unlike standing in a harsh gale, once the terminal velocity was reached and
the terminal velocity was reached while we were busy doing forward rolls.
Skydiving was definitely radical enough to activate the alternate pathways
but the panic involved with skydiving is not really comparable to the panic
involved with virtually drowning. That is, I needed use from right my arm
and hand to prevent my head from going underwater, where as with
free-falling, there wasn't any necessity for my hand and arm to function.
Over the years, I have written to numerous medical authorities. Some have
had the professional courtesy to reply and their opinions and suggestions
are given below.
Dr B A Kakulas - a professor at The Australian Neuromuscular Research
Institute - was the first to offer a reasonable explanation why the fear of
drowning made my arm and hand function. The professor explains what most
likely happened: 'There are many pathways for communication between the
brain and the muscles through the spinal cord. The area of the brain that
controls voluntary movement - the pyramidal system - was affected in the
accident. However, there are alternate pathways (extra-pyramidal system)
that are capable of conveying the required messages for the right arm and
hand to function'. All the medical authorities that have replied have
overwhelmingly agreed with the professor as to his explanation about why my
right arm functioned.
Dr P D Thompson - a specialist at the University Department of Clinical
Neurology in London - has expressed his surprise as to why skydiving did not
make my arm move, while Dr Kakulas refers to the inability to reproduce this
experience whilst skydiving of great interest. Even taking these opinions
into account, both the doctors stated that there is, as yet, no way of
consciously being able to utilise these alternate pathways.
Michael Hunt - Neuropsychologist at R.P.(R).H - justified my initial
presumption concerning the hypnosis angle. He told of a group of people who
had severe memory difficulties and were trying to utilise the "alternate
connections" to improve their situation. However, they too, were
Dr Robert A Fishman M.D - a professor at the University of California in the
USA - writes: It is not surprising that some transient motor function was
possible in a monoplegic limb during an emergency situation. He also regrets
that he is unable to offer any further suggestions.
Professor Istvan Tork - from the University of New South Wales - explains
that he is not usually an advocate of 'alternate medicine' but since modern
medicine cannot help, perhaps I could learn meditation.
The Professor's reasoning behind this was that I may be able to concentrate
the motor centres in the brainstem in an attempt to activate the alternate
pathways at will. He gives an example of Indian Yogi's performing
extraordinary feats to justify his suggestion. I completed a meditation
course soon after but I couldn't see a realistic link between what I was
hoping to achieve and what I was learning in the course.
Norman Oliver from the National Institute of Neurological and Communicative
Disorders and Stroke in the USA, explains that the movement I experienced is
typical under the circumstances I described ie. reflex-like dog paddle while
panicking. He also suggests that I need to reconnect my brain with the
muscles through the spinal cord. He sent some literature that discusses
Janet Whitta - Senior Clinical Psychologist from the Devonport Psychiatric
Centre in Tasmania - is an affiliate member of the Board of Clinical
Neuropsychologists. She writes: A thorough biofeedback session for left and
right arms, testing the arms reactions under different cognitive and
postural task conditions may yield some helpful information.
She also writes: Electrical skin resistance measurements can be very
informative and help individuals narrow down which cognitive and physical
tasks produce beneficial results and which seem to produce counterproductive
responses. In the process of trying to locate a biofeedback specialist who
practices locally, one source suggested that alternatively, The Feldenkrais
Method may be of some help.
The Feldenkrais method focuses on changing bodily movement patterns, thereby
promoting the use of the alternate pathways. Since starting Feldenkrais, my
balance has improved, my weight distribution is more even and my gait has
become more regular. I walk with less of a limp and my arm begins to swing
on frequent occasions.
In March, 1991, I wrote to Dr Bernard Brucker Ph.D. - University of Miami,
Florida. He is a renowned specialist in the field of biofeedback. His
research involves using the "alternate pathways/connections" to regain
functional motor movement.
The Biofeedback Program sent many articles of success stories but my
Neurologist has pointed out that biofeedback has its place. In mid 1992
whilst on holiday and travelling though the USA, I went to Miami and had the
After a few days I realised biofeedback was not going to help my problems
with a spastic hemiplegia. However, I could see first hand "that biofeedback
has it's place". Dr Brucker and all of his assistants maintained it was
helping but I don't think they could bring themselves to see past the colour
of my money. In retrospect, I don't regret trying biofeedback. As I said
before, if I didn't try, I would never know.
Despite all this, I have accepted my disability and I am quite content to
remain as I am. As you can probably appreciate, I am willing to try all
possible avenues of treatment and I am open to any suggestions that you may
I can be reached on Email on: david at web.net.au.