This post is taken from and is written by former SMSR trustee Nick Hutton.

Bony Buns, Phantom Limbs, Snakes and Bladders:  The Trials of Living and Working with Spinal Cord Injury...

December 1994.  There I was in intensive care; a ventilator shushing in my ear, a thousand questions racing through my mind.

I knew that a freshly broken neck meant that I would never walk again.  But what came as a surprise to me was the abrupt disconnect to my arms, hands, torso, skin sensation, lung function,bladder, bowels, nervous system, thermoregulation and more.

Spinal Cord Injury is a highly complex condition, with the loss of mobility just one of a host of complications which can severely hamper quality-of-life.  It's why I support Stoke Mandeville Spinal Research, a charity researching ways to improve life after paralysis.

Here are just some of the issues and research that the charity is tackling:

And please forgive the occasional dark flippancy; it's a coping strategy:

Bony Buns

Being wheelchair-bound is infinitely more frustrating when you can't even use the chair because of pressure sore.  With no movement or sensation below the waist, and with muscle mass wasting away, the sustained pressure of sitting on your bum can lead to skin breakdown.  Spinal injuries units around the world are stuffed full of people who have had to come back for surgery on pressure sores.

The Phantom Menance

An estimated two-thirds of spinal cord injured people live with neuropathic (chronic) pain.  It's nerve-ending pain, like when an amputee can still feel his or her missing limb, and though it is sometimes also referred to as phantom sensation, the pain is very real and very debilitating.  I've been lucky but I have seen other spinal injured people utterly consumed by it.

Snakes and Bladders

UTI stands for Urinary Tract Infections.  People with spinal injuries are particularly prone to them because many of us use indwelling catheters (Yes, ouch!). Once infection takes hold, things get ugly in a hurry.  I woke up on morning with a wee the colour of sunset and a vague headache  I regained consciousness a week later, back in intensive care fighting sepsis.  F-word you, UTI.

Beer Fail

Imagine how frustrating it is to be able to reach for your beer but lack the grip to pick it up.  Many higher region spinal injuries have bicep and tricep control but extremely limited finger dexterity, making day-to-day tasks difficult.

Being Too Young

"You're too young to be in a wheelchair!" a sceptical steward once told me at the wheelchair ticket gate at Wimbledon.

If I'm too young, then spare a thought for the children and teenagers who have suffered spinal cord injury. For their recovery and rehabilitation trajectory can be markedly different to adults  This is why SMSR is collaborating on a pan-European project to raise awareness and effectiveness of paediatric spinal cord injury treatment.  This research and all our other projects are carried out with their future in mind.