Thriving After A Spinal Cord Injury - The Importance of Support Systems

photo of hope smiling
Curated by
Hope Johnson
Content via Wheel:Life
Curated by
Hope Johnson

Life after a spinal cord injury (SCI) can be challenging, but with the correct tools and support systems set into place, the transitional process can be a less daunting experience. Monica Manley states adjusting to life with an SCI is an on-going activity. She found the first five years after her injury was the most difficult.   However, with support from her family and friends, Monica found a new purpose in life.

"Surviving that helped me gain perspective and reminded me how much value my life truly had — and additionally, it also has a purpose."

Building Support Systems - Family and Marriage

Woman in wheelchair and man holding hands in a fall setting

It is vital, Monica suggests, that support doesn't fade as time goes on.  Even more critical, though, is that the family realizes the person injured is the same as before and that they empathize with and try to understand their loved one's new way of life.  The entire family is affected; no matter their individual roles.

Monica writes about the impact a spinal cord injury can have on a marriage.  She cites a study done by the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Michigan. The study consisted of 2,327 people who were married at the time of injury and was conducted over a 15-year period.   

According to the study, 1.3 to 2.5% of couples were more likely to get divorced during the first three years post-injury.  It's 40% after that. The more time couples spend outside the house, the more activities in which both spouses participate, the better communication is, thus less divorce.

Finding Peer Support

picture of peer support group for people with sci

Finding a peer support group of individuals living with the same disability may help to form a sense of community.  Feeling understood and supported is the underlying network which helps to cause and maintain a positive outlook. Monica states peer support groups can be found in hospitals, forums, online magazines, and events.

  • Hospitals - Monica writes, “The hospital where you did or are currently doing your rehabilitation may bring in previous patients to speak to newly injured SCI patients.”
  • Forums - Monica states there are many online forums and social media groups that are directly related to SCI. She says, “There are many forums dedicated to SCI and paralysis that allow people to join in and talk about various topics of mutual interest.”
  • Online Magazines - Online magazines can be a great resource for those new to disability as they often provide articles from a first-person perspective while providing different resources. “This is a key tool because the reader can learn more about their injury and keep up-to-date on the latest products available to them in addition to new research developments on finding a cure to SCI,” says Monica.
  • Events - Events are a great way to network and meet new people. Monica writes about attending the Abilities Expo.

"All I can do is choose to keep pushing forward and surround myself with support from people who love and accept me just the way I am despite any physical limitations, and we will thrive!"

Monica proves living with an SCI doesn't keep you from living your best life. How do you thrive? Share your story with us at!

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