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Local participates in ongoing Miami Project study

Oct. 4, 2013
By Carley Dangona


SOUTHWICK – One month has passed since Southwick resident Marita Niquette began a boot camp of sorts, yet she remains upbeat and without regret.

Since August, Niquette has lived in Miami, Fla. – a temporary relocation – to take part in the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. The boot camp lasts until Dec. 13, with one additional week of treatment in January 2014. Niquette, 47, has been in a wheelchair since 1985 after suffering a spinal cord injury (SCI) during an automobile crash. She is one of only eight participants.

“It’s going fine – I thought I’d be a lot more tired,” Niquette said, adding that she is already beginning to see results such as muscle tone and increased strength. “I don’t have any regrets. It’s a great experience, a great opportunity to see what needs to be done.”

The Miami Project website described the trial, “The results will enable us to define the minimum amount of exercise and rehabilitation needed to bring individuals with chronic, complete thoracic SCI to a ‘level playing field’ and understand how this influences global function, neuromuscular physiology, spasticity, sensation, pain, autonomic function and mobility.”

While she has free time on the weekends, there is no such thing during the week. In addition to participating in the camp, Niquette continues to work a remotely for MassMutual during the trial.

“I could work on the weekends, but I choose not to. It [the schedule] hasn’t been bad. I don’t have time to think about being homesick,” Niquette said. She spends the weekends sightseeing with friends and family that come to visit.

She explained a typical weekday. She wakes up at 7:30 a.m. to start her workday. She takes a break in the afternoon where she attends the Miami Project from 2 to 5 p.m. Upon returning to her apartment, she resumes working and goes to bed at midnight.

Niquette explained that on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays the trial sessions consist of circuit training. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, she spends 40 minutes on the locomotor, which is a device that places wheelchair-bound people upright and enables them to walk with mechanical aid. Each day, she uses the Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) bike, a device that uses electrical currents to stimulate nerve cells, for 20 minutes.

When asked how her first experience on the locomotor went, Niquette stated, “It was great. I guess some people get dizzy, but I haven’t had any issues.” She added that the doctors said her “leg muscles are responding really well” to the FES bike.

While the trial is going well, there have been some issues where she’s living. Some of the security guards that work at the apartment complex were parking in the handicap spaces without permits. A delivery of prepared meals was also stolen from the interior doorstep of her apartment.

Overall Niquette has enjoyed the experience thus far and looks forward to seeing what the next two months will bring.

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