Today is World Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day, providing an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the experiences of people living with a spinal cord injury (SCI).
Today’s awareness day also coincides with Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Week running from 2-8 September.
Communications Manager at Spinal Cord Injuries Australia (SCIA), Michelle Kearney, says the day provides an opportunity to discuss misconceptions and raise awareness around living with a spinal cord injury (SCI).
“The aim of the day is to raise awareness that would facilitate an inclusive life for persons with disability and ensure greater chances of success of prevention programs,” Ms Kearney explains.
Throughout the month, SCIA is running a campaign called Be a Hero to challenge people to get moving and clock up as many kilometres or repetitions to raise funds and awareness for those living with a spinal cord injury.
They will also raise awareness by highlighting common misconceptions around spinal cord injuries.
“If someone has not experienced a spinal cord injury, or knows someone that has, there is a good chance that they are ignorant to some degree of what life with an SCI is really like,” Ms Kearney explains.
“Awareness initiatives, such as Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day can educate families who are learning to cope with SCI and know where to find the right information to help them in their journey.”
She notes some common misconceptions include being unable to have children, losing the ability to move, being unable to work, attitude making no difference to rehabilitation, and the rehab process is easier for younger people.
“Each person’s injury and recovery results differ… there is always some loss of sensory and motor function but at greatly varying levels,” Ms Kearney explains.
“Many people with SCI can and have had children. This type of injury can cause serious complications for women, but this does not mean they are unable to carry and care for a child.”
She also says most people do return to work within one year of their injury.
“A good amount of these people remain at the same job, but some do have to make minor adjustments,” Ms Kearney says.
“However, this does not mean that working is no longer a possibility and occupational therapists are available to provide these individuals with help finding their new path if, and when, it is necessary.”
Ms Kearney also notes the difference a positive attitude makes.
“A positive attitude influences the drive and motivation it takes to carry a person through and achieve the highest level of independence they can. This can potentially even lead to full recovery of physical function with the right amount of dedication and quality treatment,” Ms Kearney says.
“Each person’s situation is different when it comes to SCI.”
World Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day is an initiative of the International Spinal Cord Society (ISCS) and promotes disability inclusion throughout the world.
Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Week, 2 – 8 September, is a national initiative of the Australian Spinal Injury Alliance, representing eight of the country’s largest spinal cord injury support organizations.
The theme for Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Week is National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) – Planning for Success, highlighting the expertise of SCI associations and how they help those with SCI get the most out of their NDIS plans.
A spokesperson from ParaQuad New South Wales (NSW) says, “Good preparation for NDIS planning is critical to people obtaining plans that assist them in meeting and achieving their goals and ambitions.
“We are very much aware that this is an area that impacts the spinal cord injured community especially, given the complexity of the needs of this community.
“Having good assessments and a thorough understanding of what can be included in plans is important.”
Executive Manager, Business Development at Spinal Life Australia, Frances Porter, says awareness, inclusion and accessibility are all very important aspects to help the approximately 12,000 Australians who have sustained a spinal cord injury to live an empowered and equitable life.
“Spinal cord injury awareness is important to highlight the daily challenges faced by people with spinal cord injury and the value of attitude and accessibility in our communities to accommodate them and improve their quality of life,” Ms Porter says.
“No two people with spinal cord damage are the same and everyone has their own individual goals and identity and are just as capable of returning to work, raising families and participating in their community.
“No one should be defined or be stereotyped by their disability – disability is something you have, not something you are.
“A great way to support people with spinal cord injury is to examine your own attitudes towards people with disabilities as well as considering the level of inclusiveness and accessibility in your own community.”
For more information visit worldsciday.org