after injury and identified serum surrogate biomarkers to assess injury severity
- Testing novel drugs and compounds that improve cognitive and vestibular function after mild TBI and concussion
- We are using state-of-the-art engineering technologies to improve function in chronically injured TBI patients
- Manipulating circuit and synaptic plasticity in the brain to enhance rehabilitation and recovery
- Actively testing stem cell therapies in clinically relevant TBI models and working to translate these novel cell therapies to the clinic
- Training the next generation of scientist and clinicians to conduct neurotrauma investigations with the goal of changing the way we successfully treat patients
- Our educational and outreach programs are providing critical information to our neurotrauma community and clinical colleagues
- Injury prevention programs in elementary and high schools
We have established the Ryan Walsh Traumatic Brain Injury Fund to raise money for research and raise awareness of this problem. Ryan was driving along when someone ran a red light. He had been doing nothing wrong. It could have been any of us. We want to leave as Ryan’s legacy this research that can help others. He was funny and smart and creative and one of the kindest people you ever could have imagined. He said hello and smiled at everyone. He fought for the rights of the marginalized. He stood up for those who could not stand up for themselves. Please help us to build his legacy. Please help us help others with similar injuries.
You can participate by visiting my page (I am running the Shape Half Marathon in NYC in Ryan’s memory to raise money for the fund)
or our Team Page: http://helpcureparalysis.thebuonicontifund.com/ryanwalsh
Thank you so very much for reading! Be well!