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'Feeling a little normal' part 1

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The Brethertons commitment to helping people who have suffered spinal cord injuries is well known. In the first of two blogs Jon Rees details a joint Physiotherapy Project between Brethertons and the National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville

The physiotherapy team at Stoke Mandeville had identified that the ability to take patients off site was a vitally important and missing piece of the rehabilitation jigsaw. 

In the months of rehabilitation after spinal cord injury, patients are rarely well enough to leave the hospital on their own, apart from the occasional visits home when discharge is imminent. Understandably many patients crave getting out.  They want to try navigating their way around town;  to use public transport; going to the optician’s or beautician appointments; going for lunch; getting to a sports club; or getting to a theatre performance - all those things they used to take for granted. Some want to practice their wheelchair skills in different settings, others want to practice walking.

On a visit to the Centre we met Olivia Sklenar and Dot Tussler from the physiotherapy team who had identified that it might be possible to pull together a programme using funds we were pleased to provide.

The project which helps patients make an outing has been operating since February. It has, so far, involved more than 30 people - 22 paraplegic and 12 tetraplegic patients. The feedback so far is overwhelmingly (in fact, exclusively) positive:

•    100% of those who took part felt the goals they had set for themselves had been met.
•    100% of those who took part found that the outing was useful to them
•    95% felt they contributed to setting goals for the visit they took part in
•    75% said they wouldn’t change anything (others implied they would prepare better personally)

Picture Olivia with John and Dominic taking a breather after a downhill walk over cambered pavements

Here’s some of the patient feedback that Olivia has collected:

•    Most enjoyable: Becoming more confident; enjoyed being out of the hospital; being with people; feeling a little ‘normal’.
•    Most challenging: Stamina in walking, standing up, reaching and balancing at the same time, pushing uphill; getting in and out of a taxi; getting on and off the bus; outdoor wheelchair skills over different surfaces; getting in the wheelchair space on the public bus; getting changed to go.
•    Other comments: great company and support; it was so lovely to be out in the fresh air; the trip was very worthwhile highlighting some key pros and cons – such as my wheelchair and how people perceive people in wheelchairs and will talk or look over us; it was good being out of the hospital environment for the first time since November; being in the community was good; it was one of the best days I’ve had in 8 months.

We were really pleased to hear about how much of a difference such a modest amount of funding has made and Olivia invited us to go out and about with her and a couple of patients and that’s just what we did! You can read all about that in my next blog.