Cruise ships are like floating cities with thousands of passengers on board. Usually a lot more fun than the typical workaday city, but probably no less likely to involve accidents and injuries.

Cruise ship lines cannot guarantee that no one will get hurt aboard, but they do have a responsibility to prevent dangerous conditions on board that can cause serious injury to its passengers. When a cruise ship accident occurs because of poor maintenance, incompetent or  improperly trained employees, inadequate safety equipment or emergency precautions, the cruise  line can be held accountable.

Cruise ship tickets typically have a provision that

Year in and year out, most lawyers handling back injury cases see a lot of herniated discs and fractured vertebra.  A less common and for many lawyers poorly understood back injury is syringomyelia.

Syringomyelia is a condition in which a cyst or cavity forms within the spinal cord. While it may be congenital or caused by illness, when there are no symptoms and then it immediately shows up on an MRI after a truck folds up the rear of the person’s car, there is a good chance it is caused by trauma. Motor vehicle collisions are the most common traumatic cause of syringomyelia.

This cavity or cyst, called a syrinx, expands and elongates over time, destroying the center of the cord. Since the spinal cord connects the brain to the nerves in the extremities, this damage may result in pain, weakness, and stiffness in the back, shoulders, arms or legs. Other symptoms may include headaches and loss of the ability to feel extremes of hot or cold, especially in the hands and disruption in body temperature. SM may also adversely affect sweating, sexual function and bladder and bowel control. In extreme cases it may lead to paralysis.

Conservative treatment may involve multiple pain medications. In some patients it may be necessary to drain the syrinx, which can be accomplished using a catheter, drainage tubes, and valves. Surgery is usually recommended for syringomyelia patients, though the rate of success for surgery is not as high as with, for example, ruptured intervetebral discs.  However, surgery is only recommended when the condition is severe enough, and doctors may choose to defer surgery as long as appears safe.

As a country boy raised in a time when three black & white TV channels with an outdoor aerial was the height of technology, I get a kick out of it when I find that someone I don’t know in another part of the country reposts on the Internet one of my video clips.

Recently I was surprised to find that a lawyer  in Missouri reposted my video about spinal cord injuries.

Thanks for the free publicity!

It’s a long way from experiments with lab mice to clinical treatment of humans, and as a Georgia trial attorney in Atlanta, I only represent human spinal cord injury survivors.

However, it is interesting to observe progress in animal experiments that may someday carry over to treatment of humans.

According to an article published in Nature Neuroscience, researchers from UC Irvine, UC San Diego and Harvard recently announced they had induced nerve regeneration in mice with severe spinal cord injury.  They deleted an enzyme called PTEN (a phosphatase and tensin homolog), which controls a  molecular pathway that regulates cell growth. PTEN activity is low during development but turns on when growth is completed. Previously, researchers showed they could block PTEN in mice to regenerate nerve connections from the eye to the brain after optic nerve damage. The new research gives some degree of hope that such nerve regeneration could take place in the injured spinal cord.

If you ever suffer a major injury in metro Atlanta and are still able to talk, remember to say, "take me to Grady."  This is important because treatment at  a Level 1 trauma center significantly improves prospects of successful outcome. A recent article on "The Effects of Trauma Center Care, Admission Volume, and Surgical Volume on Paralysis After Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury" published in Annals of Surgery  concludes that trauma center care is associated with reduced paralysis after traumatic spinal cord injury, perhaps because of greater use of spinal surgery.  Hospitals that do not have trauma centers follow national guidelines to triage patients to trauma centers less than half the time, keeping patients in their facilities when they should be transported to a Level 1 trauma center.

So, as I said earlier, if you are in a serious accident within a 100 miles radius of Atlanta, remember these four words: "take me to Grady."

While I make my living as a trial attorney handling personal injury liability cases for people who have been seriously injured, I am also deeply interested in scientific advances that improve their prospects for productive lives of high quality.

Traumatic spinal cord injuries leading to quadriplegia and paraplegia are among the most devastating of all physical injuries.  The full scope of problems associated with those conditions  — pressure sores, spasticity, autonomic dysreflexia, lack of bowel and bladder control, etc. —  is unknown and virtually unimaginable to anyone who has not dealt directly with those conditions.

New advances in stem cell and nanotechnology research appear to offer hope in the long term. However, they are a long way from producing  treatments approved by the FDA, clinically available in the US and paid for by health insurance. Stem cell studies with lab animals have produced exciting reports, and every few weeks I see hopeful reports about the prospect of using stem cells from olfactory nerve, umbilical cord blood, spleen or bone marrow.

There is a lot of hype about the promise of stem cell therapies, and we read of patients traveling to Portugal, China, Thailand or Mexico for cutting edge treatments, the efficacy and safety of which have not yet been proven to the satisfaction of US authorities. 

A few web sites that offer insights into the current state of stem cell research are:

 I’m not a physician and cannot give medical advice. In representing victims of catastrophic injury, however, we try to look ahead to the possibilities for improving the quality and quantity of life if sufficient financial resources are made available.