My Opinion – Rehab Revelations

The importance of SCI-trained nursing

Recently, I found myself looking back to my acute rehab after incurring a T2/T3 spinal-cord injury (SCI) in 1989.

I remember a physical therapist coming to my bedside and telling me a group of guys were getting together in the gym that evening to play wheelchair basketball and wanted to know if I’d like to join them. I also recall having a bad attitude and telling the therapist I never liked playing basketball before this injury, so why on earth would I want to do it now!?

Since then, I have learned a lot about the physical benefits that participating in sports can have in your everyday life. The first solid examples of this took place with World War II veterans who returned home from the battlefields with SCIs.

Wheelchair basketball was used as a means of therapy, with the underlying reasoning behind its creation being to let the veteran know, both mentally and physically, that participation in the greater game of life was still possible.

During my acute rehab, I didn’t initially find a desire to participate in wheelchair sports, but I still received conventional physical therapy to get me back to living life. I recently had a health setback that sent me back to the hospital for an extended period of time. This was the first time I had been admitted back into a hospital since my injury in 1989. There was a big difference this time around.

This time, I wasn’t in a facility with staff trained in the care of someone with a SCI and because of that, I suffered some very unpleasant consequences. Nursing staff not trained in SCI care or who simply don’t encounter patients requiring this type of specialized care weren’t up to speed in handling things like bowel and bladder care or ensuring the patient (me) was regularly turned in bed to prevent pressure ulcers.

I wound up with a pretty good pressure sore during this stay that I’m just now getting over. I also came out of this hospital stay with a major decrease in my range of motion and an increase in muscle spasticity. This could have been prevented had I been seen by a physical therapist during my inpatient stay and received some basic care.

When I say “basic care” in this context, I mean strength training, cardiovascular exercise, respiratory conditioning and stretching. The inclusion of these basics would have helped me maintain a minimum level of function necessary to perform activities of daily living (ADL).

I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir when addressing SPORTS ’N SPOKES readers and assume many of you maintain a routine with a physical therapist to keep you at the top of your game.

It never occurred to me to maintain a relationship with physical therapy because my ADLs seemed to be giving me all the strength and stretching I needed to function independently. While this was true to a degree, I now realize that had I continued with some basic physical therapy, I could have benefited greatly.

From pushing my wheelchair to the many transfers in and out of the chair I make each day, life not only would have been easier, but I potentially would have deferred some of the common injuries associated with aging with a SCI.

I’m currently being evaluated for a possible cortisone shot in my right shoulder to alleviate pain, which would allow me to pursue a strengthening program.

I’m guessing many of you practice regular stretching and weight training, but if you don’t, you may want to give it some serious consideration.

This may help you perform better in your given sport. And if you unfortunately find yourself laid up due to injury or illness, going into it as strong and healthy as possible can have a huge impact on the amount of time you’re out of commission and your eventual outcome.

Stay safe and stay healthy.

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