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Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day - 21 May 2021

A day to increase understanding of spinal cord injury; raise the profile of spinal cord injury and highlight challenges faced by people who have suffered spinal cord injury.

Who does spinal cord injury affect?

A spinal cord injury is estimated to happen every four hours to someone somewhere in the UK. There are around 48 new injuries per week – 2500 each year. There are perhaps as many as 50,000 people living with spinal cord injury in the UK. Life will never be the same for the person who suffers the injury of those around them.

The injury can happen to anyone. Whilst it used to be thought that it was an injury that happened to young men in motorbike or car accidents, the prevalence of older people falling in all sorts of settings has become notable in recent years. Perhaps surprisingly a good number of cases arise because of misdiagnosis and or mistreatment of issues that go on to damage the spinal cord within the medical environment. Cauda equina syndrome and spinal epidural abscesses are often diagnosed late.

Most who suffer the injury are left relying on their savings and or what the State can provide them with in terms of meeting their needs post injury. In around 30% of cases a claim for compensation might be pursued.

What does spinal cord injury mean?

Tetraplegia, paraplegia, quadriplegia, complete and incomplete injuries; cauda equina syndrome and more... are labels often associated with spinal cord injury. Essentially damage to the spinal cord involves permanent damage to the motorway of motor, sensory and autonomic (for ease of reference ‘unconscious’) signals passing from the brain to the rest of the body. In broad terms a complete injury will involve a complete loss of function below the level of damage to the cord; an incomplete injury will leave some function which will depend on the extent of the damage sustained.

Sometimes the impact of the injury is very visible; sometimes it isn’t. Not all who suffer a spinal cord injury are unable to walk. Irrespective of whether the ability to walk is maintained or not, all those with spinal cord injury suffer. For most there will be a lifelong need for medical support, psychological input, care and case management, physiotherapy, occupational therapy as well as accommodation adaptation and possibly assistive technologies. The impact on finances, the ability to work, relationships and every aspect of life generally is total.

In very broad terms those dependant on the State might be helped to get to a point where the need being met is considered to leave the injured patient ‘safe’. Most would choose to have the need met with something that is ‘reasonable’. There is too often a huge difference: imagine needing to be repositioned when a care team can get to you as opposed to being turned when you want to be turned.

When does spinal cord injury happen?

Spinal cord injury happens every day and all around us. The student going out to shop for trainers; the father and son motorcycle ride; the holiday day out; the test drive; the end of sixth form night out; the first date; the school run; the ride to work; the icy commute; the journey to a hospital appointment; the Sunday bike ride; the last mile before home; the fall at home; the fall in the pub; the fall from the loo; the accident at work; the shooting outside a fast food restaurant; the missed diagnosis; the movement of the unstable fracture; the surgery that wasn’t needed…

These are just some of the situations in which people we have helped suffered their spinal cord injury. Without exception suffering a spinal cord injury would not have entered the mind of anyone we have helped the day before the injury happened – and where someone else might have been involved in causing the injury it would not have entered that person’s mind that something they would do (or fail to do) would cause spinal cord injury to someone else.

Where does spinal cord injury happen?

In our homes, on our roads – drivers, passengers, motorcyclists, cyclists, and pedestrians; at work in all sorts of shapes and forms; in our public places - and indeed even in our hospitals - spinal cord injuries are suffered every day.

After the injury many (though sadly not all) patients get transferred to one of the specialist spinal cord injury rehabilitation centres (Stoke Mandeville, Stanmore, Salisbury; Southport, Sheffield, and Pinderfields (Wakefield); Middlesbrough and Oswestry in England; Cardiff, Glasgow, Belfast and Dublin). The discharge from the hospital is often months later.

How can I find out more about spinal cord injury?

There are a number of charities that help people with spinal cord injuries in different ways including providing useful information. Perhaps the most well-known are the Spinal Injuries Association; Backup; Aspire and Spinal Research.  The British Association of Spinal Cord Injuries Specialists (BASCIS) website is also a useful source of information as is the website of the Multidisciplinary Association of Spinal Cord Injury Professionals (MASCIP).

If you are newly injured and need practical support from peer support workers, we cannot speak highly enough of a new charitable incorporated organisation called Peer Advice Services UK (PAS). See links below.

If you would like to find out more about some of the people we have helped, or about the work we do in the field of spinal cord injuries we’d be pleased to hear from you. Contact Jon Rees – Partner by email at jonrees@brethertons.co.uk or by telephone on 01788 557617.

Links

Spinal Injuries Association (SIA)                                                             https://www.spinal.co.uk/

Back Up                                                                                                   https://www.backuptrust.org.uk/

Aspire                                                                                                     https://www.aspire.org.uk/

Spinal Research                                                                                      https://spinal-research.org/

British Association of Spinal Cord Injury Specialists                                 http://www.bascis.org.uk/

Multidisciplinary Association of Spinal Cord Injury Professionals            https://www.mascip.co.uk/

Peer Advice Services UK                                                                         https://peeradviceservicesuk.org/