The Spinal Injuries Association has reported that every year 2,500 people are paralysed by a spinal cord injury (21/22 Impact report). But how do you adapt to living with a spinal cord injury? What are the biggest challenges you face and what does “normal” mean now? In Spinal Injury Awareness Week, we have spoken to members of the Cauda Equina Spinal Cord Injury support group about that words of advice they can give to someone newly injured and now living with a spinal cord injury. It’s not just physical Emotional and psychological support after a life changing injury is so important. 48% of people responding to a SIA survey undertaken last year, said that they had been diagnosed with depression, anxiety or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following their injury. "TALK TO SOMEONE; TALK TO ANYONE" The advice from the CES support group is to make sure you look for support as soon as possible, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Employment People newly diagnosed with a spinal cord injury will worry about how they will get back to work, and whether they will even be able to work; what this will mean in terms of paying rent or mortgage and other bills. Quite often a spinal cord injury happens as a traumatic and sudden event. It is rarely foreseen and means a complete reassessment of life as you knew it. "TAKE TIME TO FEEL SAD THAT YOU HAVE BEEN THROUGH A TRAMA" In the 2022 “What Matters” report from the SIA, 75% of people said access to employment is a barrier to leading an equal life. But that is not to say that a spinal cord injury automatically means you cannot return to work. "DON'T PUSH YOURSELF; TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF" Adapting your home Whilst having a spinal cord injury does not necessarily mean an inability to walk, mobility is often a problem for many. 89% of respondents to the SIA “what matters” report said that they were worried about adapting their home, how it could be done and the cost involved. "RESEARCH YOUR CONDITION, AND WHAT SOCIAL AND FINANCIAL SUPPORT IS AVAILABLE" The CESCI support group suggest spending some time researching what support might be available. Look at state benefits; consider a Disabled Facilities Grant towards the cost of adapting a property and think about what your ongoing care needs might be and NHS Continuing Healthcare Funding. Rehabilitation Early rehabilitation can be so important in aiding recovery, but also in learning practical ways to cope with the injury. It is important to think about what further rehabilitation might be needed, so you can discuss it with a GP or the NHS. Rehabilitation can mean occupational therapy, and include learning skills to help with transfers into and out of a wheelchair or bed; how to manage in the kitchen and out in the community. Access to the community is another challenge, especially for those in a wheelchair. 95% of those responding to the What Matters survey said that they had issues with access to the outdoors, the countryside, parking, shops, hotels, leisure facilities and public transport, as well as with air travel. "YOU ARE STILL AN INCREDIBLE PERSON; DON'T LET YOUR INJURY TELL YOU OTHERWISE"