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Thread: Napa Spinal Cord Injury Network helps the injured move beyond their tragedies

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    Jul 2001
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    Napa Spinal Cord Injury Network helps the injured move beyond their tragedies

    Napa Spinal Cord Injury Network helps the injured move beyond their tragedies
    Sunday, June 16, 2002

    Register Correspondent

    Their injuries can't be repaired but their attitude toward life itself can, newcomers to the Napa Spinal Cord Injury Network quickly learn. The peer support group is designed to give meaning to the old adage, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going."

    Bill Iverson, current facilitator for the group, which meets monthly, is one of those tough guys. Injured in a car accident on First Avenue in Napa in 1999, he was inspired to form the network while undergoing therapy at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, one of 18 such facilities in the nation. "They had a peer group down there, and I got the idea of trying to put one together up here," he said.

    Of living with a spinal cord injury, Iverson said, "Obviously it's a drag, one of those things you could have gone the rest of your life without. But coming to grips with it is better than the alternative, which for me would have been pushing up daisies."

    His vision for the Napa network is to expand to more patients. "We can communicate back and forth and it can make everybody's life a little bit better," he said. Iverson estimated as many as 50 people with spinal cord injuries live in the Napa-Sonoma area.

    Recovering from a shattered life

    One of the network's newest and youngest members, 21-year-old Garrett Van Scyoc, says, "Don't be afraid to ask questions. The only way you learn is to ask."

    Van Scyoc injured his spine when the car in which he was passenger ran off Highway 121 near Wooden Valley Road on a foggy morning last January. The car went down an embankment and slammed into a tree. The impact severed his spine.

    His life was turned upside-down. He is now paraplegic. The son of retired educators Cheryl and Gary Van Scyoc will be unable to pursue a planned career in construction work, but that doesn't mean he hasn't set goals. He has vowed, for example, to someday pursue one of his favorite pastimes, hunting fowl.

    Garrett sat in a wheelchair in the living room of the family home in Browns Valley, surrounded by hunting trophies bagged by himself and his parents, mostly water fowl from the Napa and Sonoma marshes, and near Suisuin and Vacaville. "I haven't gone hunting yet (since the accident) but I plan on it," he said with convincing determination.

    "It's nice to have someone to talk to, someone who has a better understanding of what's going on, who has some idea what it's like not (to be able) to walk around, who has gone through it," he observed. That's what he found at his first network meeting.

    "Like anything, you learn from someone else ... their mistakes. You take what's best from everyone."

    Van Scyoc, a 1999 Vintage High School graduate, heard about the Napa Spinal Cord Injury Network while undergoing treatment at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.

    Van Scyoc said there's a general lack of understanding of people with disabilities by the general public. His accident has been an eye-opener for himself and others close to him.

    "We are learning how much the community is and isn't equipped," said his mom. She quickly discovered access problems in downtown Napa. "Ramps on First Street are not positioned in the crosswalk. You are actually in the lane of traffic. It can be a little scary," she said.

    His family also learned how an accident can financially disrupt lives. They did not have insurance to cover the staggering costs, prompting friends including the Mollys Angels organization to schedule fund raisers to help pay the mounting bills.

    "Mollys Angels have done tremendous work to help people who are injured," noted Iverson, who also said he received much support from the Queen of the Valley in launching the Network.

    A Network meeting

    At a recent Network meeting about a dozen men and women who had suffered spinal cord injuries gathered around a table to hear a presentation by Gina Biter-Mundt, an adaptive physical education instructor at Napa Valley College who also uses a wheelchair.

    The slide presentation of the program of weight lifting and supervised training caught the interest of several in attendance, who indicated they may enroll. Information about the college program is available from Biter-Mundt at

    At the meeting, the father of a spinal cord injury patient proudly displayed a photograph of his injured son skydiving in tandem with a trained instructor.

    About a dozen spinal cord injury victims ranging in age from teenagers to post-retirement regularly attend the local meetings.

    According to the national Spinal Cord Injury Information Network, an estimated 11,000 people suffer spinal injuries each year in the United States. The national network, which was established in 1973, further estimates as many as 230,000 Americans are living with spinal cord injuries today.

    Iverson said members "are working and socializing in the community in meaningful ways since their injuries."

    He said the group volunteers time and experience to help others navigate their way through recovery. The time immediately following an accident can be most devastating, he said.

    Among dozens of topics often discussed at the local sessions are accepting change, learning about the American Disabilities Act, depression, daily living problems, housing, education, caregiver issues, funding sources, relationship issues including sex and dating, and a variety of medical challenges created by the loss of mobility.

    A long list of accomplishments since April 2000 by the Napa Spinal Cord Injury Network include helping house two homeless in wheelchair accessible housing, making five homes wheelchair accessible for newly injured patients, modifying two vans for new injured patients, and receiving a new wheelchair donation for a client who did not have insurance.

    The Network has also helped provide nursing care for a full month for two patients during a crisis, advocated for health services and successfully got rehabilitation extended for three patients, established disability insurance benefits for five patients and assisted in winning a child custody case for a SCI patient

    It received three grants from Season of Sharing to provide rental assistance for families of newly injured patients during their first year following their injury and sponsored a teen-aged SCI patient to attend the International and Talent Competition in New York to help him pursue a career in the entertainment industry.

    At least 45 patients have been directly helped since the network was formed, Iverson said.

    The network meets regularly on the last Friday of the month at the Community Outreach Center, 3448 Villa Lane just east of Queen of the Valley Hospital. For more information contact the Napa Spinal Cord Network at 254-1952.

    Contact Pat Stanley online at

  2. #2


    mentioned about discussing cure related topics. All care related.

    How are we ever going to make progress if the sci community itself does nothing to help the cause of curing paralysis?

    Someone, please in the Napa / Sonoma region go and tell this group what's happening in the cure arena.

    Onward and Upward!

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