About SCI

"It's no longer a matter of "if" there will be a cure for spinal cord injury, it's simply a matter of 'when'." 

A devastating condition any one of us could face...

A healthy spinal cord is central to a fully-functioning human body. It enables the person to move, to feel touch, pressure and temperature, not to mention control their bodily functions. It is essentially the go-between for the brain to the rest of the body – the telephone cable for the neurological messages which enable a person to live as an able-bodied individual. An injury to this ‘cable’, therefore, usually results in dire consequences.

Many incidences of SCI occur through direct trauma, such as a fall or an act of violence – where the spinal bones crush, bruise or cut the fleshy cord they surround. SCI can also occur via so-called ‘non-traumatic’ causes, such as viruses, infections or haemorrhage within the cord.

Problems for life

A spinal cord injury is permanent and disabling. The severity of the disability varies from victim to victim, dependent upon the area that the injury was sustained and/or the extent of the damage.

Most injuries will result in paralysis, loss of sensation, lack of control over bodily functions and, in turn, the often lifelong need to rely on a wheelchair and other adaptive aids. A reliance on strong daily medications for pain and/or spasm alleviation is also common amongst most individuals living with SCI. Post-injury, the majority of victims will experience loss of independence, and this is ongoing for many. Sexual dysfunction, stress, depression and suicidal thoughts are also commonplace, and each can contribute to extremely low self-esteem. Additional complications can include the following:

  • Severe pain at and/or below the site of injury
  • Respiratory, circulatory, cardiovascular and joint problems
  • Muscle atrophy (wastage)
  • Severe and debilitating spasms in the extremities

Victims are also at a significantly increased risk of numerous ailments, a few of which are listed below:-

  • Blood clots
  • Pressure sores
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Diabetes
  • Osteoporosis
  • Contractures
  • Kidney stones
  • Significant fluctuations in weight

Due to sexual dysfunction after injury, the vast majority of men affected by SCI cannot conceive children without intrusive medical intervention. Many victims are categorically unable to return to education or employment, with subsequent family and relationship breakdowns a further negative consequence.

An individual’s lifespan may also be shortened after sustaining a spinal cord injury. All injuries will denote an extended stay in hospital for stabilisation surgery and/or injury recovery, usually followed by a long period at a rehabilitation centre.

Dependent upon physical ability, some SCI victims can learn to live fairly independently, but the vast majority will require lifelong assistance with everyday living. A large number of sufferers will be rendered incontinent to the point of requiring a catheter to urinate. Humiliating, prolonged and often painful bowel routines are another inescapable part of daily life for many, and the need to rely on others for such intimate assistance can drastically impact mental health. An individual who has sustained an injury to the high cervical region of the spine will more than likely require the assistance of a ventilator to enable them to breathe.

For those living on the more severe end of the injury spectrum, part and/or total dependence upon others will be required to undertake even the most basic of daily tasks. Essential activities such as washing, dressing, eating and drinking can therefore become both extremely time-consuming and stressful affairs.

Perhaps it is no surprise that many men and women affected by this debilitating condition describe their post-injury situations as 'existing', rather than living. Society has conditioned many to feel that voicing their very real struggles is a sign of weakness, or that holding out hope for a cure somehow lines up with a state of 'delusion' and/or 'denial'. Masking agony behind a smile worn for the comfort of others can quickly become a daily occurrence for SCI sufferers. Largely expected to 'accept their lot', many are repeatedly told to let go of any notion that a curative therapy is coming in their lifetime.

This is an incredibly unjust and unrealistic expectation to put upon anybody. It too can take a devastating toll on a victim's state of mind, giving rise to increased notions of 'feeling like a prisoner' within their own body. Further to this, a disheartening percentage are often made to feel like a burden by the very people employed, both directly and indirectly, to care for them. In addition, those living with spinal cord injury may also find themselves regularly confronted with intolerance, negativity and discrimination by society at large.

At Walkoncemore, harrowing truths such as those detailed above serve to bolster our determination to do all that we can to help everyone affected by SCI. We believe that looking forward to a future free from permanent spinal cord injury does not mean that an injured individual is removed from also trying their best to live as fully as they can in the 'here and now'. It is no longer a 'false hope' scenario. The science speaks for itself, and believing in a cure is something no-one should ever feel uncomfortable to express, discuss, explore or take encouragement from.


Age of injury

Spinal cord injuries are usually referred to as either acute or chronic. An ‘acute’ injury is a newly-acquired injury. Opinions about when a person becomes a ‘chronic’ injury vary, but around 14 days is realistic.

Due to continual secondary damage around the injured site for some time after injury, acute and chronic solutions will naturally consist of different approaches. A number of research efforts seek to solely benefit acute injuries. Inevitably, each new injury will become an existing injury, so Walkoncemore is solely interested in helping to find a cure for chronic SCI. We are passionate about doing what we can to expedite a solution for everyone afflicted, irrespective of the age of their injury. The way we like to view it is that a chronic cure = a cure for all.

Anatomy of the spine

The spinal column is made up of 33 individual bones termed ‘vertebrae’, each stacked on top of one another. Encased within the length of these bones is the spinal cord. The column is composed of 4 main sections. The cervical spine refers to the neck region, the upper-to-mid back the thoracic spine, the mid-to-lower back the lumbar spine and just above the coccyx is the sacral section.

The area and extent of injury

Generally speaking, the higher the injury, the greater the physical impairment of the individual. If a person sustains an injury to their neck, they are referred to as ‘quadriplegic' or ‘tetraplegic’. An injury sustained to the upper cervical region of the spine will either result in instant death, or paralysis from the neck down with the reliance on a ventilator for breathing.

Those who sustain injuries to the lower cervical spine may have limited use of their arms (if any), and no use of the fingers. If an individual sustains an injury to their back, they become a ‘paraplegic’. Most injuries to this area will result in paralysis from the chest down.

A very severe injury will result in a ‘complete’ lesion, where no sensory (feeling) or motor (movement) messages can travel to the area of the body below the injury site from the brain. A more ‘incomplete’ injury may mean some movement and feeling tracts are left intact, but severe impairment of function may still remain a reality for the affected individual.

The spinal cord is a mysterious and complex organ. This may explain, for example, why some injured persons can walk (albeit with difficulty), yet cannot feel a thing from the chest down, nor control their bowel or bladder functions.

Walkoncemore aims to help people affected by this sudden and catastrophic injury on the journey to making their injuries short-term, and their prognosis a good one. Please click here to learn about some simple and exciting ways you can help towards ensuring a future free from chronic spinal cord injury...

About SCI

A healthy spinal cord is central to a fully functioning human body. It enables the person to move, to feel touch, pressure and temperature...

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A Cure?

Spinal cord injury victims the world over dream of the day they can push their wheelchairs to one side and reclaim their lives...

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Get Involved

Supporters of all ages and abilities can help to raise vital funds for our cause...

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About Us

Walkoncemore was set up to help those currently living with the after-effects of SCI, as well as those yet to be injured...

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