A spinal cord injury (SCI) is a devastating, life-changing event for an individual and their loved ones. Knowing and accepting oneself is an important first step. However, like most life-changing events, it takes time to adjust to life after an injury and find a new ‘normal’. So how does one prepare oneself for ‘business as usual’?
Wednesday April 5 was What’s Out There (WoT) Day at the Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Centre. An informative and enjoyable day filled with panel discussions, smaller group discussions, exhibits and demonstrations, WoT Day prepares current patients for life after rehab - from bladder and bowel concerns, to travel and sexuality.
The April event had some fantastic and motivating speakers from all walks of life. Led by Spire team leader, Naz Erdem, the panel discussed how they acquired their injuries, and challenges they faced post-SCI. Although it may be uncomfortable at first, talking about SCI concerns with those who have direct experience can be refreshingly honest and invaluable to people with a recently acquired a SCI and their families.
Panel members stressed the importance of adaptation and positivity. T10 incomplete para, and Spire peer-support volunteer Duke Trench-Thiedeman, advised people to focus on the things they can do, as opposed to lost abilities, of which there are very few.
Equipment on display at WoT day. Photo: Amy Robertson
“There’s only a small number of things you can’t do that you could before – the vast majority of things you can still do,” he says.
T2 complete para, Susana Valdes, emphasised the important role of preparation. Being prepared for each day – checking wheelchair access prior to travel, planning meals, pressure sore prevention, and using the support around you, can make a world of difference in daily life.
Panel members then discussed bladder and bowel issues, and travel and public transport concerns. Bladder and bowel problems should not prevent individuals and their families from doing what they love, and being well-prepared is paramount. Regaining one’s independence is important. The benefits of maintaining hobbies, passions, study or work post SCI are indispensable.
The panel discussion was followed by a BBQ lunch and small group discussions, where participants discussed anything from shopping and transport, to equipment and overseas travel. Participants could also view and experience different equipment, aids and an array of modified vehicles.
The day finished with a para-badminton demonstration, where participants learnt how to play para-badminton, a sport selected to debut in the 2020 Tokyo Summer Paralympics.
Patients and mentors enjoy a BBQ lunch. Photo: Amy Robertson
The April 2017 WoT Day was a big success, providing people with newly acquired spinal injuries insights and possibilities for life with SCI in the community. Adjusting to life with a SCI can be challenging and arduous. Acceptance and a willingness to ask for help will make the journey easier.
As Duke Trench-Thiedeman says, “I still have the ‘why me?’ moments, but when you’re feeling this way, it is important to seek support and guidance. Otherwise, these things can fester. Address them early. All you need to do is ask.”