September is National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month. It is a means to educate the public about spinal cord injury (SCI), encourage medical research, and honor Americans living with SCI.
The spinal cord transmits information between the brain and the nerves that lead to skin and underlying muscle, internal organs, and glands. When the spinal cord is injured (often SCI begins with a sudden and traumatic blow to the spine), the information pathway is disrupted. This in turn reduces or prevents movement, function, and sensation in the body. While some injuries will allow almost complete recovery, others will result in paralysis, depending on the location and extent of the injury, according to the NIH. Paraplegia is paralysis of the lower part of the body (occurring from injury to the lower part of the spinal cord), while quadriplegia is paralysis of the upper and lower body and arms (resulting from injury to the upper part of the spinal cord).
Spinal cord injuries can cause other medical conditions such as respiratory illness, sleep apnea, autonomic dysreflexia (a form of high blood pressure), inability to regulate body temperature, chronic pain, and impaired use of bowel and bladder muscles.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has the largest network of spinal cord injury care in the U.S. The VA San Diego system has a spinal cord injury center that provides care to veterans and active duty personnel in San Diego and Imperial Counties, Arizona, and Southern Nevada. For more information, call (858) 642-3117 or visit their site.
Patients with severe spinal cord injuries may be interested in Helping Hands: Monkey Helpers for the Disabled, a non-profit organization based in Boston that places specially trained capuchin monkeys with mobility-impaired individuals around the country. The monkeys act as live-in companions who use their hands to perform functional tasks (pressing buttons, opening lids).
San Diego patients and their caregivers can find more information regarding SCI treatment at Sharp Rehabilitation Services.
The San Diego chapter of the National Spinal Cord Injury Association can be found at this site.
A clinical study on spinal cord injury and bone density is currently recruiting participants nearby at CSU San Marcos.
National support organizations, resources, and clinical trial information can be found at the NIH Web site.