Paralympian Shares Her Story
Doctors told Jennifer French she’d never leave her wheelchair after a 1998 snowboarding accident left her a quadriplegic. But with determination and help from cutting-edge neurotechnology, the now-41-year-old North Royalton, Ohio-native is back on her feet. She walked down the aisle at her 2001 wedding and brought home a silver medal in sailing at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.
The year after her injury, French entered a clinical trial for musclestimulation implant technology from the Cleveland Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) Center, a research consortium that includes Case Western Reserve, the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center and MetroHealth Medical Center. The technology has allowed her to stand and move short distances from her wheelchair. Since then, she has continued to participate as a research volunteer, and two years ago, participated in a clinical trial of a system that tripled the number of electrodes activating paralyzed muscles.
French released a book chronicling her experience, On My Feet Again: My Journey Out of the Wheelchair Using Neurotechnology, shortly after her Paralympic success. She is also the executive director and co-founder of Neurotech Network, a nonprofit organization that supports education about, and access to, neurotechnology.