SCI Life: August 2013

The Florio Effect
A long time ago there was an eager, baseball-loving 14-year-old by the name of Robert Florio from Glen Burnie, Md. And then what he calls his “cliché story” happened: He broke his neck in a friend’s swimming pool.

SCIaug13The first couple years were the hardest, re-entering life as a C3-5 quad. “I spent most of my time in my house listening to the kids playing baseball in the front yard where I grew up,” says Florio, now 31. Then he finally found what he needed — something to get passionate about. “It all started with the first mouth stick my teacher gave me at Kennedy Krieger School. His name was Alex Chamber.”

After receiving his first mouth stick and watercolor painting set, he created his first piece — an exact replica of a bonsai tree at home. “From there I was doing paintings of sunsets and tropical islands. Warm places where I could get away and escape.”

Since discovering mouth painting, his life has been transformed. He went on to graduate with a video game degree from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, wanting to design accessible video games, and he’s dabbled in music (playing an electric guitar using a piece of PVC pipe on his thumb). And he has done stand-up comedy — joking about dating and living with your parents when you have a SCI — not your usual comedy routine.

And possibly the best thing about discovering mouth painting is that it has helped him reach financial independence. He has been given a three-year painting contract from the Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists International, commissioned to create 10-11 pieces a year.

“I struggled financially for 17 years. This is an amazing opportunity. I’m not rich,” he says, “but I finally have something I can save and look forward to progressing financially.”

View his art at robertflorio.com.

Robotics for Everyone
So many enticing robotics have been developed in the past couple of years. Ever worry you’ll never get a chance to try any of it out yourself? So did Mitch Brogan, a C4 quad, who created the first ever live-in gait therapy facility in 2011 in Byron, Canada. Brogan himself is the only quad to date to successfully operate a bionic exoskeleton.

Called 456 Boler Road, Brogan’s unique facility provides robotic-assisted gait training with well-known robotics devices. They offer the Lokomat and the Erigo (for gait training), the Ekso Bionics exoskeleton, an RT 300 FES bike, an indoor heated therapy pool, the Hocoma ArmeoSpring arm range-of-motion therapy and a full physio gym.

And on-site accessible lodging is provided as you train. They even can cover your caregiver, meal and transportation needs if you have the cash on hand. Otherwise, outpatient services are an option.

Learn more at www.456bolerroad.com.

Kickstarter Jeans
Stephanie Alves, a mainstream fashion designer, has launched an adapted jean line dubbed ABL Jeans — an idea she had a year ago but wasn’t sure how to fund it. Then Alves took a chance and won $15,000 in start-up cash from Kickstarter. She’s created four different jean styles, each with unique adaptive elements.

Check out her stuff at www.abletailor.com

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