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(BPT) - Dealing with a spinal cord injury is devastating. Facing isolation and lack of information makes an already difficult situation even more challenging. Fortunately, one organization is striving to make a difference by providing free resources to help individuals and their families navigate living with paralysis.
The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation's National Paralysis Resource Center (NPRC) was conceived by the late Dana Reeve after she faced a black hole of information when her husband, actor Christopher Reeve, sustained a spinal cord injury after an equestrian accident.
"When Chris was first injured, there was very little out there that we could turn to," Dana said in 2005. "It didn't seem like there was one place where we could call and ask five different questions that seemingly had nothing to do with one another."
The NPRC is the only national program that directly serves the 5.4 million Americans living with multiple sclerosis (MS), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), stroke, spina bifida, spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy and other forms of paralysis. The Reeve Foundation has operated the NPRC for 20 years, relying on federally-funded grants to provide many services at no cost.
The NPRC is the support side of the Reeve Foundation’s twin missions to provide “Today’s Care” and to strive for “Tomorrow’s Cure.” The goal is to provide a free, comprehensive, national source of informational support for people living with paralysis and their caregivers.
If you or a loved one is living with paralysis, here are some of the free services and programs that could help:
To assist people as they navigate through the various stages of their recovery after the diagnosis of paralysis, the Reeve Foundation’s Information Specialists are a team of trained staff members who help anyone — from newly paralyzed individuals and their family members to persons who have lived with disabilities for quite some time. Email your inquiry or set up a time to speak on the phone to get the help you need, conveyed with care and empathy.
Virtual support groups
Feeling supported and finding connections is an essential part of the human experience. Virtual support groups led by professional facilitators and peer mentors living with paralysis or who are the family members/caregivers of individuals living with paralysis were created to combat the feelings of isolation that often come with a disability. The hope is to foster greater connection among peers who understand the day-to-day challenges of living with paralysis.
Military & Veterans Program
Serving the country in the military is admirable. For people that were injured during their time in the military, transitioning to civilian life may feel particularly overwhelming. The Military & Veterans Program is designed to support the unique needs of current service members and veterans, regardless of when they served or how their injury was obtained. The goal is to provide personalized information and resources needed to live a fulfilling life.
Peer & Family Support Program
Often the best support comes from people who have first-hand experience of what you're going through. The Peer & Family Support Program is for people living with paralysis, as well as those who care for them, providing the opportunity to connect for hope, support and a way forward. Available across the country, the peer-to-peer network helps everyone, from newly paralyzed individuals and their family members to people who have lived with paralysis for some time.
Living with a disability does not need to limit the pursuit of higher education. In addition to a variety of resources aimed at helping people with a disability navigate college successfully, the Reeve Foundation is also offering free consultations with Accessible College LLC to families and students interested in transitioning to college with paralysis.