It was bound to happen, an episode that centers on the always delightfully controversial topic – stem cells. Drama ahoy (and swimming too)!
SPOILERS AHEAD ****
Episode six starts out with a nice shot of Mia driving her convertible, wearing black lace tights and a white lacy skirt. She meets Tiphany for a workout session, where they discuss the annoyances of working out so fiercely that you can’t transfer back into your car, and other such amusing foibles that only people with spinal cord injuries could get.
I think it’s great the show is having the girls explain their abilities post-injury, in relation to their specific injury location, which is (I’m sure) helping educate the masses. Mia reveals she can still move two toes, and Tiphany can actually feel everything (and move everything) from the mid-thighs up (lucky bitch).
And we get to see Chelsie visit Project Walk, a therapy center in San Diego that helps people with paralysis walk again. Her trainer shows a cool way to explain what it feels like to be paralyzed (for the camera I’m guessing; not to Chelsie) is by folding your middle finger under itself, putting the rest of your fingers straight outwards and then trying to move that bent finger upwards as if it was still stretched out with the rest of the fingers. Pretty cool trick.
Then all four girls have a pow-wow session at Angela’s. More stem cell and walking again talk. Angela talks about the adult stem cell treatment she had in Portugal, which worked to an extent (she got some more sensation back, and more strength in her arms).
The girls then head out to lunch and talk more about stem cells. Auti is vehemently against using embryonic stem cells, Mia meanwhile doesn’t think she needs to get cured and says her quality of life is great. She complains about the human mentality to always wanted to “cure” everybody. Mia says, ” I don’t necessarily think I have to walk to have a better life.” Angela’s response? “BS.”
Tiphany has accepted her injury, but would still like to walk again. “I don’t want to sit forever. That’s not my goal in life,” says Tiphany, “but if I could get better, yes I’d love to.”
But Tiphany makes a great point despite Mia’s words. “I don’t get how Mia can say paralysis hasn’t taken anything from her when she hasn’t swam in 17 years.” This brings up a great point. Do you think people with paralysis, in an effort to make their lives easier, lie to themselves?
“All I want to do is walk again,” Chelsie cries. “Is that too much to ask?” Could her river of tears be any more annoying? She needs to visit Gabi, this little four year old girl with SMA who can’t move a thing, and then realize how lucky she is in the grand scheme of things.
Angela visits the Reeve-Irvine Paralysis Research Center (part of the University of California), to see what’s up with spinal cord injury research. They meet with the director of the facility, who explains the stem cell research they’re doing (they use leftover eggs from in-vitro treatments). The director shows some pretty cool images of recent research strides they’ve made (in mice of course) where they’ve been able to regenerate portions of the damaged spinal cord and get connections to pass through it once again.
Angela then tells him how important it would be just to get her hand function back, and gets him to cry (as well as herself) when she talks about just wanting to be able to reach up and touch someone’s face by opening her hand.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t take any doctor or researcher’s “promise” that we will walk again in our lifetime, or any other promise like that (he says getting people back two levels of return is possible in our lifetimes). Angela needs to stop going to him to make her feel better, as if he’s some kind of priest or something.
And Chelsie gets walking again (sorta) at Project Walk using a walker. It’s not walking, it’s walk-assist, but it makes her feel good and is good cardio, so I’m not going to knock it too much.
And then all four girls, along with Chelsie, decide to go out for lunch where the controversial stem cell talk continues. Chelsie gets grilled by Auti on Project Walk and everything they do (glad to hear they tell people from the get-go that they’re not miracle workers; I’ve always wondered this). Chelsie admits that the main things about Project Walk aren’t really about walking, but about helping you stay moving, i.e. keeping your circulation and bone density in-check.
“I learned not to live for hope, but to just live,” Auti says about adjusting to her injury. “Because if you live for hope, life passes you by.” Godamn I love Auti’s kernel’s of wisdom.
Chelsie ends up having a breakdown at the table after Mia and Auti both pretty much say they’re happy they’re accidents happened and enjoy their missions in life. “I don’t think she’s accepted her paralysis yet,” Mia says. Well of course she hasn’t. She hasn’t even hit the 2 year mark of her injury. It takes at least 3 years to get to the, “OK I’m OK with this” stage.
“I’m not glad this happened to me that all whatsoever,” Chelsie says. “I would do stem cells in a heartbeat,” she admits. “No questions asked.” “She wants to be like us,“ Mia says. “But I don’t think Chelsie wants to be like us in the fact that we’ve accepted being in the wheelchair.”
“I don’t think it’s fair that I have to suffer and try to inspire all of these people to do things when I’m not getting a benefit at all.” “Everyone else got a second chance walking from that car, why not me?” How many of you can relate to this?
“It’s not something you get over. It something you get used to,” Auti says. “Once I looked at myself like there’s nothing wrong with me,” Mia says. ” I was so much happier.” Chelsie is SO lucky to have the support of these women in her early days. She has no idea.
As Mia talks about paralysis not taking anything from her, Tiphany calls her out. “Well, why haven’t you swam in the last 17 years then?” Mia, knowing Tiphany is right, decides it’s finally time to go swimming again. She goes to the pool at her gym and finally conquers her fear. She talks about how she avoided swimming after her injury because she was worried it would feel different and would be let down. “I think I’d feel like getting paralyzed really took something I cared about the way for me,” she says.
“Putting my feet in the water was really weird because I couldn’t feel the temperature,” she says about first getting in. “I’m afraid of feeling weak, of feeling limited and feeling trapped.” But when Mia gets in the pool, she feels light “in a good way,” and knew she could swim the whole length of the pool. “And I thought OK, this is doable.” Loved this.
“At any age you can begin again,” she says. Another great quote from dear Mia. She needs to write a book I swear to god.
So there you have it, rabid stem cell talk, Angela is desperate to get better, so is Chelsie, but Auti and Mia say no way. I’m really glad Push Girls is hitting all of these notes of life with a spinal cord injury. The stem cell issue is not going away for a long time.
What do you think about stem cells? Would you or wouldn’t you?