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Standing wheelchair would improve family's quality of life

| Monday, Aug. 26, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Dr. James Childs visited his grandson, Nathan Nelson (left), in Nashville, last year when Nathan participated in the Nashville Kids’ Music City Marathon. Nathan has participated in the marathon for five years in honor of “Papa,” as he calls his grandfather.

EAST FRANKLIN ­— Six years ago, Dr. James Childs, an ACMH Hospital pathologist, plunged 250 feet over a cliff along Route 268 near Butler Road when the ground gave way under his feet.

He survived the fall, but he was left with a severe spinal cord injury.

Since then, Childs has lived his life in a wheelchair as a quadriplegic.

But he and his family hope that may not always be the case. They believe he has a chance to one day walk again.

According to his doctors, Childs' spinal cord was never severed, said his wife, Rose Anne.

“They say his spinal cord is in shock, that it's an incomplete injury,” she said. “They tell him to keep his muscles up through therapy and by riding a bike.”

Family members purchased a Functional Electrical Stimulation bike for Childs, who had been an avid cyclist before being injured at the age of 58.

He has continued with an innovative type of therapy known as the Brucker Method of biofeedback, which his daughter, Lynn Nelson, said caused an increase in nerve activity in his legs.

Rose Anne said her husband has sensation everywhere, a tingling sensation, and can even tell when his feet are cold.

“I can see a big difference in how much more he can do,” said Rose Anne.

Childs' family believes that one more piece of equipment will help speed up the recovery process.

Nelson said her father's therapists and doctors have recommended a standing wheelchair, which will stimulate blood flow and maintain blood pressure and bone integrity.

“The hangup is, of course, that insurance won't cover it,” said Nelson.

That's why she has started a fundraiser on the Giveforward website .

The standing wheelchair costs about $8,000, not including shipping fees that run close to $2,000, Nelson said.

And the equipment would benefit Rose Anne too.

Right now, it takes two people (Rose Anne and one of several home health aides) to help Childs get out of bed. The repetitive daily movement has taken a physical toll on Rose Anne and has resulted in her developing an ankle injury.

With the standing wheelchair, Childs would be able to move from the bed to the wheelchair without assistance and could be lifted into position by the push of a button.

Rose Anne said that the family is grateful for the support they have received, particularly from Grace Brethren Church in West Kittanning and from the staff and students at its affiliate, Grace Christian School, where Childs oversees and instructs dissection during science class.

He is also a guest lecturer for the physical therapy assistant program at Butler Community College.

“My husband is every bit as busy as he was before,” said Rose Anne.

However, she said, people can be afraid of injuries and often don't realize the daily struggles associated with it.

She said that after the accident, there had been a tremendous outpouring from the community and noted that there are many ways for people to offer support other than at the monetary level.

Spreading the word about people with disabilities and their individual stories is important, said Rose Anne.

Nathan Nelson, 12, who is Lynn's son and Rose Anne and James Childs' grandson, has participated in the Nashville Kids' Music City Marathon for the past five years, dedicating each run to his grandfather, “Papa.”

Lynn said her son was in first grade when his grandfather had his accident.

Even at that young age, Nathan figured there was something he could do, and told his mother: “Papa can't run anymore, so I am going to run for him.”

Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or

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