World Social Work Day – A synopsis of our story after a SCI in our family.

On February 1st 2012 Emily fell while snowboarding in Vermont, she broke her C5 and the spinal cord injury resulted in her quadriplegia.

Our initial care was in U.S.A. The American Social Worker was knowledgeable and experienced. The medical repatriation was co-ordinated by this professional and negotiated with compassion and sensitivity.

At Royal North Shore Hospital (RNSH) we were promptly introduced to an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) Social Worker who started enlightening us on support services and how to access pertinent information. I remember her kindness, her professionalism and her comprehension of our ignorance and need. There were forms which I signed as it was beyond me to know what needed to be done with no perception of Emily’s new requirements. The Social Worker’s guidance was profoundly welcome.

From ICU we were transferred into the spinal unit, where we were assigned a new Social Worker whose competence assured me that we were best off being guided at this point and that being in control of every aspect of SCI was unrealistic. Emily was fully informed so never waived her rights, she just gave up the manual task of form filling which was appropriate to relinquish.

Emily’s stay at Royal Rehab was unusual because she was with several young females. This was the foundation for our recovery as we connected with them and their parents. It was within this intimate parental group I undertook the Strength 2 Strength program, a five week program facilitated by Social Workers aimed at building resilience among family members affected by brain or spinal cord injury. This group program created connections that remain strong, positive and supportive.

The Royal Rehab Social Workers had a longer period of time to work alongside us as a family, to get to know our situations and advise accordingly. Essentially Royal Rehab assisted us as we prepared to return home and empowered us with information helping to ease our journey towards Emily’s independence. In Royal Rehab we were initially denied a care package. Our Social Worker suggested I approach our local MP. I sent the letter which quickly had a positive reply.

The Spinal Outreach Service (SOS) was paramount as we returned home. Their knowledge of community resources introduced us to many services. We could’ve missed out through ignorance but learnt we have to ask and utilise available area provisions. When Emily returned home the SOS Social Worker initiated my approach to our local council to relay a grass verge and a short time later a concrete path was laid with curb cuts.

Establishing myself as an everyday carer I documented my expanding experience and collated any relevant information. It became obvious to share my researched data and facts with others. I also observed changes to my lifestyle; social isolation and the constant challenge to remain healthy in mind and body. I designed this blog to interact with others using social media that can be accessed anytime, anyplace by all involved in caring, coping and disability. I find the process of writing therapeutic and I hope that the contents of my blog resonates with others.

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