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  1. #1

    Why spinal injuries are not what we see on TV

    Why spinal injuries are not what we see on TV
    Spinal injuries can certainly be serious, but they don't always have to spell an end to life as we know it

    Monday April 25 2011

    THIRTY-ONE years ago Colm Whooley came off his motorbike and broke his back. He was paralysed from the chest down and spent nine months in hospital. Today he scuba dives, fly-fishes, teaches self-defence and kayaks.

    He's deeply concerned about the latest controversial storyline on hit soap 'Emmerdale', which, it's speculated, will see twenty-something tetraplegic Jackson Walsh attempt to kill himself with the help of his mother and lover.

    Whooley, now the chief executive of Spinal Injuries Ireland, fears that an assisted suicide story could leave viewers believing this is the norm for victims of spinal cord injury.

    But it's not, insists the 52-year-old paraplegic who, along with three other people, will kayak nearly 50km from Northern Ireland to Scotland in August to raise about €45,000 for the organisation.

    While his injury, which occurred at the age of 21, is not as severe as that suffered by Jackson, who is paralysed from the neck down -- Whooley has the use of his arms -- he knows several people with similar injuries to those sustained by the 'Emmerdale' character.

    "These people are getting on with life -- people are very resilient with good rehabilitation and family support.

    "I'd be worried if the public was left with the perception that this is how everybody deals with such an injury," says Whooley.

    It's good to bring public attention to the issue, according to Spinal Injuries Ireland (SII) -- on average one person a week sustains a spinal cord injury in this country though traffic, sporting and work accidents.

    However, 'Emmerdale' is overly focusing on the negative aspect of life with spinal cord injury, claims SII communications official Liz Smith, who says several members have already contacted the organisation to express concern about the portrayal of Jackson.

    "The whole story is showing an extremely negative portrayal of living with a spinal cord injury.

    "We realise that the producers are endeavouring to produce an entertaining and thought-provoking storyline, but they must be cognisant of the negative and distressing impact that this will have on individuals and families who sustained a similar level of injury.

    read...

    http://www.independent.ie/health/lat...v-2628654.html

  2. #2
    Not to be Mr. Negativity, but studies have shown that people with sci/disabilities have a suicide rate which has been shown to be five time higher than then general population.
    The unemployment rate in America for those with sci is about 60%. This TV show may be much more realistic than the 'happy rollers' wish to admit.
    Dennis Tesolat
    www.StemCellsandAtomBombs.blogspot.com

    "Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom."
    Martin Luther King

  3. #3
    Senior Member rdf's Avatar
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    I think paraplegics suicide more than quadriplegics. I either read that somewhere, or someone posted it here. The people doing the suicide research figured out that paras are often all alone, whereas quadriplegics usually have someone around every day - in the form of caregivers. Also, it's much easier for paras to kill themselves than quads - who need help to acquire the necessary materials to do the deed.
    Quote Originally Posted by StemCells&AtomBombs View Post
    Not to be Mr. Negativity, but studies have shown that people with sci/disabilities have a suicide rate which has been shown to be five time higher than then general population.
    The unemployment rate in America for those with sci is about 60%. This TV show may be much more realistic than the 'happy rollers' wish to admit.
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  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by rdf View Post
    I think paraplegics suicide more than quadriplegics. I either read that somewhere, or someone posted it here. The people doing the suicide research figured out that paras are often all alone, whereas quadriplegics usually have someone around every day - in the form of caregivers. Also, it's much easier for paras to kill themselves than quads - who need help to acquire the necessary materials to do the deed.
    Yes, the study I read said the same things about paraplegics committing suicide at quite a higher rate and probably for the reasons you mention.

    About the TV show suicide:
    1. I don't want TV shows to portray all of us as suicidal and as people who cannot reintegrate into society, because this would not be representative of our community.
    2. On the other hand, I don't want to be portrayed as being exactly the same as everyone else except that my legs don't work and I got to be in a wheelchair, because this misrepresents the community.
    3. It also gives people, and employers the wrong impression. The impression given in two above is something that can be fixed by putting in a ramp and a toilet, but we all know that we need more than just a ramp and a toilet. These shows with wheelchair people always try to portray us as, "look they're just like us expect they can't walk/use their arms". They never show the neuropathic pain, pins and needles, fear of little accidents, hospitalization, continued rehab, pressure sores, skin breakdown due to heat, limited mobility because of the snow, etc. They try to show us as being 'equal' in the very simplistic use of the word. Yes, we may be equal as all human being should be, but we are not the same as the able bodied.
    4. These shows make your employer not understand why you can't do everything everyone else can do. Why you can't always be on time. Why you can't concentrate. Why you have to have so many sick days. The thinking becomes, "If Rick Hansen can wheel his way around the world, why can't you just do your job like before." The thinking becomes that it's not because of our condition, but it's because of US, and this becomes dangerous. We need understanding in workplaces that we are NOT the same as we were before the injury. There were some interesting comments made on a news report just as Hansen was finishing his first world tour. You can find it at http://stemcellsandatombombs.blogspo...-research.html. I'm not putting down Hansen and his great work, just making an observation.
    5. And one more important thing which takes us back to the CURE theme of this specific forum, these sugary impressions of the 'happy roller' holds up the cure. There is no need to rush for us, goes the thinking. "It's not like they are suffering in their chairs." But many are suffering physically, mentally, and economically. We have a much, much, much higher rate of unemployment with all the associated problems that brings, including much higher rates of poverty. The higher suicide rate as we already discussed, and the wonderfully quoted, "almost the same life expectancy". As if "almost the same" is a good thing. Yes, I know people tell me that not so long we had a really short life span, but this is not very meaningful to me now. It's like when my mother tried to make me eat brocoli when I was a kid by telling me that in Italy during the war she didn't have food for days on end. It was meaningless to me because I had a full belly.

    So I'm happy that we are portrayed in the media because it does produce some positive role models for some people, my fear is that it also produces a lot of people that try to measure up to the 'happy rollers' on TV and are traumatized because they can't. And like always, I'm concerned that it holds back a cure.
    Dennis Tesolat
    www.StemCellsandAtomBombs.blogspot.com

    "Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom."
    Martin Luther King

  5. #5
    Senior Member Scorpion's Avatar
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    There really is diversity in how people who are SCI/wheelchair users are portrayed, if you look for it. It's not always suicidal or super-inspiring, though those extremes seem to be the majority, I'll admit.

    The key is to get more people in wheelchairs in TV and movies who are not the focus of the story and who are just a character in the show/movie. I'm not opposed to the person with SCI/disability being the focus, but when they are the focus it is too easy for the writers to fall into the bitter-or-inspirational stereotypes.

    There will never be a consensus among crips though. Some people see the bitter/suicidal cripple in movies/TV and get pissed and say "but that's not me!" while others see super-achiever/inspirational cripple in media and say "but it's not that easy for me!" They're both right, actually, and instead of whining about the kinds of cripple you think you aren't being in the media because you're worried how it will affect how people see you, realize that it's not all about you and encourage and promote diversity of portrayals, not the elimination of portrayals you're afraid make you look bad.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Scorpion's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rdf View Post
    I think paraplegics suicide more than quadriplegics. I either read that somewhere, or someone posted it here. The people doing the suicide research figured out that paras are often all alone, whereas quadriplegics usually have someone around every day - in the form of caregivers. Also, it's much easier for paras to kill themselves than quads - who need help to acquire the necessary materials to do the deed.
    Having someone around all the time (caregivers, etc) could still be very lonely and maddening. Seriously, I can imagine one might consider suicide if they never had a moment alone. A friend of mine who's a high quad (neck down) made it a point to be alone when he doesn't need help doing something, and I think this has helped his sanity. The dude has even gone a few miles to get to class alone in his powerchair, sometimes taking the bus.

    But the point about quads, particularly high quads, not being able to kill themselves should definitely be taken into consideration when looking at suicide rates among paras and quads. But then, paras are bigger whiners, too.
    Last edited by Scorpion; 06-10-2011 at 01:17 PM.

  7. #7
    - He should support research instead. We don't the 'happy roller' propaganda, simply because it's a financial bad idea. (happy rollers=less funding for cure, simple as that)
    I don't want people to believe that being paralysed from the neck down, is something that you psychologicly and physically, easily cope with.
    Because it's not.
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  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by topperf View Post
    - He should support research instead. We don't the 'happy roller' propaganda, simply because it's a financial bad idea. (happy rollers=less funding for cure, simple as that)
    I don't want people to believe that being paralysed from the neck down, is something that you psychologicly and physically, easily cope with.
    Because it's not.
    Its not that simple. There are those if us who want to resume our lives and if the public views us as so damaged we cannot hold jobs that is a very harmful perception. I know it is not easy to cope with, but if people think we cannot function unless there is a cure that is very harmful as well.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by t8burst View Post
    Its not that simple. There are those if us who want to resume our lives and if the public views us as so damaged we cannot hold jobs that is a very harmful perception. I know it is not easy to cope with, but if people think we cannot function unless there is a cure that is very harmful as well.
    The difficulty is that the public do's view us as damaged humans that are unable to function in the world as a normal physical human person.
    And guess what they are right in their judgement in most cases.

    I who have worked to have my own business, and know that for me being cured is tthe major goal not hoping the world accepts me as is as they never will

    don't mistake a pat on the head as acceptance its bullshit if you want them to feel you are ok then nothing will be done as they think it is ok just get on with living. No need for a cure!

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by CAS View Post
    The difficulty is that the public do's view us as damaged humans that are unable to function in the world as a normal physical human person.
    And guess what they are right in their judgement in most cases.

    I who have worked to have my own business, and know that for me being cured is tthe major goal not hoping the world accepts me as is as they never will

    don't mistake a pat on the head as acceptance its bullshit if you want them to feel you are ok then nothing will be done as they think it is ok just get on with living. No need for a cure!
    You reading comprehension is as poor as your grammar. You totally missed the point I was trying to make. Read StemCell&AtomBombs reply he got it.

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