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Spinal Injuries Association

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Spinal Injuries Association

A helping hand. From a series of photos taken for SIA's Annual Report 2002-03

A helping hand. From a series of photos taken for SIA's Annual Report 2002-03

I was very fortunate during the five years I worked for the Spinal Injuries Association (SIA). It was a hugely fertile time at the charity when ground-breaking publications were produced for both healthcare professionals and the 40,000 people who have sustained a spinal cord injury in the UK.

I became the SIA publications manager in 1999 and was involved in producing the world's first wheelchair user's video and the first healthcare emergency books for dealing with people with broken backs and necks.

You can't generalise, but most of the wheelchair users I met at the charity were positive in spite of the traumas they had gone through. By the time I met them they had usually been through a tough-love rehabilitation regime at one of the UK's eleven spinal injuries centres. One of the best known is Stoke Mandeville Hospital thanks to the fundraising exploits of Sir Jimmy Saville and the spinal management innovations of Sir Ludwig Guttmann, the creator of the Paralympic Games (he also managed btw to increase the average life expectancy of someone post-injury from three months to a normal lifespan!).

The potential for a spinal cord injury is the same after a fall at home as after a motorway collision and the most common cause of injury are falls (40%), road traffic accidents (35%) and sports related incidents (12%). Around 1,000 people sustain a spinal cord injury a year in the UK and the majority will live their life paralysed with paraplegia or tetraplegia.

The Spinal Injuries Association supports people who have spinal cord injuries, and their families. It helps spinal injured people and their families after paralysis, educates the wider community about spinal issues and campaigns on disability matters. Melanie Reed, a journalist for The Times, broke her neck riding a horse in 2010, has fundraised for SIA and written frank, inspirational stories about what it's like to become injured, the heartbreak for family and self, and some of the life-changing steps enabling her to become more independent again - "I've had The Conversation where I tell my husband he can leave me and he says, don't be ridiculous, you're stuck with me."