Home for the Holidays

On December 1, 2002, my son suffered a C6/7 spinal cord injury when a wheel came off an oncoming truck and landed on top of his pickup.  9 years later, having graduated from law school and secured a full-time job, he came home to celebrate the holidays with his family.  Together we reflected on the remarkable journey he had taken to work his way back to physical, emotional, and financial independence.

If there is such a thing as being lucky in the wake of a spinal cord injury, it applies to my son.  Had his neck broken just a few millimeters higher, he would not have the use of his hands or arms.  He used every ounce of his energy and determination to achieve his goal of independence, but still could not have made it without the extraordinary support of his family, friends, community, and numerous strangers.  Such good fortune does not fall to many who are stricken with SCI.

While we celebrate and take pride in his accomplishments, we know that he represents the minority of those living with SCI.  According to the National SCI Statistical Center, at 20 years post-injury, only 35% of persons with a spinal cord injury are employed.  This statistic is not just a function of injury level; the employment rate for people with paraplegia is only slightly higher than for those with tetraplegia.  There are numerous social, psychological, and economic barriers that conspire to keep persons with SCI out of the work force.

The unemployment rate is but one of many “invisible” secondary complications of spinal cord injury.  While the media is full of “inspiring” stories about people living with SCI, much less is said about what goes on behind the scenes.  No one wants to start a pity party, but if we’re going to achieve “cure consciousness”, we need to speak the truth about:

  • the loss of bowel, bladder & sexual function;
  • psychological trauma & suicide;
  • loss of time, productivity, and often independence;
  • a host of other issues that accompany spinal cord injury.

For every heartwarming story in the media, there are hundreds more untold about people and the daily realities of SCI that no one ever sees.  The public is often led to believe that one can achieve recovery through hard work and determination alone; if this were true, the majority of survivors would be up and walking around.

I am extremely proud of what my son has accomplished since his injury, and at the same time appreciate that it was made possible by some good fortune and a remarkable support system that augmented his efforts.  I also know that he would readily embrace the opportunity for regenerative therapies that could give him back a healthy body.

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3 Responses to “Home for the Holidays”

  1. Jean Cronhardt Says:

    My son is a c4/5 quad. he is taking online classes and hopes to go to law school and then into politics. We know first hand about the numerous obstacles people with SCI face on a daily basis. I think they are heroes for moving on despite the injury and discrimination that follows. Just getting a degree is much more difficult than for the average person. My son types on the key board with pencils shoved into his hand splints. This takes him much longer to do a paper. I say go for the gold and never take NO for an answer.

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  2. unite2fightparalysis Says:

    There is an unspoken, illegal, but very real discrimination in hiring against people in wheelchairs. My son pursued opportunities in the federal government, believing he would encounter less discrimination. I encourage others, if their skills and location permit, to do the same.

    Like

  3. hpmini2009 Says:

    I’m hoping for all sci a cure in 2012!! I have a daughter whose facing some issues of finding a job in PR and marketing. She is graduating in May 2012 and since 2009 she has been interning. I told her she should apply for a PR job at whitehouse for disabled to let them know how difficult it is to live in a chair and wanting, waiting for a cure for paralysis.

    Like

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