What Happens Next? The Physical Impact of a Severed Spinal Cord
A spinal cord injury is a life changing and devastating event. Most people will suffer paralysis, and this is likely to have an effect on their abilities for the remainder of their life. This being said, a severed spinal cord doesn’t mean a person cannot attempt to live a fulfilling and meaningful life post-injury.
This article will look into potential questions you may have as a caregiver, such as surgery and therapy options, where you can find support, choosing SCI rehabilitation facilities, and how to investigate into whether anybody was at fault for causing the spinal cord injury of your loved one.
What should you expect as a SCI caregiver?
You may not be the patient, but acting as caregiver to a patient of a severed spinal cord is a stressful and emotional experience. Whether the patient is your partner, a family member or otherwise, it can be tough to witness a loved one go through pain and sadness for a prolonged period. You may feel a lot of pressure to keep their morale up, and help them feel positive in their approach to recovery and what options they have.
Of course, you may also be experiencing grief at the loss of your life alongside that person and it is important that you find someone you can communicate this to. Being able to vocalize and discuss your feelings will ultimately make you feel stronger about the situation, and ultimately improve your ability to provide support.
Ensuring you know everything you can about their injury and the options that are available is the best way to feel more confident in dealing with a loved one’s SCI.
Once you have familiarized yourself with what a spinal injury really is and what it involves on a medical and biological level, you can begin to look further into what the immediate steps after will entail. Whether this is surgery or medication, taking as much information on will be your best weapon to dealing with the spinal cord injury (SCI).
What will happen post-injury regarding surgery and medication?
Of course, no two injuries are alike and as everybody is an individual, a similar injury may present itself very differently in two unique people.
Immediately following the injury, medical professionals will be looking to stabilize a patient, by ensuring they can breath, and that blood can circulate around the body. It is key to determine the level of injury and extent of the damage as soon as possible, and in the following week post-injury, a patient likely will be given a variety of drugs to treat the symptoms.
With a spinal cord injury, it is important to control the damage and ensure it doesn’t spread any further than it already potentially has. Medication will be prescribed to ensure swelling is kept to a minimum, to treat infection and alleviate pain.
When a patient has been examined, decided as stable, and their injury determined on the American Spinal Injury Association Classification of Spinal Cord Injury Scale (ASIA), surgery can be discussed in regards to what would best improve and help the situation. Doctors most often recommend surgical intervention to stabilize the spinal column and prevent further damage to the area, usually by alleviating pressure from the spinal cord.
Some of this surgery will be done to remove and replace broken bone, wiring it together to form a fusion. Other forms of surgery are designed to support the head and neck in one position while the bones heal, and a patient may wear a halo or Harrington Rods, both attached to bones and attached to an external brace.
Was anyone else at fault?
It is important that once the patient has been stabilized, the situation surrounding the accident which caused it should be clarified. Put simply, was there someone at fault, and is this something you can claim compensation for?
If the situation has occurred because of an accident, perhaps a car or sporting accident, there may be a clear external person or party that is responsible for the damages, and this can be decided by the patient as to whether this was intentional, or something to be taken further.
There are also situations in which the blame may be less obvious, such as in circumstances that find a person was negligent, whether it be driving, a faulty vehicle or piece of equipment, or construction site operators etc.
Researching and finding a SCI law firm that can help you learn more about a potential claim may put the patient’s mind at ease, especially if financial cost of health care is a concern. Approach them with as many details of the accident as possible, so as to provide them with as much information as you can to assess your case.
Choosing a rehabilitation facility
Choosing a rehabilitation facility with your loved one can be a tough decision, and it is wise to consider many things before making your final choice.
Knowing whether or not your medical insurance will cover fees is perhaps one of the first and foremost questions, or at least the price of treatment and whether or not it is an affordable choice.
As the caregiver to an individual with a recently diagnosed SCI, you will most likely be keen to support this person both at home, and in a facility through an intense recovery regime. This means that location is certainly a factor to consider, as a facility too far from home may exacerbate the effort and travel involved.
Ensuring that the center or facility has the suitable care for your patient’s particular SCI case is important in the recovery process also, as it would be counter-productive to enroll your loved one into a facility if they cannot provide the appropriate care that will help them along on their journey. There are different programs and courses of rehabilitation treatment which are specifically designed for certain types of injuries, and you should make sure they offer the ideal treatment.
Be sure, if you are able, to visit potential rehabilitation facilities in order to get a feel for it, and consider all related factors. Just because something looks ideal on paper, doesn’t mean that in real life it won’t miss the mark in what you’re looking for.
Where can you go for support?
Of course, as a caregiver it is your role to support your loved one through their injury, immediate treatment and ongoing recovery. That isn’t to say that you won’t need emotional and mental support too! In order to be the best pillar of support and positivity for the person you are caring for, you need to be feeling emotionally strong yourself.
If you can, be honest with your loved one, but also remain empathetic to their situation. Find someone, whether it be family, friend or external counsellor, to talk through your feelings with. After all, just because you haven’t been physically injured in this scenario, you are probably feeling emotionally exhausted.
Take a break every so often, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are many websites and online forums that you can access digitally, which have invaluable information, resources, guidance, as well as down-to-earth and experienced opinions.
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Spinal Cord Team