The Hollywood Gazette
Written by Caron Conway
Tuesday, 02 June 2009 17:14
Alan T. Brown, Hollywood businessman, quadriplegic and tireless advocate for people affected by paralysis, is on a roll, in more ways than one.
The public relations and marketing firm owner, who has spent half of his 42 years confined to a wheelchair after breaking his neck in a swimming accident, is involved in a movement to push Capitol Hill lawmakers to make a revolutionary wheelchair accessible to wounded veterans and other non-ambulatory disabled Americans.
In May, Brown joined veterans groups and renowned inventor Dean Kamen at a National Press Club Newsmakers press conference in Washington, D.C., urging Congress to pass legislation that would make the $22,000 iBOT computerized, mobilized wheelchair more affordable for Medicare and Medicaid patients.
The high-tech wheelchair is the brainchild of Kamen, the inventor of the Segway Human Transporter and numerous innovative health-care devices, including the first wearable infusion pump. Unlike traditional wheelchairs, the iBOT’s self-balancing technology allows users to “stand” at eye-level with the ambulatory population and maneuver up and down stairs, over curbs and across difficult terrain.
But the iBOT’s high price tag and low insurance reimbursement – which over time dropped to about $2,000, the same as a typical wheelchair – placed the device out of reach for most individuals who could benefit from it and ultimately halted its production in January.
Kamen, Brown and other iBOT supporters are trying to convince lawmakers to restore a higher reimbursement in light of the iBOT’s life-changing advanced technology.
“When I got my iBOT, I actually felt like I had some of my paralysis taken away,” said Brown, who made the switch from a traditional wheelchair in 2005.
Despite being paralyzed from the chest down in January 1988 when a wave flipped him upside down in the surf off Martinique, Brown is a man on the move. In addition to running his Hollywood-based business, PrimeTime Public Relations & Marketing, he counts skydiving, scuba diving and completing two New York City Marathons among his accomplishments since the accident.
The Alan T Brown Foundation to Cure Paralysis (ATBF), which Brown’s family established within a year after his injury, gave him a sense of purpose in the wake of personal tragedy. The not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization is dedicated to changing attitudes, routines and lives through guidance, example and research funding for spinal cord injuries, which affect an estimated 1.3 million Americans.
ATBF also provides “focus, hope and the spirit to move forward” to the spinally injured and their loved ones. The Outreach and Peer Mentoring Program offers telephone counseling and matches the newly injured with those who understand all too well the overwhelming challenges, changes and adjustment they face and the need to develop a level of independence.
Brown knows firsthand the independence that can be achieved “at wheelchair level” – especially from an iBOT wheelchair. He’s using his PR and marketing background to create a national awareness campaign to pressure lawmakers to raise the iBOT’s insurance reimbursement.
“They don’t understand what it’s like to live 24 hours a day in a wheelchair,” Brown said. “I’m going to put a face on that.”
In addition to the daily struggles that the wheelchair-bound face, Brown has endured six surgeries and last year alone battled 17 infections. But he is wholeheartedly committed to making the difficult journey a little easier to navigate for disabled veterans and others living with motor disabilities and paralysis.
“I believe that this happened to me for a reason,” Brown said. “God wanted me to be a messenger, to help as many people as I can.”
For more information on the Alan T Brown Foundation to Cure Paralysis, visit www.atbf.org.