We seek first to improve our interactions with our friends and family, and neighbors.
What are the nearest goals for helping people with SCI?
Freedom from abnormal pain: In the entire spectrum of SCI complications, the easiest (i.e., fastest) goal to reach, and a priority for so many, is to develop and apply treatment strategies for patients that will grant freedom from abnormal pain and discomfort.
Restoring natural bodily functions: The ability to control excretion is a complex orchestration of sensory-muscle function which is severely disrupted in SCI. Restoring voluntary control is a major step toward independence (see below).
A cure for paralysis: This goal has captured the imagination of the SCI community. This is the visual we have in our minds when we think about a cure. If a person with SCI can walk again, or reach for a glass of water with their hands after losing that ability, then we have moved into a new chapter.
A brief note on the above: The spinal cord and brain are the most complicated tissues in the human body. Wires run everywhere, connect with other cells using chemically-based synapses, and rely on other cell types to function normally. All of a sudden, an SCI event crushes and severs these wires. Information traveling up or down the spinal cord is cut-off or disrupted (signals don’t transmit normally).
A major challenge for SCI researchers is to understand how to get the wires to grow again, directing where they should go; and then once at their targets, they need to reconnect.
Independence: This is such a big word…. I myself don’t even know what this means. Is this just freedom from another’s help? Based on my experience and talking with people with SCI, it may simply be the ability to not need to think about their injury anymore.