Be #SCIAware - 18th May 2018
Every day, someone in the UK is told they’ll never walk again. In fact, spinal cord injuries are sustained by 1,000 people every year in the UK.
Worldwide, between 250,000 and 500,000 people each year are paralysed by spinal cord injury (SCI), but paralysis is just the tip of the iceberg - there’s so much more that most people will never see. Aspire Law, legal arm of the Aspire spinal cord injury charity, is supporting #SCIAwarenessDay, helping people understand all aspects of SCI.
The Real Impact of Spinal Cord Injury
The most prominent, publicised aspect of spinal cord injury is paralysis and loss of mobility. But while the inability to walk is the popularised image of spinal cord injury, there are varying degrees of injury, with an enormous number of possible outcomes - impacted mobility being just one.
The spinal cord serves all of the voluntary and many of the involuntary functions in the body from the head down - from gripping objects, to walking. It tells your brain when there’s sand between your toes, when you need to go to toilet and controls sexual function. Spinal cord injury can affect all of this and more - but no two injuries are ever the same, just as no two people who sustain SCI are the same.
This is the true physical impact of spinal cord injury: everything below the injury is affected in some way. And that can have a serious emotional, social and psychological effect. Like the hidden body of an iceberg lurking below the surface, it’s everything you can’t see about spinal cord injury that has the capacity to challenge as much as the physical aspects: the secondary medical issues, such as depression and isolation can be as devastating as the physical injury.
These hidden parts of SCI should not be underestimated.
About Injury Levels and Completeness
The two major factors that will dictate what functions, reflexes and mobility are present post-injury are the injury level and the completeness of injury.
Injury level is where along the spinal cord the injury has happened. There are four distinct “zones” in the spinal cord, which are (from bottom to top): sacral, lumbar, thoracic and cervical. Each zone is represented by a letter - S, L, T and C respectively).
In each zone, a number is assigned to the individual bones (vertebrae) that surround the spinal cord at that point. So, for example, an injury at the eighth bone down the spine in the thoracic zone would be a T8 level injury. An injury at T8 would impact function and sensation from the abdomen down.
The higher up the spinal cord an injury is sustained, the higher the loss of function and sensation. This ranges from S5, the lowest nerve branch within the sacrum (a bone of fused vertebrae just above the coccyx, or tailbone) all the way up to C1, or the atlas - just before the brainstem in the skull.
The completeness of the injury is on a scale, between complete and incomplete. If an injury is described as complete, it means that no sensation or function is present below the injury. If it is described as incomplete, it means that some degree of sensation and/or movement - even if only very small - is possible below the injury.
Spinal cord injury can happen so quickly. But it can happen equally slowly and insidiously. It can be a terrible accident, or it can be inflicted by someone intentionally. The spinal cord can be damaged by the body itself, with the bones that grew to protect it - or by disease.
There are as many ways that a spinal cord injury can be sustained as there are people with an injury, but some scenarios are more common than others.
Injured males outnumber injured women by at least 2:1. Most people sustain their injuries when young. Car crashes and road accidents lead the causes of SCI globally - falls and acts of physical violence follow.
But a significant number of injuries happen at work and in sport. Clinical negligence, drink driving, dangerous driving, physical aggression, faulty equipment and poor health and safety standards in the workplace are all avoidable causes of SCI.
The more aware we make people of how injuries happen, and the more people know about spinal cord injury, the more we can help to prevent injuries happening. Of course, spinal cord injuries will always happen - it can’t be stopped, and nobody can predict the future. But they can’t be cured - not yet. The only way to stop SCI for now is to prevent it. The only way to cure it is to fund research and rehabilitation centres. So please, spread this out. Encourage everyone you know to:
- Drive safely
- NEVER drink and drive
- Report fall and trip hazards wherever you see them
- ALWAYS use protective equipment appropriate to your work and sport
SCI isn’t always immediately obvious. If you’re present at a serious incident where somebody has injured their neck or back, assume that a spinal cord injury could have been sustained - even if the person is responsive. Fragments of vertebrae or misaligned bones can cut, pinch or sever the spinal cord if the injured person is moved - so:
- Do NOT move them
- Keep them still, even if they can move on their own
- Call 999 immediately
- Wait with them until help arrives making sure they don’t move
If you have sustained a neck or back injury, with no immediate onset of symptoms, seek medical attention immediately if you notice any numbness, tingling or loss of mobility. Swelling and clotting around the spinal cord can gradually build, which can do permanent damage.
Getting Help Following Spinal Cord Injury
If you or a member of your family have sustained a spinal cord injury, there are many ways that Aspire Law can help you.
Our main aim is to secure a compensation package for you that will enable you to maintain an independent and fulfilling life.
SCI compensation is intended to serve as a lifetime payment to cover all past and future losses. While money won’t turn the clock back, it provides the means to enable you to lead as full and independent a life as possible.
Spinal injury compensation not only acts as a source of financial support from the outset, but also as a channel of continuous support for the future. At Aspire Law, we achieve the very highest level of compensation (often many millions of pounds) and arrange expert financial advice - so that after receiving your SCI compensation, you can make informed decisions on how best to invest your money. This ensures that you get the maximum return over the course of your lifetime.
Aspire Law can also settle your claim on a periodical payment basis: instead of receiving one lump sum, a compensation payment is received annually. This sum is designed to cover all aspects of ongoing expenditure, and an income for life. It’s also linked to relevant indexation, which guarantees that these payments retain their value and increase each year, on par with inflation rates. When this option is preferred, the award often consists of both a lump sum element and an annual income - providing an immediate cash injection and financial security for life.
We assemble a partner led team for every SCI claim that we handle. Our teams only deal with a very small number of cases at any one time; meaning we can get to know our clients and provide a truly personal, professional service. Our clients are integral to the process and with them, we achieve the best possible outcomes in a timely manner.
Throughout your claim, Aspire Law will be in regular contact with you to ensure that you are kept up to date, understand the legal process and give you the progress of your claim.
Aspire – The Spinal Cord Injury Charity
In addition to the assistance provided by Aspire Law, Aspire the spinal cord injury charity can also provide help with a range of services - including grants, assisted technology, welfare benefits, and housing.
To find more information of the services Aspire provide please call 02089 545 759 or visit www.aspire.org.uk.
Supporting Spinal Cord Injuries Awareness Day
Aspire Law are a specialist law firm from the spinal cord injury charity Aspire. We have a specialist team of spinal injury lawyers, who only work for people with spinal cord injuries.
We’re dedicated to supporting everyone affected by SCI - and to raising awareness of the causes, risks and changes it makes to everyday life.
If you want to talk about the law around SCI and if you could make a claim, give us a call on 0800 030 20 40.