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EMPOWER: MANAGING REHAB

Attitude and Effort

You are ready to begin the next phase of your recovery- rehabilitation. Your body is still healing and the extent of the injury to your spine is most likely not clearly understood and your long term prognosis has yet to be defined. It is important for you to realize now that the majority of your progress is up to YOU. Your surgeon has done as much as they can do. Your nurses are there to make sure you are medicated, bathed, fed and comfortable. Your therapists will evaluate and set the appropriate course of therapy. At this key juncture it is critical that you maintain a positive attitude and dedicate your mind to giving 100% effort to your rehabilitation. Attitude and effort are the two most important attributes that you have control over that affect your long term recovery.

Be the Hope

You are surrounded by people that are there to support you. Keep in mind that they are just as scared, anxious and concerned as you are. It is easy to fall into the trap of relying on them to always help keep your spirits up. Remember you are now relying on everyone else around you to help you in every facet of your life. Your support network, especially friends, family and caregivers need you to give them hope too. The more you are upbeat, personable, friendly and hopeful the more likely those around you will be willing to continue to help you and give you their best effort. In short, be the hope.

Four Legs to the Stool of Recovery

SIRF has developed a metaphor for a successful recovery. Think of your recovery as a stool that has four legs. Without each of these legs being strong the stool will not support you. You must build a support network made up of family, friends, business associates, work colleagues, volunteers, non profit associations, along with your care givers to assist you in building your stool of a strong recovery. Utilize all of today’s technology and web-based applications to involve people in your recovery.  This is the time to accept and ask for as much help and resources as you can get. Take inventory of all the people surrounding you and let their expertise and vocations assist you in any way possible.

The four legs of the stool:

Physical

Your body, and especially the nerves in your spine, will take months if not years to fully heal to the extent that your injury will allow. It is important that you recognize this, and are patient with the healing process. You are in charge of your body. It is your responsibility to actively manage the care of it. You have a say in the medications that you take, the therapy you receive, and the overall regimen offered by your nurses and doctors. The body recovering from a spine injury is very unique. There are concerns with your type of injury that most don’t have to worry about. It is crucial to be vigilant in the prevention of infection. Skin break down or ‘bed sores’ are the most common setbacks that a spine injury patient can experience. Each day you must have your body examined for pressure points that are prone to bedsores. Most common areas are heels of your feet, elbows, shoulder blades and your tailbone and buttocks. To prevent skin break down you must be on a proper mattress, most desirable is an air mattress. Rolling, or position changing, is imperative to promote circulation through out the body and to change pressure on the points most susceptible to skin break down. Consult nurses and doctors as to what mattresses are available to you and what rolling or repositioning schedule you will need.  Other main types of infections to be wary of are respiratory and urinary. Speak with your doctors, nurses and therapists on a regular basis on how to best prevent these infections.

Financial

Everyone is in a different financial position. There are numerous resources that you need to familiarize yourself with and tailor them to your specific situation. Again, YOU are in control and you must proactively manage your medical billing, insurance, social security, and personal finances. You can not ignore this leg of the stool as it often causes the most stress over the long run. Familiarize yourself with the following facets of your ‘financial leg’: Your personal health insurance benefits and case worker, Social Security Disability Insurance, Supplemental Security Income, Medicare, State Welfare Programs, Veteran’s Administration Services, Workers Compensation, Vocational Rehabilitation Services,  Medical Billing Auditing Services, Private fundraising and volunteer and non-profit services.

Mental

This leg of the stool is perhaps the most important leg and ironically the one that is typically neglected in the recovery process. With so much focus on the physical aspects of recovery you may not realize the mental toll that paralysis takes on your emotional well being. While friends and family can be supportive, you may want to consider seeking a professional therapist that specializes in rehabilitation. A neutral third party can offer an outlet to process the very common feelings of grief, loss, anger, and despair. Realize that many parts of your daily routine can be replicated. Even though you cannot physically participate in them you can still experience the joy they brought to you before your injury. If you loved movies, bring in a DVD player and watch movies. If music was important to you, bring in all your favorite tunes. If being around friends made you happy, invite them to spend time with you. Getting back to your normal routine, even though it may not be normal as you once knew it, will help maintain a positive mental outlook. Do not dwell or take inventory of all the things you can no longer do in your new physical state. This will drive you insane. Instead, focus on all the things you are still able to do. You will be surprised of how many things there are that can still bring you happiness and a sense of productivity.

Spiritual

Spinal cord injury presents an opportunity to re-examine your philosophy of life and the role that your spiritual belief system plays in it.  Rediscovering or reinforcing your capacity for spiritual connection can give you a greater courage and a more positive attitude towards your new life. No matter what your belief system is and regardless of your religious affiliation the belief in a god or higher power that has the ability to love you, heal you and support you in times of weakness is necessary to complete the stool of recovery. If you are a believer and have specific religious affiliation have your organization place you on its prayer list, have your members visit, and if you observe specific rituals or sacraments request that you receive them while in the hospital.

 

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