Can Victims of Spinal Cord Injuries Reintegrate into Society?
Credit: Arnold Reinhold/Wikimedia Commons

Credit: Arnold Reinhold/Wikimedia Commons

In 2010, the Urban Futures Institute estimated that 600 new spinal cord injuries occur each year in Ontario, and that over 33,000 Ontarians were living with spinal cord injuries at that time. The most common cause? “Unintentional falls” and motor vehicle accidents, which together account for 85 per cent of all spinal injuries in Ontario. These injuries can occur at any time and effect any one.

Anthony Simas knows this better than most. At 17, he slipped on his pool deck and broke his neck when he landed in the water. Today, Anthony is a “C5 incomplete quadriplegic,” meaning he has full head and neck movement and muscle range in his upper-body, but has lost function of his legs. Now in his 20s, Anthony has become an advocate for victims of spinal cord injuries.

Spinal Cord Injury Ontario – which works to assist people with spinal cord injuries and other disabilities to achieve independence and full community participation – says that it takes the average spinal injury victim between two and three years to attain “sufficient independence.” That generally involves a period of acute hospitalization followed by an extended period of intensive rehabilitation therapy. At Toronto Rehab, where Anthony went through his rehabilitation, this process usually lasts 50 to 60 days, after which patients are discharged.

While rehab and hospitalization can be painful, exhausting experiences, the process of reintegrating into the community can be equally overwhelming. For victims of spinal cord injuries, re-entry into the community essentially means learning to live a new life.

That’s why Anthony partnered with Toronto Rehab’s Lyndhurst Centre and UHN OpenLab to develop and launch a spinal injury-specific version of the Patient Oriented Discharge Summary (PODS). The tool, developed by Toronto Rehab, “facilitates a more patient-centred discharge for spinal cord injury patients during the transition from hospital to home,” according to a recent UHN article.

“There are so many physical and emotional challenges for patients returning home, and sometimes they have not begun the process of grieving the loss of their mobility,” Sandra Mills, Patient and Family Educator at Toronto Rehab, told “They’ve participated in intensive rehab where healthcare professionals are readily available. Going home post-injury is a huge adjustment and accepting that life will be different than it was before is part of the adjustment process.”

Briefly, PODS are designed to help make the transition from rehab to everyday life as painless as possible. They ensure easy access to resources like telephone contact lists, and equip patients with information on a variety of subjects, including short-term care plans; medication; signs, symptoms and pain management; outpatient referrals; and follow-up appointments. Each patient’s PODS is completed at a pre-discharge, patient-led meeting between a member of the healthcare team, a neutral facilitator, and the patient themselves.

From January to March 2015, Anthony Simas helped launch a pilot PODS program tailored to the needs of victims of spinal cord injuries. Under the program, PODS meetings also included patient advisors who offered practical advice to soon-to-be-discharged injury victims.

“There are so many things to consider once you’re on your own but you don’t think to ask until you’re faced with the situation – for example, whether you know how to jump a curb, roll up and down ramps or what to do if your wheelchair breaks down,” Simas’ told “It’s also a lot easier to speak with another person with a spinal cord injury about more sensitive topics like catheterization. Having the support of a patient advisor in your discharge meeting offers a sense of comfort and support that you wouldn’t get otherwise.”

If you or a member of your family has suffered a spinal cord injury, you may be entitled to compensation which will help you follow the long path to recovery. Contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today for a free, no-obligation consultation.

Greg Neinstein

Greg Neinstein, B.A. LLB., is the Managing Partner at Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers LLP. His practice focuses on serious injury and complex insurance claims, including motor vehicle accidents, slip and fall injuries, long-term disability claims and insurance claims. Greg has extensive mediation and trial experience and has a reputation among his colleagues as a skillful negotiator.
Greg Neinstein

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