When Reno Candido first became an outpatient of Toronto Rehab's Rocket Family Upper Extremity Clinic's Lyndhurst Centre location, he had no movement below his shoulders.
The 51-year-old became quadriplegic almost two years ago, after slipping and falling on ice.
After eight months of MyndMove therapy, a product created by Toronto Rehab researchers that delivers functional electrical stimulation (FES) to paralyzed muscles, he has already increased function in his shoulders, allowing him to move his arms back and forth.
He's also now eligible for a research trial that has the potential of pushing his progress even further – without leaving the team he's come to trust most with his recovery.
Reno's journey with Toronto Rehab illustrates what can be possible, when research and clinical care come together seamlessly.
"I can't stress enough how much it has helped my mental health, to be able to see myself making progress," says Reno.
"One of the things I've always held onto is hope – and the Rocket clinic gives me that."
Increasing access to care
The Rocket clinic offers two locations: One is downtown, at University Centre, while a newer, uptown location, affectionately known as Rocket North, opened its doors this past spring, at Lyndhurst Centre.
The goal of both locations is simple: Offer a seamless process for patients to take advantage of both proven upper limb therapies, as well as experimental options they wouldn't otherwise have access to. All while enabling researchers to trial their studies.
Access is one of the biggest reasons the team decided to expand to a second location, says Dr. Sukhvinder Kalsi-Ryan, Clinician Scientist.
"The opening of the Lyndhurst location allows our team to make our services more broadly available and convenient for patients living in different parts of the city."
While both Rocket clinics serve patients with neurological deficiencies resulting from a stroke or spinal cord injury (SCI), University Centre offers a certain degree of expertise around stroke, Lyndhurst Centre's focus is spinal cord pathology.
In fact, many of Toronto Rehab's SCI community tends to return to Lyndhurst for a variety of reasons both medical and non-medical, says. Dr. Kalsi-Ryan.
"This is where SCI patients receive inpatient and outpatient rehab, and where their physicians practice. We thought it would be ideal for patients to be able to take advantage of our clinical-research services, at the same location."
According to Reno, Lyndhurst feels like home.
"I have a familiarity at Lyndhurst, and that's an amazing feeling," he says. "Every time I'm here, I fit right in, and spend time with people I know, in a great environment."
A focus on clinical-research
Toronto Rehab is focused on building capacity to integrate research and practice, and the Rocket clinics are set up to push this priority forward.
For example, the research trial that Reno is now eligible for involves a garment that delivers FES to muscles in the arms, via electrodes woven discreetly into the sleeves.
"I'm excited about joining the trial," he says.
"I've made so many gains with FES so far, I'm interested to see if I experience further progress."
Reno will continue to visit the clinic, where his therapists have been trained by researchers to administer his FES garment therapy. The therapist will then document his progress, and feed the information back to researchers, in real time.
This process allows researchers to innovate faster, making solutions available to patients sooner.
"Reno has gone from having no movement at all, to developing some movement, and now we can consider him for this FES study, and see how much more recovery he may make," says Dr. Kalsi-Ryan.
And that's what excites her most about Rocket North.
"Toronto Rehab has had great success in discovering new therapies, but there are many barriers to actually getting new therapies out to the people who could benefit from them," she says.
"Our second clinic allows more people to access us, and allows us to reach – and support – more people."