How Do I Love Thee?

Reprinted from PN July 2001

"Roses are red, violets are blue; if I'm in a wheelchair, will your love stay true?"

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"How do I love thee, let me count the ways...(but from a wheelchair?)"

"To have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worsetill SCI do us part?"

Well, these may be stretching it a bit, but it's not a laughing matter when it comes to spinal-cord injury (SCI). According to statistical information, the average age at time of SCI is 33.4 years. The median age at time of injury is 26, the mode (most frequent) is 19 years, while the highest per-capita rate of injury occurs between ages 16-30.

That makes for a lot of young people looking at longer life spans as wheelchair users. With modern medical advances, people in chairs now have a longer life expectancy than they had 20 years ago.

How does SCI affect a marriage? (How did one affect yours?) What are some of the statistics on SCI and divorce? What are the chances of someone with SCI having a good relationship?

If you are injured, has it made your relationship better or worse? Strainedor sublime?

According to research, 53% of people with SCI were single at time of injury, 31% were married, 9% divorced, and 7% "other." Five years after injury, 88% of single people with SCI were still single.

Of married people with SCI, 81% were still wed five years postinjury. For those with spouses at time of injuryas well as those who marry after itthe likelihood of the union remaining intact is slightly lower when compared to the uninjured population in the same age group.

Considering the youthful age of most people with SCI, it is not surprising that approximately 53% are single when injured. Since the mode is age 19, if you were single at time of injury you have a greater probability of remaining single. If you were married before injury, you have a greater probability of separating and divorcing.

Remember, this is just datareal people are behind these numbers.

In Sexuality After Spinal Cord Injury, by Stanley H. Ducharme and Kathleen M. Gill (Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co., 1997), the authors emphasize that relationships have no guarantees of long-term survival: "Even without disabilities, about 55% of all marriages in the United States end in divorce. Research has demonstrated that relationships that begin after the onset of disability may be more stable than those begun before the disability occurred. If the relationship was faltering before the injury, chances are that the disability will not be the deciding factor in its survival."

According to Ducharme and Gill, it is important to keep the lines of communication open; talk about all the adjustments you have to make to allow the relationship to survive and thrive.

True statement from a 9-year-old: "In the beginning God created heaven and the world. Not long after that, when he created us, he realized he made a mistake. That's when God created the wheelchair."

For better or worsetill SCI do us part?

John Brasch has a T11 complete spinal-cord injury. He holds a master's degree in marriage and family therapy from Northwest Christian College, Eugene, Ore.

?I gathered this article's data from several Web sites, including (but not limited to) the Christopher Reeve Foundation, the National Institution for SCI Research, and other data banks. If I have omitted anyone, I apologize. My computer hard drive had a meltdown, and I lost a lot of data. If I need to credit you or your site, please let me know; I will do so in my next article. Contact:


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