An Alberta man who has been paralyzed from the chest down since breaking his neck at a trampoline park is heading to the U.S. for experimental treatment that he hopes will help him walk again.
“It’s not an ‘if I’ll walk,’ it’s a ‘when I’ll walk,” 20-year-old Landon Smith told CTV News.
In Jan. 2017, Smith sustained the injury at a trampoline park in Sherwood Park, Alta., near Edmonton, after doing a front flip into a foam pit, his neck allegedly making contact with the concrete floor underneath on landing.
Smith has now been accepted to participate in a clinical trial at the University of Miami where his own cells will be used to try to help him heal.
“I will be the only Canadian,” Landon said. “I am the youngest person in the world to be accepted into the trial.”
In essence, University of Miami scientists plan to harvest cells from a nerve at the back of Smith’s leg, use these to generate millions more cells, then inject them into Smith’s spinal cord weeks later in the hopes that they will reinsulate damaged fibres and encourage cell regeneration.
Smith will be travelling to Miami in October and will be there for at least 10 months. Although the cost of the treatment is being covered by the study, he and his family will be on the hook for nursing care and living expenses, which they are fundraising to cover.
As Smith works to recover, his mother Brenda Smith has been lobbying hard to change the way trampoline parks are operated and regulated in the country.
In Canada, such facilities regulate themselves. Health Canada, moreover, has not updated its trampoline safety page since 2006.
While data on trampoline-related injuries in Canada is not readily available, according to an American study that only looked at children, the number of injuries at trampoline parks jumped to nearly 7,000 in 2014 from fewer than 600 in 2010.
“I’m frustrated and I’m angry because I don’t want this to happen to somebody else,” Brenda Smith said. “And it should not have happened to begin with.”
The Smiths have also filed a $17 million lawsuit against the facility where Landon was injured. The owners of the park have denied any wrongdoing.
With a report from CTV National News Alberta Bureau Chief Janet Dirks