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The outlook following a spinal cord injury

The world moved in slow motion as emergency room doctors informed you that your loved one had suffered a spinal cord injury. Everything changed from that moment, and you knew that life as you knew it was over, and a new reality was beginning. Whether your loved one's injuries resulted from an auto accident, a fall on dangerous property, an act of violence or some other cause, the road ahead is sure to be long and painful.

More than half of spinal cord victims lose the use of their arms and legs, and about 42 percent become paraplegic, which is paralysis of only the legs. Paralysis is the hallmark of a spinal cord injury, and your loved one will have a strenuous period of adjustment. However, as tragic as paralysis may be, your loved one is likely to suffer in many other ways.

Reality check

You may be grateful that your loved one survived the accident even if it left him or her with catastrophic injuries. Perhaps one of the most difficult realities to face is that a spinal cord injury can shorten your loved one's life nonetheless. The first year will be critical, and it will be important for your loved one to receive the highest quality care from experienced medical professionals who know the risks associated with spinal cord victims, including these, which can hasten a patient's deterioration and death:

  • Blood clots in the legs
  • Pulmonary embolism in the lungs
  • Pressure ulcers that easily become infected
  • Pneumonia
  • Urinary infections
  • Heart disease

You may be surprised to learn that cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death among victims of spinal cord injuries. However, sepsis from infections and blood clots are also common complications that shorten the life of an accident victim. The more severe your loved one's injuries, the more vulnerable he or she will be to any of these dangerous complications.

Hope for the future

While this may sound dismal, the positive side is that your loved one has better odds if the injuries are less severe. Paralysis that is only partial means your loved one's chances of regaining mobility improve, decreasing the likelihood of some of the more severe complications. It is also true that researchers are always exploring new treatments for spinal cord injuries, and some therapies are cause for optimism.

However, the cost of treating a spinal cord injury can reach millions of dollars throughout the course of a victim's life, with up to $985,000 worth of treatment coming in the first year after the accident. This is why it may be in your loved one's best interest to seek assistance with investigating the options for pursuing compensation from those responsible for the accident that cause your loved one's injuries.

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