Spinal Cord Injury: The First Weeks
Spinal cord injury is complicated. The immediate situation following injury can be confusing, scary, painful and distressing. It’s an intensely emotional time. Those first few weeks into life with SCI are some of the most challenging - and the spinal cord injury might be one of several that need treatment. Knowing your options, what to expect and where to get support are hugely important factors that will aid in recovery.
Priorities and Big Questions
There are a few essentials to know right away.
Your body will be more susceptible to skin infections and rashes where mobility is affected. A skincare routine can improve things drastically, and the range of products you use to wash will change - as will the frequency of cleaning and skincare.
Going to toilet will be different, too - not just because of mobility, but because the nerves responsible for controlling bladder and bowel are affected pretty much all levels of injury, usually in different ways. That means diet changes, too.
Everyone’s experience is different and SCI can impact you in countless ways - but depression and anxiety are high risk factors after injury, and psychological well-being takes an immediate hit.
Nothing can reverse the loss. Nothing can turn back time. You might lose yourself.
But counselling and talking can help you find your future. It’s not an instant fix, rather a work in progress that lasts a lifetime. Mental well-being should be made a priority; it can make all the difference.
After bowel, bladder and skin, sexual health will be high on many people’s list of priorities. Since SCI predominantly affects young people, knowing whether or not they can have children and have sex after spinal cord injury is one of the big questions.
The good news? Sex and children are both on the cards, if you want them.
Getting Mobility Back
Outcomes depend heavily on the severity of spinal cord damage. It’s important to have realistic expectations - but many people have experienced gains from physio, training and persistent hard work.
It certainly won’t happen in your first few weeks. Living with SCI is just that: it’s lifelong. Your journey will be ongoing, always changing - and your injury can change, too.
In the first few weeks, you’ll have lots of swelling and your doctor will provide information on short-term changes in your injury. As time goes on, years down the line, things will be very different, and much of that is thanks to rehab.
Rehab Will Change You
Some people might take longer getting to rehab than others, so their priorities will be different. If the circumstances of injury involved burns, internal organ damage or complex bone fractures, your hospital treatment will continue until you can be taken on as an inpatient in a spinal cord injury rehabilitation centre.
But it could be as little as 48 hours before you’re moved over. Rehab provides practical help, supporting people to gain more independence. You’ll learn more about preventing secondary complications and receive physical therapy, appropriate to your injury level.
Your family will be supported throughout the process, and your team will work out the safest discharge plan for you.
Rehab can change your outlook, your outcomes and your future: it’s one of the most important things you’ll do in the first weeks after injury.
Your First Days at Home
Adjusting to life at home will take time, so go easy on yourself. Privacy and boundaries might not exist for a while. Care doesn’t stop once you’re home, and it can be hard on family, friends - and of course on you. Home might not feel like home for a bit.
With reduced mobility, getting in, out and around your home can be difficult, especially before any accessibility adaptations are made. Accessible technology has made life at home with a disability much easier - but financing everything can be tough.
Aspire Law can help with those challenges.
We Help People with SCI
Aspire Law is a specialist law firm, working for people with SCI. We help with legal, housing and personal support at every stage - and even if you don’t have a claim, we’ll help you get what you need.
Give us a call on 0800 030 20 40 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance with getting around.