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Newsletter Archive

What Is Paraplegia?
When the spinal cord is injured or completely severed at the first through eighth thoracic vertebrae(T1 ? T 8), an individual may experience no sensation or movement below the injured area; this is paraplegia. Though the hands may not be affected, the person does lose the ability to move or feel the lower part of his/her body. The person usually has poor truck mobility. Additionally, internal organs including the stomach and the lower back and legs are affected. It is estimated that approximately 11,000 new cases will occur this year alone. It is also estimated that 183,000 ? 203,000 people already have spinal cord injuries. The paraplegic can accrue costs in excess of $193,000 the first year, with subsequent needs for the rest of their life ranging to over half a million dollars.

What can cause paraplegia?
Motor vehicle or motorcycle accidents are the leading cause of injury to the spinal cord/nerves. Violent acts, such as gunshot wounds and stabbing also cause spinal cord injuries. There are non-injury causes too including spinal tumors, scoliosis (lateral deviation in the normally straight vertical line of the spine) or spina bifida (a developmental anomaly characterized by defective closure of the bony encasement of the spinal cord through which the spinal cord and meninges may or may not protrude).

Life Expectancy
A person who has the injury occuring at a younger age will have a greater life expectancy than that of a person who has the injury in the later years of life. People with paraplegia are more likely to develop lung infections such as pneumonia or viral pneumonia.

The function of a Life Care Planner
Long-term medical care can be both emotionally and financially devastating for a patient and their family. A Life Care Planner is a person who is specially trained to predict the future medical needs of the injured party. Life Care Planners are advocates for the individual with a spinal cord injury in that they focus on the tasks the person is not able to do in normal day-to-day functions by his/herself and endeavour to develop a plan how to restore as much function/independence as possible. A life care plan is needed from the day of the injury to the life expectancy of the individual. The intent of the life care plan is to meet the daily medical, psychosocial, educational, equipment, caregiver, housing and vocational needs of the patient. Contributed by Bonnie Rupke RN CLNC, Rupke & Associates LLC, PO Box 615, Hays, KS 67601, Phone/Fax (785) 625-4464