September 19, 2016

What 9,000 Things Can You Do During Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month?

By Guest Blogger Mercedes Rauen, executive director, Spinal Cord Injury Association of Illinois

September is Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month.

While I do not have a spinal cord injury (SCI), and I believe it is best when the Spinal Cord Injury Association of Illinois (SCIA of Illinois) can be represented by a peer member—I appreciate this opportunity to let people know about paralysis.

SCI is a low-incidence disability. Nationally there are about 12,500 traumatic spinal cord injuries a year. That number is small when compared to medical conditions that impact hundreds of thousands. Many of us live our lives without knowing a person who is paralyzed.

But spinal cord injury does not discriminate; it can happen to anyone at any age.

The leading causes of traumatic injuries are motor vehicle crashes, falls and violence. Most injuries can be prevented, which is why the SCIA of Illinois’ injury prevention presentations to students and adults are important.

Resources When Spinal Cord Injury Happens

Whether the spinal cord is damaged by trauma or medical conditions, loss of function and voluntary movement below the point of injury may occur.

Along with paralysis and the inability to walk, other effects may include dysfunction of the bowel, bladder and sexual function, chronic pain and spasticity. Multiple complications including pressure sores, urinary tract infections, respiratory complications, pneumonia, osteoporosis and depression may occur.

Nearly every aspect of life is affected by paralysis. Relationships change. Financial costs are staggering. Wheelchair accessibility and accommodating the disability become a way of life.

SCIA of Illinois is a resource for information, education and guidance to facilitate life in the world of disability. It is a place to find peers who share their knowledge and hope for the future.

During SCI Awareness Month, SCIA of Illinois, along with Adaptive Adventures, is holding a three-day outdoor adventure called “Beyond Boundaries.”

Teams from rehab hospitals go to the Mississippi Palisades State Park to camp, hand cycle, kayak and rock climb. Using adaptive equipment to pull oneself up a 145-foot rock is an extraordinary experience. Some people think they will never be able to do such things, but with a good support network, they can.

My favorite quote is from the book, “Options--spinal cord injury and the future.” W. Mitchell is featured in the book, and he was burned in a motorcycle crash and later paralyzed in a plane crash. He went on to become an author, TV host, international speaker and much more.

Mitchell said, “The way I look at it, before I was paralyzed, there were ten thousand things I could do; ten thousand things I was capable of doing. Now there are nine thousand. I can dwell on the one thousand, or concentrate on the nine thousand I have left.”

Mitchell knows life with paralysis is not easy, but it can be very good! SCIA exists to help make that happen. Learn more about SCIA of Illinois online.

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