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PVA From the Top - A Human Touch

Reprinted from PN/Paraplegia News September 2017

PVA has been striving for SCI awareness for more than 70 years, but the nation is reached on a wider scale when it is given the stamp of approval by the U.S. Senate.

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During the month of September, Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) will join fellow advocates to promote education and awareness of spinal-cord injury (SCI). 

It was Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) who designated September as SCI Awareness Month in 2014, via U.S. Senate Resolution 533. PVA has been striving for SCI awareness for more than 70 years, but the nation is reached on a wider scale when it is given the stamp of approval by the U.S. Senate. And, while there are many awareness months, and there may be some desensitization around denoting yet another, there are few as important to PVA members as SCI Awareness Month.

First, we are the only veterans service organization that specializes in the needs of veterans with spinal-cord injury or disease (SCI/D). As experts in this area, we are also leaders in civil rights advocacy for all people with SCI/D. We are veterans, and we are still serving our country in this way. Here are just two reasons why:

  • The number of people in the U.S. living with SCI as of 2016 ranges from approximately 243,000 to 347,000 persons.
  • The annual incidence of SCI is approximately 54 cases per million population in the U.S., or approximately 17,000 new SCI cases each year.

(Source: National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, https://www.nscisc.uab.edu)

You will see these and many other facts shared throughout the month via PVA’s social media platforms (fb.com/paralyzedveterans, @PVA1946 on Twitter and Instagram), on our website (pva.org) and through media events. With advancements in personal protective equipment, SCI is no longer the signature injury for veterans as it was in World War I, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. But PVA has nearly 18,000 veteran members living with SCI and serves another 60,000 veterans living with SCI through benefits and appeals assistance. And, as noted previously, our advocacy work impacts the 243,000-347,000 civilians living in this country with SCI.

That’s why, as PVA’s national president, I would like to ask you a favor this month: Will you bring a human touch to SCI Awareness Month? If there is someone you know with an SCI, even if it’s someone you may not have talked to in a while, will you please reach out to him or her? Surprise him or her with a phone call, an invitation to coffee or a home visit. If you’re on Facebook or Twitter and are connected with individuals living with an SCI, please engage them with PVA’s posts, and please share their stories through your social media accounts. Then, follow up with a personal phone call and catch up with them. We all love social media, and it keeps us somewhat connected 365 days a year, but nothing can surpass the personal touch.

To that point, let us not forget our brothers and sisters in hospitals and homecare. If you know someone with an SCI who will be in the hospital in September, please visit him or her. If you do not personally know anyone, please consider becoming a friend and/or mentor to a newly injured veteran in a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital. Visitors are always appreciated when you are lying there, isolated, not sure how you will go on with this life-changing diagnosis. I know from experience. So do each of you. 

If you don’t have a VA near you, don’t let that stop you from reaching out to others living with SCI. Be a friend to a civilian who is facing new obstacles you know all too well. Remember what it was like to feel that new life before you might be less than your old one. We all know now this isn’t true — it is different, that we know, but it is not less. 

Let’s not only make September an organizational awareness month; let’s make it one with a human touch, too. Please consider doing me this favor. I promise that you will be glad you did.

 

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PVA From the Top - A Human Touch

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