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Irishman Dermot Brannick, 28, is in Tucson receiving rehabilitation for ankylosing spondylitis, an inflammatory arthritic condition that has ravaged his hip joints and made his lower back stiff. He's been searching for treatments in numerous countries since he became dependent on crutches nine years ago. While in Tucson, Brannick--who has a singular focus on regaining mobility despite constant discomfort--is being filmed for a documentary called Walking. For more information, visit www.walking08.org.

I read your blog. What does the first phase of your rehab here entail?

The first phase is basically a trial. It entails a number of things. ... There's a one-week preparation and a one-week post-trial. For four weeks, I basically have three massage(s) a week, combined with water massage--which is called Feldenkrais functional integration. ... Basically, that's just having different parts of your body moved slowly. The idea is to get better awareness of holding patterns. Sometimes, muscles tighten up unnecessarily when there's no damage or pain in response to pain in another area.

How long do these physical exercises take each day?

I start off in the morning; breathing exercises are very important for me. You know, the whole crux of this for me is the combination of all of these things and the intensity of it. I'm trying to gauge at this point if a small improvement is possible, so I can say on that basis if this will be worthwhile over six months. From what I've gained so far, I'm absolutely certain that over six months, I can make a dramatic change, at least in the areas that aren't directly affected: in my lower back, which is very, very tight as a response to the hip-joint damage; and then my neck and my shoulders. All of this will help open up the hip joints to be worked on.

How did this all start?

I've been on crutches for nine years. After about three or four of those years, I basically quit (rehabilitation) completely. For the first three years, all I thought about was recovering. ... All I thought about was how to get off crutches and how to feel better. ... It didn't get me to where I wanted to go, and I just became financially and psychologically exhausted. So I just needed to stop. ... For about four years, up until I started again thinking about my rehab and proactively doing different therapies, I just did nonprofit work with different children's organizations. I really just gave myself a complete psychological break from it. Over the course of that time, I didn't do any exercises. ... I don't take any medication. I didn't take any vitamins or supplements. It was just a normal junk-food diet and drinking all the time, which is good--it's a good release; it's a medicine in itself. (Laughs.) ... So essentially, this (rehabilitation effort in Tucson) is just getting back into this and trying to get a clear picture in my mind of what type of therapies will actually provide some type of benefit.

Why Tucson?

I was here first in 1999, so I had a kind of frame of reference for the place. I knew it. The heat, I suppose, was one thing. Probably one of the basic reasons is that it's pretty cheap compared to other places in the world, maybe with the exception of Australia. I have one of my friends here. I live in his parents' house; they rent it out to us. My friend, he's my driver as well. He brings me essentially everywhere, so that's one of the factors. ... And then a former CNN producer, who's like a freelancer for Fox News and CNN, he's my cameraman here. I met him in Russia while he was doing a documentary about the street kids I worked with in Russia.

Tell me about the documentary.

The film is called Walking, and it started filming in December 2005. I work with a number of people, so essentially I'm the boss, but only so much in a creative control-type situation. ... It's important for me to have that, because it's my story. It's almost like writing an autobiography. ... The film is basically tracking my attempts to rehabilitate fully. I'm so confident that it's going to happen that I want there to be a film--not that I have any message other than take responsibility for your life, you know, and keep going; just keep doing it if you think this is the right thing to do. Even if someone is a paraplegic, I think it's better to live with a fighting spirit and fail than to sit on your ass and be depressed.

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