interdisciplinary team of researchers will interview veterans and civilians with
spinal cord injuries—as well as their caregivers—during the first year of recovery
as they attempt to reintegrate into the community.
“The early months after a life-changing spinal cord injury are completely foreign,” said Kim Anderson, a professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the MetroHealth Medical Center and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. “Nobody prepares for this. How could they?”
study will compare the experiences of 15 veterans with SCI and their caregivers
with the same number of civilians and their caregivers to identify the barriers
and facilitators they experience as they attempt to access treatment options. Researchers will
re-interview them six and 12 months later; they’ll ask a series of questions
that include what “recovery” means to each of them.
is your definition of recovery?’ If you ask someone right after they’ve had a
spinal cord injury, they may say their goal is to walk again, but if you ask
them a year later, they may give you a completely different answer because of
what they’ve experienced,” Anderson said. “Not everyone has the same goals, or
the same ideas of recovery. In
particular, people experiencing spinal cord injury may have a very different
view of recovery than clinicians or scientists.”
idea is that this research will lead to more successful rehabilitation and
community reintegration by including the perspectives of people affected by the
injuries” Anderson said. “It’s
a pretty novel and innovative project. People living with this experience are
shaping future research. So are their family members; it’s important to keep in
mind that a spinal cord injury happens to an entire family.” The results may
impact how to approach rehabilitation, but they may also lead to changes in
policy to improve access to treatments.
responses will be recorded and categorized in specialized coding software to
identify themes and patterns, said Anderson. Researchers expect the responses
to change during the project as experiences and challenges shift for both the
injured and their caregivers. They also expect the responses to be different
between veterans and civilians.
Anderson, who primarily works with people with spinal cord injuries at MetroHealth, is joined in the research with Anne Bryden, an established occupational therapist at CWRU as well as a PhD candidate in the sociology department at the College of Arts and Sciences; Sue Hinze, associate professor of sociology and women’s and gender studies; Brian Gran, a professor in the Department of Sociology, as well as at the university’s School of Law and the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences; Mary Ann Richmond, chief of SCI rehabilitation, and Angela Kuemmel, a rehabilitation psychologist, both at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center.
comprehensive background of this interdisciplinary team is vital to the success
of this project,” Anderson said. “We all come with different expertise, from biomedical
research to medicine to law and social science and social work to therapy.”