Mobility Post
Facebook Twitter

A Young Musician with Muscle Atrophy and His Teacher Discover App to Play the Drums

Photo Credit: KARE 11 TV Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN

“I Don’t Believe In I Can’t……” A Young Musician with Muscle Atrophy and His Dedicated Teacher Discover App to Play the Drums in the School Band

Some teachers leave an indelible mark on our lives. Gina Christopherson of Minnesota is one such teacher…

When Ethan Och, a young man with spinal muscular atrophy, was in the fifth grade he joined the band. He chose to play the drums because his teacher was able to find a pair of lightweight drum sticks to make drumming less tiring for him.

Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a recessive disease caused by a genetic defect. The disease affects the motor nerve cells in the spinal cord, resulting in a wasting away of the muscles and impaired mobility. Eventually SMA takes away a person’s ability to walk, eat and breathe.

Ethan’s SMA began to cause extreme arm weakness, balance issues and fatigue, so much so that even his lightweight drumsticks became too difficult to use. Ethan tried to maintain a positive attitude and play through. In the eighth grade, Ethan went with a heavy heart to his music teacher and told her that he would have to quit the band.  His body could just not do it any longer.

Mrs.Christopherson would not allow Ethan to quit. “I don’t believe in I can’t” she told him.

With that, Mrs. Christopherson set out to find a way to help Ethan continue to play in the band. The solution came as a result of a drum app Ethan had his smartphone.  Mrs. Christopherson began to research other drum apps---finding approximately 75 initial options! Unfortunately, the one that she felt would work the best was not compatible with his phone, so during class she lent him her phone.

With the smartphone hooked up to a sound system, Ethan could play along with the rest of the band through the Cowbell Plus and Shaker (now Pocket Shaker) apps.  With just the tap of a finger on one of the images on his screen, Ethan could select his percussion instrument. The speed with which he tapped would control the tempo and the volume.

Through time and the efforts of his parents, Ethan was able to get an Ipad2 as part of his Individualized Education Program (IEP). The Ipad2 gave him access to even more apps and allowed him to practice at home. Since the Ipad2 has a much larger screen, Ethan can use the app Garage Band, which allows him access to an entire drum set.

Since no one had ever used an Ipad2 as part of a high school band, Mrs. Christopherson worked with the Minnesota State High School League to get approval for Ethan to participate in concerts and band competitions. The league initially had reservations, but ultimately approved the request.

To enable Ethan to participate in marching band events, Mrs. Christopherson straps her smartphone to his leg with Velcro so that it does not shift. The smartphone is connected to a guitar amplifier powered by a car battery attached to a power inverter so that his percussion instruments can be heard loudly. All of the amplifier equipment is contained within a stroller that another student pushes alongside Ethan. Ethan then controls his wheelchair while playing the drums on his Ipad2.

Thanks to technology, and most importantly, dedicated and caring teachers like Mrs. Christopherson children of all abilities are now being allowed the opportunity to experience great experiences they might otherwise have thought were out of their reach.

To learn more about Ethan and Mrs. Christopherson, visit USA Today.


Stem Cell Therapy and Immune Markers: Key Advancements in the Research and Treatment of Multiple Sclerosis

When nerves have barren patches without myelin, they can no longer properly conduct electrical signals... the therapy involves the harvesting of stem cells from bone marrow.

Over 400,000 Americans are affected by Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a degenerative neurological disease that causes an erosion of the insulating fat (myelin) that surrounds nerves. When someone is affected by the disease, it is because white blood cells (T lymphocytes) have crossed the usually impermeable blood-brain barrier, and have eaten away at the myelin, leading to barren patches.

When nerves have barren patches without myelin, they can no longer properly conduct electrical signals; leading to neurological issues and physical symptoms including numbness, loss of balance, tingling, weakness in the extremities and/or a general lack of physical coordination.

Stem Cell Therapy

Some patients with MS are trying new, aggressive therapies, including stem cell therapy treatment. The pioneer of the stem cell therapy treatment is Dr. Saud A. Sadiq of the Tisch MS Research Center of New York. While still in its early stages, the therapy involves the harvesting of stem cells from patients’ bone marrow. The stem cells are then transformed in a laboratory into “neural progenitors”. The neural progenitors are then injected into the patient’s spinal fluid. The intent is that the neural progenitors could eventually lead to the repair of the myelin sheaths in the brain.

Stem cell therapy treatment is just one part of a broader push to understand the neurological disorders that affect the structure of the brain. As the baby boomer generation ages, more and more people within that age group may become affected by disorders such as MS, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

A commitment has been made by the White House to allocate $100 million in federal research funds for initiatives geared at understanding the brain. In addition, organizations such as the Ann Romney (wife of Mitt Romney) Center for Neurologic Diseases are also working towards understanding the brain and its neurological disorders, in an effort to find treatments, and ultimately cures.

Pinpointing an Immune Marker: The Next Frontier

Many doctors and researchers have questioned that if MS is an immune disease, then there should be something known as an immune marker. For this reason, finding a biomarker that could be identified through a blood test would represent one of the next major frontiers in MS research. Potential biomarkers that could signal the presence of MS have already been identified in some studies. In addition, it has been discovered that MS patients have an elevated level of a protein called serpin A3 in their tears---another possible clue to early detection.

While previous breakthroughs have found ways to slow the progress of MS and perhaps lessen the severity of symptoms, the breakthrough that everyone most wants to find is the one that may heal the brain, not just seal it off from future attacks.

Reversing the Damage Through Cell Stimulation

Dr. Ari J. Green of the University of California at San Francisco, is a researcher working to find a way to heal the brain. His mission isn’t just to stop the disease, but to also reverse it by finding a way to stimulate cells called oligodendrocytes, which make myelin, to repair the nerves stripped by MS. Instead of injecting stem cells like in Dr. Sadiq’s therapy, Dr. Green is trying to strengthen the body to do the repairs itself.

While research and testing continue, there are factors/symptoms that people should be aware of.

Risk Factors

Research has shown that while MS does not have a high rate of inheritability, there is a genetic component rooted principally in a family of immune genes called the major histocompatibility complex. Other risk factors are environment, including a lack of Vitamin D, and smoking.

Be Aware of the Early Symptoms

Many people feel numbness in their arm or leg or a tingling in their spine and simply dismiss it as a pinched nerve. Or, they may feel off-balance or fatigued, and think they are just coming down with something. Early intervention could have a very significant effect in shaping the outcome of MS treatment, so alerting your physician to these conditions and/or being tested is critical. Often, by the time a person seeks out a physician and is diagnosed, a significant amount of damage may have already been done to their brain.

For more information on multiple sclerosis, check out the Newsweek article; On the Hunt for a Multiple Sclerosis Cure.


Wheelchair Fisherman Shares His Enjoyment of the Outdoors and Angling Competition

“Just because you’re in a chair, doesn’t mean that you can’t do what you want to do.”

– Blaine Denious

Blaine and his wife while fishing on Pymatuning Reservoir in Ohio.

MobilityWorks client Blaine Denious is an avid fisherman who loves to share fish stories. He’ll talk to anyone who wants to know more about the great sport. He also loves the competition aspect of going up against able-bodied fisherman – and beating them. The Navy Veteran is a T4/T5 paraplegic who 35 years ago spent nearly a year in physical therapy and rehabilitation learning to be independent.

Although Blaine is in a wheelchair, that doesn’t slow him down or keep him from going out for a day on his pontoon boat. He views his fishing trips as a form of therapy. His favorite place to fish for bass, walleye, bluegill and perch is at Pymatuning Reservoir, located along the Ohio and Pennsylvania border.

In this video, Blaine shares not only his love of the sport, but also lets us into his home to enjoy a day with friends for one of his famous fish fries. Blaine also talks about the importance of having transportation and takes us for a drive in his BraunAbility accessible minivan while driving with hand controls from his wheelchair. Watch Blaine's three-minute video here:

"Fishing is much more than a sport, it's a form of therapy"

Thank you Blaine for sharing your life and passion for fishing with us. As of February 2015, your YouTube published video has been watched more than 60,000 times! We hope to see a lot more fish in the cooler in the years ahead!

Share Your Story on The MobilityPost!

We love to hear from our clients who are staying active and not letting their wheelchair keep them from enjoying life. If you would like to share a story with us, please let us know. Send us a blog, photo or video to and we’ll publish it here!


Sign-Up Today for the MobilityWorks Mobility Matters E-Newsletter!!

We invite you to sign up today for the MobilityWorks Mobility Matters e-newsletter. Each issue is packed with news, information and inspiration for people with mobility needs.

The  goal of the e-newsletter is to help people with disabilities, as well as their families and caregivers, gain a better understanding of the mobility products and services that are available to help them live life to the fullest and Never Miss a Moment!

Here is a quick look at what you can expect within each issue of Mobility Matters:

  • Informative articles on products to assist with various mobility needs
  • Positive, inspirational stories from people with disabilities and their families
  • Information on new advancements/topics of interest within the disabled community
  • Information on events and local happenings at our MobilityWorks locations
  • Details on great resources such as our MobilityWorks Rewards Program and MobilityWorks ProtectionWorks™ Roadside Assistance Program

Click here to join the Mobility Matters e-newsletter mailing list today!

Filed under: Miscellaneous No Comments

Winter Blizzards Got You Snowed In? There’s An App for That!

From Mobile Smart Phone to Mobility, Uber-Like Plowz App Provides for On-Demand Snow Plowing in a Few Easy Steps

If you don’t have a regular snowplow driver – or your teenage neighbor doesn’t shovel as well or as often as you’d like, what’s a person to do when it starts to get really bad outside? Fortunately there’s now an app for scheduling a plow to clean your driveway on-demand.

The PLOWZ app is shown here on an Apple iPhone. They also have a MOWZ app for lawn care using the same process.

Here’s How It Works

If you’ve ever used or heard of ride-share programs like Uber or Lyft, it’s a very similar concept. Local plow drivers sign up to be a Plowz resource and agree to a set fee based on the approximate size of the driveway. The closest PLOWZ driver will receive the request and add it to their route to complete. The MOWZ portion of the app is for people needing to have their lawns mowed – using the same principle. Once the job is finished, the driver takes a picture of your cleared driveway and uploads it for the user to see. Your preregistered credit card is then charged for the service.

In testing the app near Cleveland OH, a double-wide driveway approximately 3 to 5 cars in length would cost around $35. Costs may vary by city and fuel prices at the time of service. For our wheelchair clients, the concept seemed like a newsworthy service for us to share. PLOWZandMOWZ received many favorable reviews from a lot of different sources, including: Bloomberg Business Week, The Boston Globe, The Weather Channel, Daily Herald, and Fox Business News. Since this is relatively new, please let us know about your experience.

To get started, simply download the free app called "Plowz and Mowz". A few simple questions need to be answered during the registration process, including the approximate size and shape of your drive. Some of the cities being served where MobilityWorks has a store location includes: Akron OH; Albany NY; Chicago IL; Cincinnati OH; Cleveland OH; Detroit MI; Milwaukee WI; Nashville TN; and Pittsburgh PA.

So when two feet of snow hits your home town, now you can take care of it from the comfort of your living room with the download of an app and a few keystrokes.

To see if there are PLOWZ services in your area, go to

Note: Plowz states that the driveway needs to be staked beforehand. Most hardware stores and home centers carry thin colored rods used by professionals for this purpose. The Plowz driver may also do this for you by request.