Superman in Cleveland

Every year many Poles come to Cleveland for professional reasons. Among them are scientists, doctors, and professors, from all different fields. Did you realize that Poles not only study at institutions of higher education in Ohio, but that they also lecture and teach and conduct scientific research? I know personally many professors from Poland at different schools in the area. One of them, for example, is looking for Poles who might be interested in doctoral studies in engineering.
We have plans to invite many of them to the Center to share their work and their knowledge with our community. Once a month on a Friday evening, we gather to listen to them tell about their work. Many professionals spend their working lives among a small group of people working only in their specialty. Outside of this group not many people are interested. But sometimes such scientific work can interest a wider audience.
Since 1986 many Poles have come to Cleveland to work at Case Western Reserve University and cooperate with Dr. Anthony DiMarco of MetroHealth Hospital. They studied how to electrically stimulate the respiratory muscles to produce ventilatory movements in quadriplegic patients. The idea of this method is similar to the pacemaker – to produce the rhythmical work of respiratory muscles that will restore the normal rhythm of breathing.
Several years ago, in cooperation with researchers from CWRU and University Hospitals, these researchers elaborated a method of electrical stimulation of the diaphragm that did not require complex surgery. One of the scientists who is part of this ‘Polish invasion’ is Dr. Krzysztof Kowalski from Poznań. The method used to electrically stimulate the diaphragm was developed with his cooperation. Because this is such specialized work, only a few were ever likely to know about it.
Christopher Reeve belongs to the small group of specialists who are active in the field of research on artificial ventilation for quadriplegic patients. He founded his own foundation supporting this type of research, and he then became interested in the work of the CWRU team. He was not interested in this work simply because of its connection to his foundation; he longed to apply this research to himself. Recently he became the third patient to participate in the experimental trials of this work. The April 26th, 2003 issue of Polityka includes a story describing the work of the CWRU/MetroHealth team and the success of Christopher Reeve.
Thanks to this method Superman could breathe through his nose using his own muscles for the first time since his fall from a horse eight years ago. After the procedure, he said: “For the first time in eight years, I woke up and smelled the coffee.” He could also hear for the first time his own breathing without the sound of the artificial ventilator. We were there to witness this. Superman is still Superman. When we told him that it would not be long before he would be able to take a deep breath of a liter of air (to literally ‘inspire’), he said he would be able to do it the same day. And he did it!
Thanks to us, Superman can smell the coffee and thanks to him, we have the chance to make our research known to others, including those who may decide how the research should be continued and applied. Not only here, but also in Poland!

Dr. Ryszard Romaniuk

Forum, 5/2003