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Life with a spinal cord injury

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Hamden resident Jon Sigworth, 19, who sustained a spinal cord injury during a recent visit to India, has rapidly become a legend in his community.

Whereas many people would recoil at the thought of having to use a wheel chair for the rest of their lives he, instead, has turned a negative set of circumstances into a positive one.

Sigworth came close to death after falling 50 feet, head first, off a cliff while riding a bicycle in India. He and his family endured plenty of physical, emotional, and financial stress in the ensuing months. However, as time progressed, so has Sigworth’s ability to talk about the once simple act that nearly cost him his life.

Sigworth is among 200,000 to 400,000 people across the nation living with a spinal cord injury. Every year, 11,000 people sustain such injuries, most of them men, according to the National Spinal Cord Injury Association website. Typically, people who sustain spinal cord injuries are involved in falls during sports, automotive or construction accidents. Young adults have the highest number of this type of injury.

Serious injuries, such as those to the spinal cord, often leave the victim and the family in a state of shock. It is important for them to know that they are not alone, and that thousands of people lead productive and pleasant lives despite such injuries.

Here are some ways that the association recommends to deal with the situation:

Knowing how to maneuver through insurance companies is one of the most important steps. It’s important to be familiar with coverage availability and limits in the event a serious injury should occur. People who do not have insurance coverage need to research alternative outlets, such as hospital programs, state laws concerning health care and other available options. State and local health care professional often can suggest referrals.

Doctors and therapists can work with patients to develop recovery options and guide them to a solution that works best. A big part of Rehabilitation is the support from family and the individual’s willingness to triumph over adversity.

Although Sigworth spent many months in the hospital recovering, the friends he gained through this experience have helped him through it. The Sigworth family obtained an enormous amount of information about spinal cord injuries, and now they plan to become a source for others.

Unfortunately, too many people who suffer serious injuries remain in the dark, unaware of what to do or who to turn to for help.

Though it may seem like an impossible feat, help is out there. Organizations such as the National Spinal Cord Injury Association and the Spinal Injuries Association can be the starting point for information on places and people to call.

Turning to the community for help is another good way to get information and alert others in similar situations. The Hamden High School Human Relations Club and the Black and Hispanic Student Union organized a benefit dinner to raise money for the Sigworth family.

All the caring and support coalesced, and combined with Sigworth’s own resiliency, his future looks bright. He plans to go to college and pursue a meaningful career in film studies or biology.

The fundraising has brought the community together not to invoke sympathy but to celebrate the bravery of an individual and family who are striving to overcome and not give in to adversity.

┬ęThe Hamden Journal 2006

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