Help for spinal cord patients

Published: July 24, 2008  |  Source: stuff.co.nz
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People with spinal cord injuries are getting help with their sex life through an innovative new programme.

The Auckland Spinal Rehabilitation Unit and the Association for Spinal Concerns have helped 400 patients learn new ways of expressing their sexuality.

It has won the Counties Manukau District Health Board a place in the finals of the 2008 New Zealand Health Innovation Awards.

Auckland Spinal Rehabilitation Unit counsellor Susan Sliedrecht says many patients with a spinal cord injury wonder whether they will ever have sex again.

“Spinal injury can affect sexuality in different ways depending on which part of the spine is damaged.

“Patients may have to learn new and different ways to express their sexual intimacy.”

Regular education workshops and one-on-one counselling are provided for all in-patients.

Evening workshops are organised for outpatients, which include a presentation on sexual intimacy and spinal cord injury, sharing of personal experiences from a panel of former patients and an opportunity to ask questions.

Staff training sessions are run to ensure the culture of the unit makes patients feel comfortable talking openly about their sexuality.

“Patients are often relieved at the opportunity to discuss and explore the practical and emotional aspects of their sexuality.

“Some find it hard to come to terms with the changes but others say their sexual relationships have improved because they have to put more effort and thought into being intimate.”

The team will help to set up a programme in Christchurch.

The overall winner in the health innovation awards will be announced in November.