One of the starkest realities of life with a spinal cord injury is the staggering expenses with which you'll be saddled. Even if your insurance covers a significant portion of your medical bills, you might find that the providers you like the most are not fully covered, or that alternative treatments such as massage or chiropractic come with no coverage at all.
And of course, medical plans don't even begin to touch some of the more unexpected expenses of life with a spinal cord injury: travel and hotels for friends and family, childcare while you or your spouse recovers, endless months of lost wages, a potentially long-term loss of productivity and earning potential, modifications to your home, and innumerable other expenses.
The Dana and Christopher Reeve Foundation breaks down the average lifetime costs for a 25-year-old spinal cord injury survivor as follows:
Few people can shoulder these costs on their own, but don't despair. Though spinal cord injuries can be traumatic and life-altering, they also make you aware of programs, assistance, and kindness you might never otherwise have known about. Help is available, but you must be willing to look.
Popular wisdom holds that we live in a highly litigious society. Thus many SCI survivors are hesitant to reach out to an attorney, fearful that doing so makes them greedy—or worse. Delaying legal assistance is one of the costliest mistakes you can make. The statute of limitations for filing a claim is often just two years, no matter how compelling your evidence is or how severely you are injured. Even if you don't think you have a case, you deserve a consultation with a skilled lawyer. Some signs that you might be entitled to compensation include:
No one likes asking for money from friends or family, but when you're asking for smaller denominations from a larger group, it somehow becomes easier. Crowd-sourcing websites allow you to share your story with a large group of people, including total strangers. They can then make donations to your care. Read the terms carefully before signing up, since some sites require you to hit a specific threshold before receiving any funding. Some of the best options for soliciting help include:
If you have an artsy side, consider instead seeking patrons through a site such as Patreon. Patreon and sites like it encourage monthly donations in return for artistic output, such as blog posts, paintings, greeting cards, and other goods.
A number of organizations will fundraise on your behalf, or work with you to develop your own fundraiser. One of the best options is HelpHopeLive, which offers many of the same benefits as crowd-funding websites, but with personalize help to initiate your campaign.
HelpHOPELive helps families coping with a spinal cord injury or traumatic brain injury to fundraise in their own communities for medical and related expenses. Families receive one-on-one fundraising support, a customizable online donation page, tax deductible and accountable donations that won’t jeopardize Medicaid coverage, and challenge grants when key fundraising goals are met.
You can also go through nontraditional sources. Many schools, charitable organizations, and even workplaces are eager to help people in need by funding auctions, walkathons, sponsorships, art shows, and other community events. If you're involved in a local group that has a history of effective fundraising, consider talking with them about working with them on a fundraising drive.
For instance, you might talk to your child's school about doing a walkathon, where the proceeds are split between you and the school. The school gets the benefit of investing in a worthy cause while drawing attention to its own needs, and you get to help both yourself and others.
Myriad foundations have the sole goal of helping spinal cord injury survivors and their families. Often, the best place to look is a local organization, since there will be less competition and you may have a personal connection. Begin your search by asking your doctor, therapist, and other experts if they can refer you to any local organizations. Sometimes hospitals, physical therapy centers, and day treatment facilities offer innovative programs.
Can't find a foundation that suits your needs? Try one of these:
Grants are cash awards designed to fund specific expenses, such as a wheelchair or handicap-accessible modification to your home. Hundreds, if not thousands, of grants are available, but your eligibility depends on an array of factors. To find a grant specific to your needs, try a Google search for the specific expenditure for which you seek funding. Some organizations which may be able to help with spinal cord injury grants include:
Taking out a loan is always a gamble, particularly after you've suffered an injury that could permanently alter your ability to work. You should follow the same rules for a spinal cord injury loan as you do for any other, so take the following steps first:
Your bank or credit union may be able to offer you a loan at a favorable rate. Some hospitals also offer loans and credit programs for funding care. Your credit card is also an option, but remember that credit card interest rates are often quite high; consider opening a new account with a low introductory rate to avoid paying excessive fees and interest.
You may also want to talk to a financial planner about the possibility of getting out of other debts because of your injuries. In some cases, you might be able to discharge all or a portion of your student loans because of your spinal cord injury.
Just a few short years ago, insurers routinely refused to cover people with spinal cord injuries. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, you now have a number of rights you previously did not, but you cannot exercise those rights if you do not know about them. Consider the following:
Spinal cord injuries are traumatic for patients and their families. They cause disruptive changes to every aspect of your life and there is a lot of new information to navigate and understand. Our experts have collected everything in one place to help you learn more about your injury, locate doctors and treatment centers, find financial support, and get assistance navigating your next move.