Wyclef Jean Visits Kessler Foundation

 2011-03-16 15:35:20 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Wyclef Jean, musician and Haitian earthquake relief activist, and wife Marie Claudinette, toured Kessler Foundation Research Center to learn about the latest in rehabilitation interventions.

April 23, 2010

Wyclef Jean Tours Kessler Foundation

WEST ORANGE, N.J. – Wyclef Jean, musician and Haitian earthquake relief activist, along with his wife, Marie Claudinette, toured the research center of Kessler Foundation on Friday afternoon. Because of the tremendous needs of the Haitian people, Wyclef is interested in learning about the latest in rehabilitation strategies. "The focus has been on the immediate needs of the thousands of people disabled by the earthquake," said Wyclef. "We need to shift toward the long-term need for rehabilitation that will help them lead full and productive lives."

"We're pleased to share the advances we're achieving in rehabilitation research," said Rodger DeRose, President and Chief Executive Officer of Kessler Foundation. "We understand that regardless of the type of disability or its severity, rehabilitation is key to optimal recovery." Kessler Foundation investigates better ways to rehabilitate people with physical and cognitive disabilities caused by injuries and diseases like stroke and multiple sclerosis.

Wyclef and his wife were in Haiti the day after the earthquake and witnessed firsthand the enormous number of people whose limbs were crushed by falling debris. Due to fast-spreading infections and lack of proper medical care, most were unable to be salvaged. "The situation was so desperate," Wyclef recounted, "that in some cases, machetes were the only surgical tool available."

"It's important that we partner with Kessler and study as much as we can because there are a lot of kids with missing limbs who can be part of the work force in the future," said Wyclef. "I feel that it's our job to help them get back to that." Kessler Foundation also funds programs that expand employment and training opportunities for people with disabilities.

The visit was arranged by Richard Kessler, grandson of founder Henry H. Kessler, who now sits on the Board of Trustees of Kessler Foundation. Kessler's family was involved with the disabled population in Haiti decades ago, said Kessler, "long before Haiti attracted global attention." Kessler was introduced to Wyclef by their mutual friend, A.J. Calloway, a host of the television show Extra.

Wyclef's day started in the Human Performance and Movement Analysis Lab, where Director Gail Forrest, PhD, explained the exciting results being achieved with locomotor training. People are moving from wheelchair to walker to crutches, she said, and becoming more independent. Ian Brown, a US Air Force pilot who was paralyzed by a spinal cord injury, demonstrated the training. He was harnessed over a treadmill as Dr. Forrest helped move his legs in a walking motion. The repetitive movement 'wakes up' the damaged nerves and muscles and helps the person regain function. Brown explained how his strength and mobility had improved, as well as his balance, metabolism, and bowel and bladder function. The overall gains from the training sessions have improved his quality of life. "Our results show that even years after a catastrophic injury, patients can benefit from intensive rehabilitation", said Forrest.

In the Spinal Cord Injury Lab. Director David Tulsky, PhD, demonstrated how computer simulation is being used to help people resume driving safely after spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury or stroke. Wyclef then took a turn at the wheel, using hand controls to practice his driving skills in virtual reality.

To see how research is applied, Wyclef visited the adjoining Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation where patients undergo physical and cognitive rehabilitation. In one touching encounter, he told a veteran with brain injury, "Keep rocking my music." Seeing people with significant disabilities making progress in therapy was heartening to Wylcef. "What I've learned today is the process takes months," he observed, "but with the right therapy, even people with severe or longstanding injuries can improve. The research being done today at Kessler Foundation is having a real impact on the care of people with disabilities." Wyclef plans to return to learn more about recovery from devastating injuries, "and next time, I'll bring my guitar."

Wyclef Jean, 37, was born and raised in Haiti before moving to Newark, N.J. with his family. A former member of the group, The Refugee Camp, he began his solo musical career in 1997. He married in 1994 and he and his wife adopted their daughter eleven years later. In 2005, Wyclef started the grassroots organization, the Yele Haiti Foundation. Donations provided scholarships to children in Haiti and for repair of damages caused by natural disasters. Since the earthquake, Yele Haiti has focused its efforts on water, food, housing, and medical treatment.

About Kessler Foundation

Kessler Foundation strives to be a leader in rehabilitation research and grant making that benefit people with disabilities. The Foundation's mission is to improve quality of life for people with physical disabilities through discovery, innovation, demonstration, application, and dissemination. Kessler Foundation Research Center conducts research that improves function and quality of life for persons with injuries of the spinal cord and brain, stroke, multiple sclerosis and other chronic neurological and orthopedic conditions. Kessler Foundation also supports programs that promote the employment of people with disabilities through its Program Center's "Transition to Work" Signature and Community Employment Grants. The Foundation's Special Initiative Grants support educational programs like 'ThinkFirst', an injury prevention program aimed at children and teens. Kessler Foundation has a full-time staff of 90 individuals, divided between two locations in West Orange, New Jersey.

For more information, visit KesslerFoundation.org