Chris Named to IBJ’s “Forty Under 40” List

Every year the Indianapolis Business Journal selects forty individuals in the Indy metro area who “have demonstrated impressive career achievements and unparalleled community involvement before the age of 40.”  The annual list is meant to recognize some of our city’s up-and-coming entrepreneurs, philantropists, and community leaders.   I am honored to be a member of the 24th class!

Chris&Kristen40under40A special print edition of the IBJ was dedicated to the class, and an in-depth profile of each member was included.  Read my segment here:

The class of 2016 was honored at a reception at the Skyline Club in the One America Building and will also have the privilege to preside over a $40,000 grant, provided by the Central Indiana Community Foundation (CICF), to local charities.

I can’t thank the NeuroHope team and our supporters enough for all that has been done to launch our clinic over the last three years.  Without their support NeuroHope would be an idea instead of reality.  And, we are only just beginning!

IMCU Contest: Vote for NeuroHope!

We have been selected as one of the Indianapolis area charities included in an Indiana Members Credit Union contest, and WE NEED YOUR HELP!

Just a few clicks of your time!  Simple, right?

IMCU is awarding $6,000 to the charity with the most votes from now until March 31.  All you need to do is:
1) Click here and scroll down to “NeuroHope”
2) Select NeuroHope (the button will turn gray)
3) Scroll further down and enter your email (for validation, not SPAM), and click “Vote in this poll”

That’s it.  A few seconds of your time can make the difference.  $6,000 on the line!  So please vote, and share the link to anyone you can.

YOU CAN VOTE EVERYDAY UNTIL MARCH 31!  So, if you really want to get on our good side, set up a reminder and start your morning off with a few clicks for NeuroHope.

Thank you all!


NeuroHope Featured in Indianapolis Monthly Magazine!

IndyMonthlyCoverGet your hands on this month’s Indianapolis Monthly magazine!

The November issue features a lengthy piece that details my injury, my recovery, the struggles my family and I went through to find long-term care, and what we are building at NeuroHope.

IndyMonthlyPagesThis is an article that was more than a year in the making.  We first reached out to the magazine’s editor, Megan Fernandez, in the summer of 2014.  At the time, we had just launched our initial crowdfunding campaign. The magazine was not able to cover the story, but Megan kept us in mind, and we reconnected this summer.

I met with the author, Jeff Vrabel, multiple times.  He visited NeuroHope twice, we had lunch once, and we spent a lot of time on the phone during the writing process.  It was humbling to see Jeff’s passion to tell my story.  He was focused on learning as much as he could about the complex topics of neurologic recovery and the insurance industry.  His effort shows.  He captures the message eloquently in the article.

This article is about more than my journey back from paralysis.  Jeff covered the bases. He took the time to speak with our staff and clients, the founder of Neuroworx, leaders from IU Health, the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana, and Senator Patricia Miller, who authored an Indiana law that passed this year to help fund recovery programs.

Read the online version of the piece here!

NeuroHope Back on Inside Indiana Business

If you missed our appearance on Inside Indiana Business last weekend, worry not!  Check it out through the link below:

I sat down in studio with Health reporter Barbara Lewis to provide an update about what has been an eventful year for NeuroHope, our supporters, and our clients.  In September of 2014, Inside Indiana Business was the first media outlet to tell our story.  At the time, our vision was merely an idea.  We had no clients, no clinicians, no operating space and no money.  You can watch the original clip here.

Since then, we've raised start-up capital, added an all-star therapy team, secured operating space, and changed a state law.  We have a long way to go, but we couldn't be more proud of our first year!

I would like to give a big THANK YOU to Inside Indiana Buisness for having me on once again.  We are offering a new paradigm in healthcare.  Extended treatment made available outside the boundaries of insurances allowances needs to happen in Indiana.  That is the goal we are striving for and are making available for our clients!

Thank's to all!


Foundation for Complex Healthcare Solutions Presents $10K Grant!

We are honored, humbled, and extremely grateful to be recipients of a 2015 grant from the Indianapolis-based Foundation for Complex Healthcare Solutions!

This generous donation of $10,000 to our mission of extended, supplemental rehabilitation for individuals recovering from neurologic injury provides a necessary bridge to ensure our doors remain open until we have access to the funds made available by Senate Act 166 next year.

The Foundation for Complex Healthcare Solutions assists organizations that are devoted to addressing the highest cost and most complex health conditions, and that develop programs, protocols, and approaches that are both more affordable and more effective than traditional models.  The NeuroHope model provides healthcare outsides the boundaries of high fee schedules and insurance allowances, and we are proud to have the Foundation's support!

The Foundation states their purpose eloquently in their mission statement:

The concept of better healthcare and better outcomes is achieved through the delivery of quality healthcare at the right place and right time. Included in innumerable studies of the U.S. healthcare system is the finding that the extraordinarily high cost all to often does not assure high quality outcomes. The Foundation will design, develop and implement better ways to care for the most expensive diseases and conditions through its own programs and in collaboration with partner organizations.

A special thanks goes to the Foundation's Chairman, Doug Stratton (pictured), and board members Eric Banter and Dan Kranjnovich, as well as staffer Peggy Johnson for their passion and interest in the NeuroHope vision.


Our Law to Fund Recovery Programs Signed by Gov. Pence!

Today Senate Act 166, an Indiana state law to help fund long-term physical therapy programs was signed into law by Governor Pence.   It's a special day for NeuroHope, and for all the clients we will serve, because it was written specifically with our mission in mind.

For the last seven months we've worked closely with key state legislators (Sen. Patricia Miller, Sen. Luke Kenley, Rep. David Frizzell, Rep. Cindy Kirchhofer and others) to raise awareness to the glaring void in care for people recovering from traumatic injury.  There are too many families thrown into the world of spinal cord or brain injury who soon realize that the time available for their recovery is severely limited.  Many will be discharged from inpatient rehabilitation after a matter of weeks, with only a small number of outpatiet visits available for the rest of their recovery.

miller chairWe first approached Senator Miller, chair of the Senate Health Committee, last fall to share my story and the vision we had for NeuroHope.  Back in 2007, Senator Miller helped create the Indiana Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Fund.  This is a wonderful fund that proves Indiana is already at the forefront of a changing paradigm of neurologic research and rehabilitation.  Every year, the fund receives about 1.5 million dollars from statewide motor vehicle registrations.  Every two years, the legislature decides the allowance.  Previously, this money was only permitted to be used for research purposes.  Last year for example, 9 researchers received grants for various projects around the state.  One in particular is a very worthwhile study at the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana researching diabetes and neurologic injury.  This is great work that will continue, but Senator Miller felt that more could be done with the fund.  She quickly became our leading advocate and introduced the bill that we've helped shepherd through the entire legislative process.   She proposed that a portion of the fund, in addition to it's use for research,  be used for the long-term treatment of neurologic injury.  Specifically, for a clinic that offers extended services at affordable rates after insurance expires – the crux of our mission at NeuroHope.

In January and in March I gave detailed presentations to the Health Committees of both the Indiana House of Representatives and the Senate.  You can read my testimony here.   I explained the compexities of neurologic injury, and how care is limited to the amount dictacted by insurance companies.  I also discussed how an independent organization like NeuroHope, that is willing to provide services outside the boundaries of traditional facilities, will help fill the void in care in Indiana.

Our mesage was clear and our message was heard!  The bill passed each bipartisan committee unopposed. It passed the Senate 47-0.  It passed the House of Representatives 95-0.  Throughout its journey the bill never received a single vote of opposition, and was signed into law by the Governor in April.

What it Means

  • A portion of the money in the Indiana Spinal Cord Injury and Brain Injury Fund must now be granted to a facility that offers: "post-acute extended physical therapy services for individuals with spinal cord and brain injuries at affordable rates".
  • An annual amount of 10{d57c75664ee40cd9f9f9d2c854d19b920dafc77e6732c691aa0b0118029496b3}-15{d57c75664ee40cd9f9f9d2c854d19b920dafc77e6732c691aa0b0118029496b3} of the fund (approximately $150,000 – $225,000) must now be used for this purpose.
  • The 11 member Indiana Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Board approves funding.
  • This opportunity WILL NOT fully fund NeuroHope!  It is simply a fund which we are eligible to apply to for assistance each year.

Our model of service revolves around providing supplemental care for the patients that need it.  That means longer therapy visitis, and more therapy visits.  In order to do this, NeuroHope needs income outside of insurance reimbursement to offset the true cost of therapy. 

As a non-profit, much of our success will always rely on fundraising.  Searching for grants, organizing charitable events, and seeking out individual donors (however large or small), will always play an integral part of our sustainability.  The new law now provides another potential revenue stream. 

It's not often that a grassroots organization like ours is able to help pass a law in a single legislative session.  This would not have been possible without DPT Nora Foster leading our services.  Nora has turned the idea of NeuroHope into reality.   Because of her exceptional standard of care, we have opened our doors to the spinal cord injured community, and have added Donna Peterson (PTA) to our team.  We already have a waitlist for their services.

This law will not fully fund NeuroHope!  Even if we are successful in securing money from the fund, it will not be available until next year. 

Nevertheless this is an important milestone for the healthcare system and for disabled individuals in Indiana and we are honored to be a part of it.


Save the Date: Open House July 15!

It has been a thrilling 2015 at NeuroHope!  Without the financial support of our donors, and the interest many of you have displayed over the last year, we would not be where we are today.  Together, we are creating an unmatched standard of care for disabled individuals in Indiana and we have YOU to thank!

To show our appreciation, we are hosting a catered open house on Wednesday July 15!

This is a chance for our supporters to visit the clinic, enjoy a some dinner (Sushi Boss, Iaria's, B's Po Boy, Pizza King), meet our staff and clients, and kick around ideas to help expand the NeuroHope mission moving forward. Hopefully, you have been following our updates on Facebook and Twitter. Here is a rundown:

  • First three months of successful operation in the books
  • Serving 14 clients, totaling more than 150 visits in this short period of time
  • Hired Donna Peterson (PTA) to help Nora treat clients
  • Secured volunteer help from students at the University of Indianapolis Krannert School of Physical Therapy 
  • Featured in the March 14 edition of the Indianapolis Business Journal:
  • Had a robotic exoskeleton in the clinic that one of our clients had the unique chance to try. Innovative technology and an inspiring moment! Video and blog:
  • Since December, we’ve worked closely with key Indiana legislators and have spearheaded an effort that was signed into law by Gov. Pence on May 5th.  Beginning next year, physical therapy clinics that provide affordable extended care may seek funding from the Indiana Spinal Cord and Traumatic Brain Injury Fund.

RandyEasyStandNeuroHope has reached a new milestone. We have a waitlist of clients. The need for long-term rehabilitation and wellness for individuals living with traumatic injury is significant, and the demand isMacy_Stand real. Now, we need to secure additional funding to expand our hours of operation past 3 days per week, hire another therapist, and keep our momentum STRONG so that our application for funding from the new law in 2016 is well received.
On July 15th, we will be explaining our goals and sharing an outreach letter (download it here).  This is a brief letter that we hope each of of our supporters will share with at least 10 people or groups in their network (friends, family, church, social club, etc.) There are likely individuals YOU know that will be moved or affected by our mission.  Let’s find them!

We would love to see you on July 15! If you are able to attend please RSVP (HERE!)

Come hungry! Food has been generously provided by: Sushi Boss, Iaria's, B's Po Boy, and Pizza King!

What: NeuroHope Open House

When: Wednesday, July 15th 6:00p – 8:00p

Where: 901 Shelby Street –  Southeast Community Services Building (2nd Floor)

NeuroHope in the Press: Feature in IBJ

Last month, we welcomed Indianapolis Business Journal (IBJ) Healthcare reporter J.K. Wall to NeuroHope.   He and a photographer dropped by on a bustling Wednesday to learn about the vision we have for our clinic, and to chat with some of our clients as they worked their tails off in therapy.

The result: A fantastic front page article in the March 15 edition!  Wall eloquently explains the void in therapy in central Indiana, and the model behind how we are changing the paradigm for longer rehab visits, and affordable access.

You can read the article here!

We would like to give a big thanks to J.K. Wall for his visit, and to our awesome clients Randy, Brad, and Ariane for sharing their recovery stories.




NeuroHope Bill to Fund Recovery Programs Passes Senate


In the months since our campaign for NeuroHope was launched, we've been turning heads locally about the need to address long-term treatment and wellness programs for people recovering from and living with traumatic injury in Indiana. I've shared our vision with healthcare executives, insurance leaders, politicians, and media outlets in an effort to help change the paradigm of neurologic recovery in the state.

miller chairOne of the individuals who has taken our story to heart is Senator Pat Miller (R-Indianapolis), who also chairs the bipartisan Senate Health and Service Providers Committee. We've been working closely with Senator Miller in an effort to amend a law, that if successful, can help fund specialized programs that offer long-term, activity-based therapy and wellness services. Indiana has a fantastic law already in place that helps fund neurologic resesarch. This amendment would let specialized programs be eligible to apply for grants from the exisiting fund as well.chris5

On Wednesday, I testified before the committee at the Indiana State Capitol. I shared my story, explained the void in care, and described how this bill has the potential to enhance the research it already funds and change the lives of those living with paralysis in the process.

IMG_2085The bill passed committee 11-0, and now will move to the Senate floor. First hurdle cleared!

UPDATE: On January 29th, the bill passed the Indiana Senate a resounding 47-0!  A clean bipartisan sweep!  This brings us halfway home.  In March, it will move to a committe for approval to send to the House of Representatives.

My testimony is posted below. The first half tells my personal recovery story, the second half explains the the potential of the bill.

Four and a half years ago I broke my neck in an accident and suffered a spinal cord injury that left me completely paralyzed from the neck down.  It may come as a surprise as you see me walk into this room, but after my accident doctors weren’t sure if I would ever re-gain any movement.  They prepared my family and me for the scenario that I might be a total quadriplegic for the rest of my life.

Initially (as I was going into surgery and trying to process that I was paralyzed) the only glimmer of comfort that I had, was knowing that I would receive the best standard of care.  Between Methodist, IU-Health, the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana, and other hospitals, there are many fine facilities here in Indianapolis.  But, it soon became apparent that in spite of the care these facilities provide in the early stages of traumatic injury, there is a HUGE void they are unable to fill AFTER discharge, which often comes after a matter of weeks.  Insurance runs out quickly, no matter how great the plan.

I was discharged from the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana after 8 weeks.  I fought for and received two extra weeks due to the severity of my injury, and the early progress I was showing.   But, at discharge I was still completely paralyzed except for small movements in my fingers and right foot, and I left the hospital on a stretcher.  Many bodily-functions were not intact.  I didn’t have the ability to feed or bath myself.  I was still completely caregiver dependent.   Leaving the rehab hospital meant the daily physical and occupational therapy I had been receiving, and desperately needed to continue, had to stop.   I remember that being the single most devastating blow for me.  Incredibly, insurance would pay for a $50,000 blow-powered wheelchair, but extended therapy was denied.  All I could do was return for a limited number of outpatient therapy visits a few times per week, a total of 30, before they too expired.  I went to a nursing home instead.

My situation is not unique.  This is the way it is for everyone recovering from traumatic injury.  Neurologic injury takes months and sometimes years of intense rehabilitation to maximize recovery and a lifetime of maintenance.

Six months after my accident – still wheelchair bound – I was fortunate to travel to a specialty outpatient clinic in Utah formed precisely to help fill this need.   This facility not only provided long-term access to rehabilitation, but also had specialized resources and equipment for neurologic recovery that was not offered anywhere in Indiana.  My mother (who was my caregiver) and I were able to stay in a small apartment in Salt Lake City for nearly 2 years.  I spent 3 to 4 hours in rehab everyday, until I recovered to the point where I am today.  

Everyone will not be as fortunate in recovery as I was. Every spinal cord or brain injury is different.  But, everyone needs continued care after inpatient and outpatient visits expire.

Now, I’ve organized NeuroHope of Indiana, a 501 © 3 public charity dedicated to bring this patient-centric standard of care to Indiana, and to help put more injured individuals on a path toward recovery, independence, and a return to the workforce.

Senator Miller’s bill speaks to a very good law already in place in Indiana, and has the potential to greatly ENHANCE the research that it already funds. 

The current law regulates the Indiana Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Fund that was established in 2007.  This fund is a godsend.  The fact that our state recognizes the importance of addressing traumatic injury puts Indiana ahead of many others in a changing paradigm of neurologic research and recovery.

The fund receives about 1.5 million dollars per year from vehicle registrations.  Under the current law, this money can only be used for research purposes. Last year 9 researchers received grants for various projects, and this incredible work needs to continue.  Unused money in the fund rolls over to the next year. There is currently more than 4.5 million dollars available in the fund.  Senator Miller’s bill will continue to fund research programs.  However, it will also allow the board that administers the fund to consider grants for specialized long-term therapy PROGRAMS. 

These programs will INCREASE clinical research opportunities by potentially providing an ENVIRONMENT for research to take place, while treating patients in the process.  A sandbox can be created for educators, students and researchers.

The current 9-member board has been an outstanding steward of the fund.  They are experienced and well qualified to evaluate the grant applications to ensure that good stewardship continues.  The language in this bill helps ensure that only specialized programs would be eligible for application.

It’s an exciting time in neurologic research.  The last 12 months have seen breakthroughs in laboratories and therapy gyms around the world, and medical organizations are aggressively seeking funds to continue research that they hope may bring them closer to a cure.   Directly linked to that research is the need for an incredible amount of rehabilitative therapy that in the current health care system is difficult to receive.

The packets you have been provided show a model of this changing paradigm in neurologic recovery.  Today’s current model consists of only two stages: Inpatient stay followed by limited outpatient visits.  That’s it. 

The continuum of care should involve a 4-stage process.  We need a 3rd stage of extended rehabilitation and activity-based therapy that focuses on re-educating the nervous system, and we need a 4th stage of long-term health and wellness that is critically important for those of us living with disabilities.  This is an element that is just as important as the recovery stage, and cannot be overlooked.  Individuals less fortunate in their recovery need wellness programs in place to maintain their bodies and all the complications that come hand-in-hand with paralysis.  They need to prevent pressure sores, maintain muscle and bone integrity, and more, to promote their quality of life and keep them out of the health care system.  Programs like this are working in other communities – I’ve toured and met with the leaders of 7 of them – and they will work here as well.

Also in the packet, you will find the most recent report of the Indiana SCI and Brain Injury Fund and a description of the program.

Finally, the packet includes a report from the Utah Department of Health that shows the potential positive impact of this bill.  The state of Utah has set up a similar fund for therapy and treatment and has had great success in returning individuals to work and school, and improving their overall quality of life.   Some of the grants went to the unique facility that I attended, and to which I owe so much of my recovery.

The future of neurologic recovery relies on innovate research AND long-term programs for individuals outside the boundaries of traditional care.   This bill will put the board in position to address both.



NuStep Recumbent Trainer Donated to NeuroHope

We began a crowdfunding campaign in August to help raise start-up costs for NeuroHope. The first equipment piece on our wish list, a piece that Nora and I consider an integral part of any rehabilitation and wellness clinic, was a NuStep recumbent cross trainer. Now, we are thrilled to announce that our first machine has been generously donated by NuStep!

I reached out to NuStep VP of Sales and Marketing Steve Sarns shortly after we launched the campaign and told him my story.  I explained what we are building in Indiana, and let him know the role NuStep had throughout my personal recovery. A NuStep was the first piece of equipment I could power (ever so slightly) on my own after total paralysis. Over the course of two years, from nursing home to rehabilitation clinic, a NuStep remained part of my daily therapy as I recovered movement and built strength and endurance.

Last month Steve welcomed me to NuStep headquarters in Ann Arbor, Michigan to tour the facility. I was blown away. Not just by the campus, factory, and facility (which was much larger and structured than I imagined), but by the entire staff. This is a team that is proud of what they have created and is genuine in their mission.

photo-2Steve’s father Dick Sarns founded NuStep in 1987, but the idea was born in the 1960’s when Dick began to research exercise products for people in cardiac rehabilitation. He wanted to create an easily accessible recumbent bike-style machine that could provide a safe and effective workout for people of all ability levels. The bicycle seat and pedals, however, were a problem; they were transformed to a chair with a stepping motion. Upper and lower body movements were connected to move in a reciprocal pattern, and NuStep was born. Over the last 20 years the machine has evolved and the company has grown. Every machine is made and shipped from their Ann Arbor campus. Sarns says around 40 new machines are built and shipped around the world each day.

photo-1The NuStep is not built specifically for people living with spinal cord injury. But, what makes the machine special is the accessibility it provides for people recovering from and living with varying degrees of disability. In rehabilitation a NuStep can serve as a therapy tool that some patients may benefit from early in their recovery. Incomplete spinal cord injuries need every opportunity to get their bodies moving. They must spend every moment they can sending signals through their healing central nervous system to promote as much neuroplastic gain as possible. One of the most memorable milestones in my recovery, on par with the moment I took my first step, was the first time I used a NuStep.

The first few months of therapy after my accident consisted mostly of range of motion exercises and assisted movement from therapists. That was the extent of my abilities as a quadriplegic with only trace amounts of movement from the neck down. After three months, however, movement had faintly returned to portions of my legs, and my body had finally regained the ability to better regulate blood pressure. I still lacked the ability to sit upright on my own, but my body could finally tolerate being in an upright position without passing out. My arms were still paralyzed but my therapist thought my legs might be strong enough to give the NuStep a try. She transferred me to the seat, put my legs and hands in place, and there I sat – in a machine and on my own for the first since my accident. It took a few seconds, but the pedals budged and soon all four limbs were gliding to the movement my legs provided.

It was the first moment I no longer felt completely paralyzed. I was barely moving the machine at the lowest setting, but I was moving it. It rejuvenated me. It gave me new goals to focus on and served as the impetus to the next level of my rehabilitation.

My unique experience aside, the main benefit of these machines is their role in wellness. They were built to provide people of all ability levels a way to achieve a low impact, full body-work out. It is just as important for people with spinal cord injures to remain healthy through exercise as it is for the able-bodied population. No matter the level of motor return, all spinal cord injuries require an incredible amount of daily maintenance. A NuStep is an elliptical machine or treadmill for the disabled. The motion loosens muscles, alleviates spasticity, improves circulation, prevents pressure sores and promotes overall health. The machine has adaptations that can be easily added for individuals lacking leg or hand function, making a full cardio workout possible for nearly all injury levels.

We plan to have our NuStep available when NeuroHope opens this winter. Whether it be for open-gym wellness purposes, or as a warm-up before a therapy session, we are excited to have the addition. I can’t thank the Sarns family and the NuStep team enough. It is an incredible gesture from a company making a difference in the lives of their clients.

We hope this NuStep will be the first of several for our facility.