X-Message-Number: 13405
Date: Sun, 19 Mar 2000 17:07:54 -0500
From: Jan Coetzee <>
Subject: French Paraplegic Walks for First Time

French Paraplegic Walks for First Time

STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) - A paralyzed Frenchman took his first
steps for ten years after
a revolutionary operation to restore nerve functions using a microchip
implant, newspapers
reported Sunday.

Marc Merger, 39, who was paralyzed in a car accident, received the
implant in February during
a ground-breaking operation that doctors said gave new hope to thousands
of paraplegics.

``An extraordinary emotion. Suddenly, we were not teaching a paraplegic
to cope with a
wheelchair, but to walk,'' Merger, 39, was quoted as saying in French
regional daily L'Alsace.

``At the beginning, a week ago, I could stay standing for about two and
a half minutes. Several
sessions later, I was at six minutes and a half. I'm telling you, it's
magic,'' Merger said.

Merger, a former bank manger who now works as a consultant at a
university, received an initial
implant in September, but had to go back into surgery when the chip
developed a bug, L'Alsace

``At the beginning I felt enormous relief, because the operation had
been okay. And I was
enchanted by the magic of standing up. It's fantastic!'' he said after
taking his first faltering steps

Merger said the treatment had been tough but he was determined to
continue with the support of
his wife and two children at his home in the northern city of

``I will try, perhaps in six months, to stand up and walk around my
house with a walking frame,''
he said.

Merger walks by pressing buttons on a walking frame which acts as a
remote control for the chip,
sending impulses through fine wires to stimulate his leg muscles,
newspapers said.

Doctors who carried out the operation in the southeastern city of
Montpellier said they had not
repaired Merger's injury and the system would only work for paraplegics
whose muscles had
remained alive despite damage to their nerves.

``For the moment he is like a child learning to walk, but he should
still make great progress
within the next six months,'' said Pierre Rabischong, the head of the
European Union-sponsored
Stand Up And Walk research project which conducted the operation.

L'Alsace said two British, two Danish and two Italian doctors were among
the team that carried
out the operation.

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