Welcome to the penultimate blog in this special series that is dedicated to spinal cord injury (SCI) survivors and National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month. Last week, we discussed the peripheral nervous system, the 5 leading causes of spinal cord injuries, and the various treatments available to accident victims with SCI. The purpose of this post, however, is to dispel pervasive myths and shed some light on this life-changing medical condition. To this end, the personal injury attorneys at The Stewart Law Firm, PLLC have compiled a list of frequently asked questions regarding SCI and taken great care in providing helpful and informative answers. Without further ado, please enjoy the following summary of information!
Question 1: What Is a Spinal Cord Injury & How Is It Different from a Back Injury?
The human spinal cord is a critical component of the central nervous system. Although the spinal cord is located in a person’s back, a spinal cord injury is not the same as a “back injury.” As discussed in last week’s blog, most spinal cord injuries are caused by acts of negligence and violence, such as motor vehicle collisions, gunshot wounds, and tragic fall incidents. That said, it can also be caused by diseases, such as spina bifida and polio. When someone injures their back in an accident, they may not experience paralysis once their bones have been stabilized. However, if the spinal cord is damaged, a person can suffer incomplete or complete paralysis depending on the location and severity of the injury.
Question 2: Are There Different Types of Spinal Cord Injuries?
While all spinal cord injuries are catastrophic, they can be individually classified by types and levels. For example, if a person is unable to complete voluntary movements below the point of injury, they have sustained a “complete” spinal cord injury (paraplegia or tetraplegia). If an individual is capable of some movement, then their paralysis may be classified as an “incomplete” spinal cord injury. Doctors may also assign a specific letter and number to indicate the location of a spinal cord injury; for instance, if an accident survivor has a C3 injury, it means that their third cervical vertebra has suffered damaged.
Examples of incomplete or partial spinal cord injuries include:
- Anterior cord syndrome
- Brown-Séquard syndrome
- Cauda equine lesion
- Central cord syndrome
Question 3: Who Is Most Likely to Sustain a SCI?
Anyone can sustain a spinal cord injury after a tragic accident or unfortunate event. That said, the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC) has confirmed that men constitute 78% of all spinal cord injuries reported in the United States. Their data also states that non-Hispanic white men represent 58.5% of that statistic.
Question 4: What Questions Should I Ask My Doctor?
After an accident, you need to ask your doctor the following questions about your spinal cord injury:
- What is my long-term prognosis?
- Where is the injury located?
- Is surgery necessary?
- What medications do I need?
- Is the injury complete or incomplete?
- Is the injury quadriplegic or paraplegic?
- What are my chances of regaining lost mobility and sensation?
- Do I require a wheelchair or assisted breathing device?
- How will this injury affect my career, personal life, and daily routine?
- Can physical or occupational therapy help?
- Can you refer me to any specialists?
- What resources are available for a person in my condition?
Question 5: Can I Still Go to School?
The answer to this question depends entirely upon your interests, educational goals, and the circumstances surrounding your injury.
Question 6: Can I Still Hold Gainful Employment?
Again, this question depends on your unique circumstances and career aspirations. Data compiled by the NSCISC shows that 17% of people with SCI hold gainful employment 1 year after sustaining their injury.
Question 7: Is There a Cure?
Unfortunately, there are no existing “cures” for a spinal cord injury. However, there are treatment programs that can mitigate lasting pain symptoms and any developing side effects. There have also been incredible advancements in adaptive and computer-assisted technology that enable SCI survivors to perform daily activities with both confidence and independence.
Question 8: Can I Drive with a Spinal Cord Injury?
A person with SCI can drive so long as their injury isn’t considered a high-cervical nerve injury (C1-C4). Of course, the driver needs to complete a driver training program with an adaptive vehicle before taking on the highways of America.
Question 9: How Often Do I Need to Schedule Follow-Up Appointments with My Doctor?
Once again, this question depends on your unique needs, bodily injuries, and prescribed treatment programs. Most individuals with SCI need to schedule yearly respiratory and urological assessments at the very least.
Question 10: Can I Still Participate in Fun Activities?
You can still have fun and participate in activities even if your mobility is limited. Some undertakings, such as singing, can also increase respiratory muscle strength!
Depending on your condition, you may be able to enjoy the following activities:
- Sports events
- Museums and galleries
- Reading and audiobooks
- Learn a language
- Trivia nights
- Writing and blogging
- Water aerobics
- And more!
Do You Have More Questions?
We hope that you found this blog helpful and invite you to come back next week for our final post: The Hidden Costs of Living with a Spinal Cord Injury (9/30/2019). Of course, if you have any questions about your legal options as an accident survivor, please contact our firm to arrange a free and informative consultation. As you’ll learn in the next blog, there are many lifetime costs linked to spinal cord injuries, and a favorable settlement or verdict can help you make plans for the future.