Why walking one day may not be the #1 priority for those with SCI
“It is … autonomic functions that we take for granted when we have them and that dominate our lives when we lose them.”
Kim Anderson, PhD: Spinal cord injury researcher (and a quadriplegic)
Spinal cord injury (SCI) disrupts communication between the brain and parts of the body below the injury. The most obvious consequence of this disconnect is paralysis. But there are many other ramifications of damage to the spinal cord.
SCI also affects the autonomic nervous system, the nerves that govern internal organs. A host of dysfunctions ensue. SCI alters cardiovascular function, respiration, gastrointestinal, lower urinary tract, sexual function and temperature regulation. In short, everything we normally take for granted suddenly becomes a problem.
According to ICORD PhD Candidate Leanne Ramer, a recent survey of individuals with SCI identifies recovery of autonomic functions as a high priority for improving quality of life. For the majority of individuals, regaining sexual function, bladder function, bowel function, and cardiovascular control are top priorities. Rated more important than recovering walking movement.
Many of these “secondary complications” to SCI are debilitating, chronic and life threatening. Yet the great majority of SCI research continues to focus on “curing paralysis”. ICORD is the International Cpollaboration on Repair Discoveries. www.icord.org. Based at the University of British Columbia and Vancouver Coastal Research Institute, icord research is focused on not only cure but “QOL – to enhance the quality of life for people living with spinal cord injury.”