In From our Director, Health and Wellness, Peer Profiles, SCI BC News
man in wheelchair and woman behind him - both smiling and laughing
Pictured above: Jeff and an SCI BC volunteer enjoy the outdoors, last year at our Wellness Weekend in Merritt. This is one of the many activities Jeff is missing due to COVID-19.

Many of us are feeling anxious and uncertain during these trying times. We wonder if things will ever return to normal. Thankfully, we are beginning to see signs of relief.

But I can tell you that the pandemic is much worse for someone with a spinal cord injury. For them, it won’t end any time soon. Even the easing of COVID-19 restrictions is creating great fear. It means more chance of exposure to the virus and increased risk for those with a disability.

Since the outbreak, we have been overwhelmed by desperate calls. Every day we hear from people who can’t get vital medical supplies. Or worry that caregivers won’t show up to help with daily needs. There’s confusion about government benefits that don’t apply to people with disabilities. And many are scared to leave their homes for fear of contracting a virus that is deadly for those with compromised health. It’s all causing unprecedented stress and anxiety.

But you can help our most vulnerable neighbours . . . people with a spinal cord injury. People like Jeff.

Jeff lives in an assisted care facility. He’s usually an easy going guy. But COVID has turned his world upside down. The virus hits care homes the hardest. We’ve all heard of the reported deaths. Now Jeff is under complete lockdown. He is not allowed contact with any of the other residents. And he can only leave his small room to get a bit of fresh air. Jeff knows it’s for his own good, but that doesn’t make the isolation any easier. It’s lonely and frustrating.

“It just feels weird. You can’t leave the building. You can’t get anything brought in. Nothing. And I miss the activities we used to have. I’m a very social person. This whole thing has been so hard. Worst is that I know COVID kills people like me.”

It’s not the first time Jeff’s life took a dramatic turn. 18 years ago, he lost everything. His livelihood. His home. His wife. All because of a spinal cord injury. Jeff was in a dark place back then and wanted to end it all. Emotional support from our staff pulled him through. And the generosity of caring donors, like you, who make our programs possible.

Now Jeff, and thousands of others, are again relying on our combined efforts to help them through these scary times. I’m sure you know how important it is for people with a spinal cord injury to have accurate information and maintain social connections. Even when physical distancing measures means we have had to suspend our usual in-person activities.

Rest assured that we’re still here. We are just doing things a little differently. We quickly moved to telephone and online support as soon as the pandemic broke out.

We are putting minds at ease with reliable spinal cord injury specific information – something that is lacking in the general COVID messaging out there. Right away, our “Reach Out” team began contacting all our members. They are checking in to see how everyone is doing, identifying gaps in care, and connecting people with critical resources.

Our email communications, blogs, InfoLine telephone support and virtual “Ask an Expert” sessions are keeping people updated and safe.

And we’ve put together daily online sessions to help them stay active and connected. There’s something for everyone – a morning coffee and chat, home fitness workouts, craft sessions, a book club, trivia games, cooking classes, a travel series, Netflix movie parties, skin care advice, and even adapted boxing!

Jeff is relieved. “The resources you send out are amazing. They explain specific things that I need to be aware of, like how to sanitize my wheelchair properly. And your new online Zoom sessions keep me sane. I don’t feel so isolated anymore. I’m always looking forward to tomorrow because I have something fun on my calendar. Without these sessions, I’d have a very boring life right now.”

With talk of a second COVID wave coming, Jeff knows he’s in this for the long haul. And he’s counting on your generosity to make pandemic life bearable for him and others with a spinal cord injury.

I realize that all of us are facing challenges during these difficult times. But I want to assure you that every donation, big or small, makes a difference to our most vulnerable right now.

Please send your gift today and help people with a spinal cord injury thrive. It will save lives. I wish you and your family good health, safety and happiness. And I want you to know that together, we can overcome all things. Thank you.

With thanks,

Chris McBride, PhD Executive Director

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