March 25, 2016 | 8:00 am | By Pants Up Easy
We all try to practice safety precautions as much as possible, but, really, you never know when an accident may occur. When an accident does happen, there’s no way to predict what type of injury one will sustain, or what the effects will be. Spinal cord injuries (SCI) are actually extremely common, and are among the most devastating things that can happen to a person. The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation estimates that more than 1.2 million people in the U.S. are suffering from some form of paralysis due to a spinal cord injury.
Unfortunately there is no cure for spinal cord injuries. Once the nerve tissue in the spinal cord is severed, it will not heal or regenerate, and there is typically loss of control of body functions below the level of the injury.. An SCI becomes something that one has to live with all for the rest of one’s life. Fortunately, with modern technology and proper support from loved ones and medical professionals, most spinal cord injury accident victims can return to leading a more functional and meaningful life.
The first step of caring for someone with a spinal cord injury almost always involves hospitalization – starting with either the emergency room or some sort of trauma center. There may be time in an intensive care unit during this initial period which is likely to include surgery.
Once the condition has stabilized and surgeries are complete, there will probably be a transition to a rehabilitation facility. This will generally be about one to three weeks after the injury, depending upon the type and severity of the injury. From this point on, the emphasis of caring for the patient shifts from acute medical care to ongoing rehabilitation and restoration of function. Professional support will include less contact with doctors, and more involvement of both physical therapist and occupational therapist.
Physical therapy focuses on reducing pain, and restoring as much mobility as possible, and may include a variety of exercises, as well as massage, and other treatments These will be integrated as parts of a customized program to meet the needs of each individual patient. There will also be significant involvement of occupational therapists (OT) at this point. OTs work with the patient, as well as their caregivers, to help find ways to restore as much as possible of one’s ability to function and perform necessary tasks. Their work is largely educational, and includes relearning of daily routines to compensate for the results of the spinal cord injury as well as recommending modifications to the patient’s environment.
Ultimately, much of the care for spinal cord injury accident victims will fall on their family members, or others close to the patient, who take on the responsibility of caregiver. People will SCI will undoubtedly need ongoing physical support to compensate for their loss of mobility. But they will also very likely need emotional support to deal with the challenges of their new, modified lifestyle. Actual recovery may not be on the horizon for accident victims with SCI, but caring support can help them find functionality and meaning in the rest of their lives.