Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Report about spinal cord injuries in Haiti

I just read this report by ABC http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Wellness/haiti-spine-specific-medical-aid-doctors/story?id=9554088&page=1 (the Christopher & Dana Reeve foundation just posted it on their Facebook).The report addresses the issue of spinal cord injuries due to the earthquake in Haiti. I'm sure the number of spinal cord injuries is staggering, considering the magnitude of devastation. I'm really pleased to see that there are initiatives under way to try and provide care to all of the survivors. I only wish (as does everyone, I'm sure) there were a way to get the medical care to survivors faster.I've been thinking about this specific problem ever since the earthquake occurred and wish I could do more.

Given my own injury (C4 complete) I understand all to well how much care these people need and how critical those first few days/hours are, after sustaining a spinal cord injury. I can only begin to imagine the pain and suffering the Haitian people are going through. It is understandable that the people with spinal cord injuries are being injured further in the desperation to save their lives. I'm sure the average person helping to rescue or free people from the rubble has no way of knowing how severely someone might be wounded. Even if it's clear that someone has been paralyzed, there is such limited access to equipment that I'm sure the priority is just getting the person in to see a doctor with what ever means they have to bring them there. Quick access to medical care is crucial with any severe injury and it's almost unbelievable that people are surviving days trapped beneath the wreckage. It is a race against the clock for the rescuers and survivors. The survivors need medical care as quickly as possible and the rescuers have to move as fast as they can for their own safety as well. It must be terrifying having to worry about tremors which could possibly kill the people still waiting to be saved and/or injure the rescuers as well.

I was pulled out of the pool (which probably did more damage) seconds after I broke my neck. My rescuers thought I was drowning (which I was) and had no way of knowing I had broken my neck until I was out of the water. I was taken away by ambulance quickly and had the best available treatments, in a clean, modern intensive care unit and yet I still almost died. Four years later, I still require special equipment and aide on a daily basis. I rely on government programs for medical supplies, medicine, medical care and day to day help. Its heartbreaking to know that the people in Haiti have no support systems or programs to fall back on. I'm so glad that there are groups out there that can hopefully coordinate their efforts to help give those people with spinal cord injures the care they need. Until a cure is found, paralysis is a lifelong condition and the survivors will need a tremendous amount more help than able bodied survivors. It will be a miracle if many people manage to pull through "recovery" and be stable enough to continue on with their lives. This earthquake has already robbed too many people of their homes, possessions, loved ones and health. Although we can never get back all the lives lost, I hope we can help give Haiti an even better system & infrastructure than they had before the earthquake.For those living with paralysis, they will need more than just the short term rescue efforts. They will need a system stable enough to provide help long after the cities are rebuilt. I hope that there will be a future filled with the care and support services for the Haitian people. I'm sure the country can rebound and advance if its people are given a fighting chance.

My heart goes out to all the people suffering in Haiti and to all the people that are helping the recovery efforts. 

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