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.