The spinal cord is the major column of nerves surrounded by rings of bones called vertebrae. A major part of the nervous system, it is connected to the brain sending impulses to and from it that allows the body to move, feel and do most other things. Spinal cord injury takes place when the spinal cord is damaged due to trauma on nerves or the bones and tissues that surround it. Such injury results in loss of function including mobility and sensation. There are several types of spinal cord injury. The closer the damage is to the brain, the more body parts are affected.
Paraplegia is a type of spinal cord injury that involves damage to the middle part of the spinal cord, affecting the legs. Quadriplegia is another type that involves damage to the upper part. It affects the neck, arms, chest, and legs. A spinal cord injury may also be complete or partial. Those that have complete injury will not be able to move or feel below the level of the injury. Those that have partial injury may be able to move or feel in the affected area. Sudden and severe blow to the spine is the cause of spinal cord injury. This can happen in a fall, sporting accident, car accident or gunshot.
When a person is involved in an accident, he/she is brought to the emergency room right away. At the hospital, he/she is given immediate treatment so that further damage to the spinal cord may be prevented. The medical team will do the necessary steps to stabilize the blood pressure and help him/her breathe. The patient will also be given steroid medication for the reduction of spinal cord swelling. Tests such as X-ray, CT scan, and MRI are to be performed. Ultrasound of the kidneys will also be done.
Living with spinal cord injury can be very difficult. The physical aspect of the whole problem is just tip of the iceberg. People who have endured spinal cord injuries don’t only face significant physical hardships. They are also confronted with psychological and social issues as they try to face such a life-changing injury.
Learning to cope with this injury doesn’t only require physical support but also emotional support especially from family and friends. It’s also imperative for a spinal cord injury patient to get professional help from a therapist who will help him/her accept and adjust to the unfavorable situation as well as to cope with grief and loss to avoid depression and possibly, suicidal attempts.
Education and employment can also be a major challenge. Even though the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits workplace discrimination against people with disabilities, employment can still be extremely hard. It may be arduous to find a job at this state but with patience and determination and some help from the people that you know, it can still be achieved. If a person is still studying, it’s good to know that there are schools that give focus to people with disabilities.
Since the injury will also take a toll not only on the patient’s life but also on the lives of people around him/her, particularly his/her family and friends, it’s a must to go for counseling and family services so that they will also be able to know how to cope with the situation along with you. This will also reduce strain in the family or relationship.