Reasons and Remarks – Take the Initiative

Reprinted from PN/Paraplegia News December 2018

I’d say if you haven’t been getting an annual exam, schedule one today and the first thing they need to examine is your head!

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I probably could have waited until the January issue to harp on this topic, but this month hands me a couple of personal reasons to talk about it now. The subject on my mind is taking care of yourself  you know, all of those things that usually wind up as New Year’s resolutions. I’ve been entrenched in the worlds of spinal-cord injury and disease (SCI/D) and Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) for just over 29 years now. During my early years in the wheelchair club, I learned a great deal from the mentors I met through my involvement with PVA. Many of them have since passed on, and others remain close friends to this day. When the discussion turned to overall health issues, I often heard a consistent theme from many of these men and women. They’d say either, “Everything was great until I had been in the chair for 30 years,” or “Everything changed about when I turned 60.” They then proceeded to tell me about health issues they had never dealt with before and from which they had thought they were somehow magically immune.

So, back to why I’m writing this in the December issue. I turn 60 this month and this past October, I had my 29th anniversary in the wheelchair club. With years of forewarning and more than ample advice from PVA’s senior statesmen, you’d think I’d have been doing everything possible to say, “Nope, not me.” Fortunately, my health has been exceptional these first 29 years. I’ve never been admitted back into the hospital as an inpatient since I left my acute rehab almost three decades ago.

So, have I been exercising, eating right and watching my weight? Not really, but there’s one thing I’ve done consistently for all these years and that’s to get my annual exam at a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) spinal-cord injury (SCI) center. I hope you read PVA National President David Zurfluh’s column in the October issue of PN (Get Your Exam). He very eloquently stressed the importance of these exams in that article. What I found shocking in his column was the astoundingly low participation in annual exams, with rates as low as 50% to 60% of registered users in some areas. I won’t be as subtle as David, who wrote in his column, “It’s just foolishness to not take advantage of the health care opportunities afforded to you.” I’d say if you haven’t been getting an annual exam, schedule one today and the first thing they need to examine is your head! As Zurfluh said in his article, “The idea of not doing an annual exam is ludicrous beyond reason.” I completely agree. 

Here at PN magazine, we’ll be doing our part to help change this by working with PVA’s Medical Services Department to create reminder ads on this topic, among others, to be published in upcoming issues. These informational pieces will stress the importance of myriad health concerns related to SCI/D. They’ll hopefully jog your memory to take the initiative to schedule an exam that could truly be of benefit to your overall health. Like David, I, too, have lost many friends over the years to issues that could possibly have been averted through a regiment of consistent comprehensive annual exams at a VA SCI center.

After my annual exam this past October, I came away with a plethora of recommendations and affirmations that will no doubt help keep me above ground for what I hope is many more years. I urge you to schedule your annual exam and not just for the possibility of avoiding a potentially life-threatening condition. You may very well discover new prosthetic equipment, exercise techniques, changes in medication or just some sound advice that will have an immediate impact on your quality of life.

Do it today!


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Reasons and Remarks – Take the Initiative


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