Featured mobileWOMAN -- Chanda Hinton

Chanda Hinton with service dog "Flint"
by Kristin Beale

At age 9, Chanda Hinton's life was dramatically changed. While being babysat by her 14-year old relative, his friend picked up a gun. The gun discharged, hitting Hinton in the back of her neck. The impact of the blow resulted in a spinal cord injury in the C5-C6 vertebrae.

Because her accident happened at such a young age, Hinton feels she had a less difficult transition from the lifestyle of an able-bodied person, to the life of one who is unable to move or feel from her neck down. When Hinton reached the age of 21, her disability not only redefined her lifestyle, it also took a toll on her health. Her weight dropped to 59 pounds, she had chronic pain and a drastically reduced immune system. The combination of these factors led Hinton to undergo a lengthy stays in the hospital and recurring visits to the doctor.

“When I was 21, I started having a lot of chronic pain in my abdomen, lower back and chest,” Hinton elaborated. “My physician was treating all of my spinal cord injury-related conditions with only medications. He treated the symptoms, not the causes.”"Hinton's physician prescribed her narcotics used to treat the pain." Contrary to their intent, the medications guided Hinton into being bed-bound, losing a dramatic amount of weight, being fed via tube and eventually to being hospitalized. “That's when I decided I had to find another outlet to give love to my body, which was being ignored,” Hinton said.

Hinton and her family talked with a doctor and lifelong friend about their concerns. Chanda's sister Crystal suggested she try integrative therapies. This was the beginning of Hinton's journey and exploration of four primary therapies: physical, massage, adaptive yoga, and acupuncture.
Chanda Hinton with sister, Crystal Larson, doing yoga (service dog "Flint" and wheelchair in tow)

Each of the therapies, she says, gives her something different. “While acupuncture assists with my digestion, massage therapy increases my blood circulation, preventing pressure sores,” said Hinton. “Physical therapy keeps increasing my strength and mobility, and yoga deepens my mind-body connection.”

Hinton saw a dramatic and almost immediate result from the new approach she was taking to her healing. Among other things, her pain decreased, her digestive system regained health, and she had improved muscle mass. “The therapies caused a dramatic increase in my quality of life,” Hinton said. Along with reducing and eliminating the necessity for medication, the integrative therapies strengthened Hinton!s mobility and athleticism. “Now, I kayak and handcycle,” she said. “I have clarity and hope.”

In an effort to educate people with spinal cord injuries on the advantages of integrative therapies, The Chanda Plan Foundation was born. The Chanda Plan Foundation is a program, established in 2006, that allows individuals who are eligible to access integrative therapies with financial support.

Chanda Hinton and Erik Weihenmayer (The Chanda Plan Foundation's 2009 People To Know benefit)

A pilot program will also be available for people with spinal cord injuries in the Colorado area. "The goal of the pilot program is to improve the quality of life by reducing the need for continuous and ongoing care through expensive procedures. By expanding choices of care to preventative health services (i.e. acupuncture, massage therapy and chiropractic care), the State of Colorado can measure overall cost savings for the state compared to on-going expenditures (i.e. pain medications, hospitalizations, etc.) that would have been spent for the same population absent the pilot program. There is a need for other people to be educated about integrative therapies,” Hinton said. "The Chanda Plan foundation educates as well. Lack of funding, I think, is the reason most physicians turn to medication first.”

There are a collection of other goals the program aims to achieve. Decreasing pain and depression for people with spinal cord injuries is at the top of the list, a likely outcome of successful integrative therapies. Another mission is to increase employment among people with spinal cord injuries. This will be yet another eventuality of successful therapies. Hinton added, “We intend to work alongside Medicaid to help people expand coverage to alternative therapies.” 

While Hinton receives treatment from each modality once a week, she suggests receiving therapy at a minimum of every other week. Because therapies can become expensive, Hinton prefers to stagger the frequency of therapies, introducing the body to a variety of stimulation and incitement. “For example, a person can do acupuncture every other week and massage therapy on the weeks they don't have acupuncture,” Hinton said.

Chanda Hinton & Aimee Mullins (The Chanda Plan Foundation's 2010 People To Know benefit)
Along with the therapies mentioned above, The Chanda Plan Foundation offers adaptive yoga and craniosacral therapy. The organization "received a grant from The ASMBA Star Foundation to do a 9-month adaptive yoga course (September 2010 - May 2011) for 20 veterans with spinal cord injuries (i.e. paraplegics or quadriplegics). The focus of the program is to provide veterans living in the Denver metro community free access to this annual program, which teaches principals of movement after paralysis.
The program is modeled after Matthew Sanford's Vet Programs (http://www.mindbodysolutions.org/content/veterans) in MN and will improve a mind and body connection. Since the program started five years ago, Hinton said, they have shown amazing progress to herself and national participants in the program.

“I love the hope that integrative therapies brings,” Hinton said. “I believe so strongly in them because they saved my life.”

Funding for The Chanda Plan Foundation comings from donations, fundraisers and grants. For more information or to donate, please visit: www.thechandaplanfoundation.org. YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yg5RUaMyzgs.


Reprinted with permission by United Spinal Association's Action Magazine. Visit http://www.unitedspinal.org/publications/action/.

6 comments:

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  2. I met Chanda at MWA in 2006 - still as awesome as ever!

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  3. Interesting story. Glad to found it. Thanks for the share.

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