Resilience is Key to Spinal Cord Injury Recovery

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September is Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Awareness Month. It’s a good time to discuss the injury and recovery path. Thre are over 85,000 people living with SCI in Canada https://sci-bc.ca . The majority or about 44,000 people sustained SCI as a result of a traumatic injury. It’s estimated that the lifetime average cost of the injury is $336,000 per person for patients in Ontario.   Individuals with concurrent pressure ulcers and those with cervical or thoracic injury have average lifetime costs of nearly $480,000.

Spinal Cord Injury can be one of the most devastating and life altering injuries. Common in car crashes, pedestrian accidents, and cycling and motor cycle accidents, SCI can significantly change the life of the accident victim and their family. These injuries are often permanent and are associated with significant pain and disability.

Many high profile individuals such as actor Christopher Reeve (Horse riding accident) or R&B singer Teddy Prendergast (car accident) have faced their injury very publicly.

A new study of the victims of SCI investigated the major symptoms of the injury such as:

  • Neuropathic pain (nerve pain)
  • Depression and isolation
  • Muscle weakness
  • Loss of bladder or bowel function

The researchers asked what made some survivors recover well and others to struggle with their hurdles. The answer was personal resilience.Patients who were emotionally and physically well equipped did better.

Dr. James Krause serves as the scientific director for the South Carolina Spinal Cord Injury Research Fund and is the director of the Medical University of South Carolina Center for Rehabilitation Research in Neurological Conditions. He was left paralyzed following a shallow water diving accident as a teen and has dedicated his life to SCI research.

For someone with a cord injury, your margin for surviving even small mistakes when it comes to your health is really thin. So we see people die early. But those who survive tend to be people who are more likely to take better care of themselves, to be employed, to have good relationships, and they become resilient. It's surprising how resilient people are."
James S. Krause, Ph.D., Professor and Associate Dean for Research, College of Health Professions

Currently individuals with SCI are 2 to 5 times more likely to die prematurely than whose without. Many of the contributing causes to the early death are not directly related to the SCI itself but rather to a lack of appropriate treatments and therapies available to the patient, inadequate medical care provision, a lack of rehabilitation therapy, and a myriad of policy, social and physical barriers to living life.

Dr. Krause recently received a research grant for US$2.5 million to study the third life domain; employment. He is keenly interested in assessing and improving the quality and rates of employment fro individuals with SCI.

You can read all about the research being done by Dr. Krause on the MUSC website.