Established in September 2014, National Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Awareness Month raises awareness about SCI, and the need for better treatment and education. At Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, this month also gives us an opportunity to reflect on our patients, team and community.
Meet some of our outstanding colleagues and patients as they share their reflections on what this National SCI Month means to them.
"Spinal Cord Awareness Month means you have a chance to be proud of what happened to you, and to be a survivor. It gives you a chance to show others that your spinal cord injury doesn't define you. I'm still here and I can still continue to be the big strong guy that I have always felt I was.
It's a chance to let others know about SCI -- both educate people who are unaware of what it means and make people with spinal cord injury feel better about their situations and know they're not alone.
Don't let your injuries affect how you feel or think, because a place like this will show you that none of that is actually true. You can continue to do so much, and here they'll show you how to do so much. You can still be such a big part of life, and what you're used to doing and being a part of. You just have to find that different angle to approach it, and places like the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab are going to help you. You used to go straight ahead, now maybe you just have to go left to right."
"Being a part of this community has brought me full circle. I started as a patient — I was a scared teenager with a new spinal cord injury and I couldn't envision what my life would be like. At the time, I would never have guessed it would be what it is now. Now, I get to come to work every day to work alongside people who want to empower others to live their lives to the fullest. And, more importantly, I get to help others with new — or old! — injuries get back to their lives.
Awareness to me means a greater understanding — I want people to see that many perceived barriers are manmade and, with greater awareness, can be tackled together."
"Everyone at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab is optimistic and really cheerful, so you never get the feeling that they are feeling sorry for you. They always have words of encouragement.
I ask a lot of questions. It is interesting to see how much equipment they have here for all types and levels of injuries. Everything they have done has taught me something: a new way to do things or the correct way to do things or new things that I didn't even know how to do. They have an answer for most questions and no doubts of what you can accomplish here. I am very optimistic that I am going to be super successful."
"When a patient uses his or her voice for the first time since their injury, or eats their first meal after months on a feeding tube, I remember all over again why I went into speech language pathology. To play a part in facilitating those human connections again is a really special thing.
This month is dedicated to bringing awareness to an often misunderstood condition and all of the abilities that surround it. With more awareness comes more connection, more understanding, and even more innovation for the future of SCI!"
"I didn't know how complex and how different every SCI could be. Even injuries at the same level of injury can impact different people different ways. It's crazy how complex it is.
It means the most to me when I can celebrate small victories with therapists, whether that be a high five or a fist pump. That positive feedback feels good."
"Categorizing spinal cord injury to one thing is tough. There are a lot of moving parts in the healing process to get to our ultimate goal. And that's exactly what we do: we are constantly managing the moving parts that are the care team to help people reach their full potential.
I tell my patients that it's going to be a challenge moving forward and that being patient with yourself is important. One thing I’ve done is remind people that they are stronger than they know, they just have to believe it themselves. Sometimes, that is the first step of motivation they need.
We are proud of the work that we do here. We should bring awareness to spinal cord injuries not only this month, but every month out of the year."
"Therapy has meant the most to me. I have learned a lot of different things I can do with my injury, like riding a bike or playing basketball, that's what meant the most to me.
This month is about doing more to let people with spinal cord injuries know that they're not by themselves, they're not any different, they're equal. It's about supporting people with SCI."
"As a clinician, I still learn so much from my patients as they navigate through their recovery, learning new ways to do daily tasks and creating adaptations of their own.
The Shirley Ryan AbilityLab SCI community has provided a supportive environment to allow me to collaborate with fellow clinicians and patients, whether they have newly acquired or chronic SCIs."
"No spinal cord injury is ever the same between two people.
Over the years, I have had the privilege to watch and cheer on countless patients as they overcome some of the greatest physical, mental and emotional obstacles of their lives to become even stronger people on the other side. These individuals open up their lives to me during this extremely vulnerable time, and I am forever grateful for the many deep relationships I have formed with so many different people."
"Recently, I had the opportunity to work with former patients many years post-injury through our adaptive off-road cycling program. It has been a unique opportunity to work with patients across the continuum of care.
SCI Awareness Month is great opportunity to raise awareness about SCI, but also a great time to reflect on all of the progress that has been made in the treatment of SCI. We are fortunate to have access to amazing technological advances in very short time, and at the same time reflect on the work that still needs to be done."