Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day 2023

We Celebrate Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day, 19th of May 2023

Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day is celebrated annually, in the UK, in the month of May. This year, it’s celebrated on Friday the 19th, and is a special day for us here at TJS London. So, to mark it properly in our own way we decided to write this article beforehand so that our customers can learn more about this health issue and how it impacts our country and the lives of those suffering from Spinal Cord Injuries and their families.

If you are a customer, or familiar with TJS London as a jewellery brand or you just stumbled upon this article by accident, then you’re probably wondering why this jewellery store is talking about a health awareness day. Well, this subject touches really close to home for us, but keep on reading to find out the special meaning that this health issue holds for us and why it’s so important that we raise awareness of Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI) in the UK and educate the public of its impact, effect, and treatment.

What is a Spinal Cord Injury and what is its impact?

A spinal cord injury (S.C.I.) is basically damage to any part of the spinal cord or nerves. This damage can happen through illness or injury. That interrupts the messages to and from the brain, leading to partial or full loss of strength, sensation or movement in parts of your body, below the injury site.

A spinal cord injury can have a devastating impact on an individual in a split second, changing their lives forever. You can lose your independence, your freedom and, for some people, your reason for living.

According to estimates by Spinal Injuries Association, Aspire and Back Up – three of the leading charities providing support to spinal cord injured people – there are an estimated 50,000 people in the UK living with a spinal cord injury and each year approximately 2,500 people are newly injured.

That means that in our country, spinal cord injury paralyses someone every four hours.

Key facts about Spinal Cord Injuries

The first step in helping others is to better understand what they are going through and to that end it is of great importance that we educate ourselves about what life with a SCI is actually like. In this sense we have compiled some key facts and medical terms that you may not have known about SCI:

  • Causes – Traumatic or non-traumatic SCI. When thinking of damage to the spinal cord, most people think of the stereotypical car or motorcycle accident, and although direct trauma from road or sports accidents are the main causes of SCI, few know about the many pre-existing medical conditions, auto-imune diseases or infections that can cause spinal cord injuries like Polio or Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
  • Severity – Partial or complete injury. Complete or incomplete injury refers to the type of injury the person has sustained. If both sides of the body are affected and there is no muscle function or voluntary movement or sensation from the injury level and below, then the injury is complete. If there is some muscle function below the injury, such as being able to move one limb, or there is still some normal sensation, then the injury is incomplete.
  • LevelCervical, Thoracic, Lumbar or Sacral. The level is denoted by the letter-and-number name of the vertebra at the injury site (such as C3, T2, or L4). There are seven cervical vertebrae (C1 through C7), which are in the neck. There are 12 thoracic vertebrae (T1 through T12), which are located in the upper back. There are five lumbar vertebrae (L1 through L5), which are found in the lower back. Below those are five sacral vertebrae, which are fused to form the sacrum. Finally, there are the four vertebrae of the coccyx, or tailbone.
  • Types – Tetraplegia or Paraplegia. There are two broad types of SCI, each comprising a number of different levels: Tetraplegia (also called quadriplegia) generally describes the condition of a person with an SCI that is at a level anywhere from the C1 vertebra down to the T1. These individuals can experience a loss of sensation, function, or movement in their head, neck, shoulders, arms, hands, upper chest, pelvic organs, and legs. Paraplegia is the general term describing the condition of people who have lost feeling in or are not able to move the lower parts of their body. The body parts that may be affected are the chest, stomach, hips, legs, and feet. The state of an individual with an SCI level from the T2 vertebra to the S5 can usually be called paraplegic.
  • Treatable or untreatable? Depending on their level of injury, some people who sustain a SCI are able to walk again. Throughout history it was long believed that SCIs are untreatable, but in 1981, the Canadians Albert Aguayo and Sam David ended the millennia-long belief that S.C.I. is incurable. Through experiments on rats, they showed that axons could regenerate in the central nervous system in the right environment. And thanks to the creation of emergency medical transport services in the 1970s, the introduction of imaging, surgery, medical care, and rehabilitation medicine in the mid-20th century helped improve the care for spinal cord injuries and increased the life expectancy of those living with the condition;
  • Not just the muscles – SCI doesn’t only affect your muscles, depending on the type of injury it also can affect your body’s ability to regulate sweat and body temperature, the ability to control your bowel or bladder movement and also breathing or the ability to cough and clear your lungs may also be affected.

Living with a Spinal Cord Injury. Main struggles and everyday mountains

Life doesn’t suddenly go back to normal for SCI people with barriers to accessibility, lack of access to care and general stigma around being disabled having a profound impact on quality of life. These challenges were even more profound during the Covid-19 pandemic when elements of independence were taken away, such as leaving the house or having carers in for support. But, even not taking into account the effects of the pandemic, living with a SCI is full of physical and mental challenges and everyday mountains to overcome that a healthy person cannot begin to imagine.

So, if the general public and governmental decision makers better understand these needs, then that is the first step in providing the best policies and support that people living with a SCI imperatively need. Below you can find a list of key subjects of what really matters for people with a SCI, according to the SIA 2022 What Matters Report.

1. Access to specialized health care services

only a third to a half of recently SCI injured people are able to access specialist NHS medical care.

Spinal cord injury is also associated with a risk of developing secondary conditions that can be debilitating and even life-threatening—e.g. deep vein thrombosis, urinary tract infections, muscle spasms, osteoporosis, pressure ulcers, chronic pain, and respiratory complications. Acute care, rehabilitation services and ongoing health maintenance are essential for prevention and management of these conditions.

Right now in the UK there are 12 NHS Spinal Injury Centers that provide these specialized medical services and recent research indicates that only between one third and half of recently injured people are able to access specialist NHS care and those that do can expect lengthy delays prior to admission. Immediately after sustaining spinal damage a person’s rehabilitation is crucial and the idea that not all have access to the specialist care available at Spinal Injury Centers is devastating. Also, it is important to mention that a SCI patient typically spends about 3-6 months hospitalized.

Spinal cord injury may also render a person dependent on caregivers. Access to assistive and healthcare management services post hospitalization is critical for individuals with SCI and their families. However, access to these services can be complicated due to various factors, such as:

  • lack of available resources,
  • geographic location,
  • financial constraints,
  • or a lack of knowledge about the services available.

This can lead to a life that is unnecessarily complicated, adding more challenges to an already difficult situation.

SCI people highlighted health professionals’ lack of knowledge around bowel management as a concern.

Even more so, the survey for the SIA 2022 What Matters Report outlined that most people living with a SCI are concerned that even the most fundamental health priorities like bowel and bladder management cannot be properly understood and met by their GP or local healthcare professionals.

2. Financial security and employment

said funding their care needs are their biggest concern, with a further 62% saying accessing social care was a concern.

For the report SIA asked the community about what barriers prevent them from leading a fulfilled life and 69% said funding their care needs, accessing benefits and accessing social care support are their biggest concern. Eligibility for NHS care packages was highlighted as a primary concern for many, while others voiced their fears about financial hardship caused by paying for a lifetime need for carers, wheelchairs and home adaptations.

said access to employment is a barrier to leading an equal life.
of adults with spinal cord injury worldwide are unemployed.

Another big issue for the SCI community was highlighted by 75% of respondents that cited limited access to employment as their biggest barrier to leading an equal life. The World Health Organization (WHO) cited that adults with spinal cord injury face barriers to economic participation, with a global unemployment rate of more than 60%.

Evenmore, WHO also reported that children with spinal cord injury are less likely than their peers to start school, and once enrolled, less likely to advance.

3. Fighting for mental health

As well as the physical impact of a spinal cord injury, there are also emotional and psychological effects on the person concerned – and their family. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 20-30% of people with spinal cord injury worldwide show clinically significant signs of depression, which in turn has a negative impact on improvements in functioning and overall health.

SCI people are 3 times more likely to consider suicide than a person without injury.

Another SIA Report, It’s not just physical, published in 2021 exposed another dire struggle for a person living with SCI: that they are three times more likely to consider suicide than a person without injury. The report found that 28% of SCI people reported having had suicidal thoughts, compared to just 8% among the rest of the population. And that half of the participants have had mental health struggles.

The key factors that lead to the most common mental health problems experienced by SCI people – depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress (PTSD) – are ongoing pain, being of low socio-economic status or having an existing mental health diagnosis, pre-injury.

In the same report done in 2021, it was also identified that the unpaid carers – usually the partner or parent of the injured person – desperately need their mental wellbeing supported too:

  • 81% felt a shared sense of trauma with their injured family member;
  • 80% felt unsupported by the NHS during period of hospital discharge;
  • 75% of unpaid carers felt their own mental health needs had been side-lined;
  • 75% masked their own mental health issues in front of their injured family member.

All these findings stress the importance of access to much more and more appropriate psychological support for SCI people at all stages of their post injury journey: immediately following injury; when they are discharged from hospital to another care setting or to their home; and for the rest of their lives.

4.  Mobility, Public Misconceptions & Stigma

Assistive technology is often required to facilitate mobility, communication, self-care or domestic activities. And another underlying issue for the SCI community is the lack of access to basic mobility services like things ranging from access to the outdoors/countryside, parking, shopping, hotels, leisure, public transport, air travel and blue badge schemes. If people with SCI can’t have access to certain outdoor spaces or recreational areas and can’t have access to certain public transports, that will only underline their isolation to the rest of the society.

Another issue for people living with SCI is the general stigma and misconceptions or lack of knowledge around the public perception of spinal cord injury (SCI) and the challenges a person faces when they sustain an injury. A SIA 2022 YouGov Survey on the general public highlighted that:

of respondents were unaware that depending on their injury, some people who sustain a SCI are able to walk again.
of those surveyed did not believe a SCI person would be able to drive a car.

The YouGov Survey also uncovered that the general public had a lack of understanding around the many issues a person can experience following a spinal cord injury such as the ability to control skin temperature, or around how much a person’s breathing is affected by SCI. 

But probably the biggest problem in public perception is that they are viewed more through the lens of the disability that they bear rather than their own individual set of traits, skills and aspirations. Although public perception throughout the decades have improved significantly, in the 2022 What Matters survey, 92% of responders said the public’s attitude towards people with disabilities is one of the greatest barriers they face.

Said the public’s attitude towards people with disabilities is one of the greatest barriers they face.

Misconceptions, negative attitudes and physical barriers to basic mobility result in the exclusion of many people from full participation in society.

Why is the SCI healthcare issue so important for us?

This subject touches really close to home for us here at TJS London. Unfortunately this type of traumatic event has personally impacted and touched our lives in ways that we couldn’t begin to describe. On the eve of last year’s Easter, Dipesh, our company’s co-founder, suffered a sudden non-traumatic Spinal Cord Injury that left him partially immobilized in the upper-body and arms and completely paralyzed throughout the lower-body and legs.

Dipesh was fortunate enough to access specialized healthcare services at the London Spinal Cord Injury Centre (LSCIC), where he was a patient for several months. There he received acute care and started his rehabilitation journey in which he is currently on. But the Center was also the place where he got access to vital information about treatments, the best ways of managing his condition and how to tackle everyday life challenges with a SCI.

It was also the place where he connected with other patients going through the same challenges and with the SCI support network of healthcare professionals, specialized charity members and volunteers that make a real difference in the lives of SCI patients. All this experience and wonderful people inspired Dipesh (and all of us beside him) to somehow get involved in this movement where we as a community can come together and make a difference in the lives of other people that suffer from SCI.

So, Dipesh brought to us the idea that our brand can work as an awareness platform and a means of raising funds for this specific cause. That is how our partnership with Horatio’s Garden Charity was born.

Dipesh and his family spent numerous hours in the hospital’s Horatio’s Garden created through the efforts and wonderful work that this charity provides. The fragility of the flower petals, the uninterrupted activity of bees and the special colouring of plants and insects inspired Dipesh and the team to create an unique jewellery collection that can inspire to find inner peace, serenity and hope:

“This collection was inspired by a moment from my real-life story. Because of a spinal stroke, I was hospitalized for several months and Horatio’s Garden was where I felt I could be vulnerable, where I could heal, hope and smile again.

This wonderful garden gave me memorable moments with my wife and son. It was the place where I could reconnect with my family and the place where I charged myself with the power to continue.

I truly hope this jewellery will offer pure emotion, hope, and a smile to the one who wears them, making him or her feel that life should be celebrated. Just as I felt it in Horatio’s Garden.

What you can do to help?

1. Get informed & spread the word

Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day aspires to communicate that a spinal cord injury means far more than being unable to walk. People suffering from SCI have to deal with psychological, social and work-related problems as well. The aim of this day is therefore to create awareness of inclusion, equal opportunities and accessibility, and consequently offers hope to SCI individuals, their family members and friends.

Enter in our SCI Awareness Giveaway Contest!

In the spirit of sharing we came up with a little incentive for people to spread the word on social media and reward those that get involved! For this year’s SCI Awareness Day, together with our partner Horatio’s Garden, we are organizing a Giveaway Contest with a beautiful Gold Vermeil & Silver Oak Leaf Pendants Necklace as the prize for the lucky winner!

The oak leaf is the official symbol of Horatio’s Garden Charity and the prize is part of our Horatio’s Garden Jewellery Collection, where for each jewellery piece that you buy we donate 25% of it’s net value to Horatio’s Garden Charity to help with their mission to support the physical and psychological rehabilitation of spinal cord patients in NHS Spinal Centers.

Follow the post below and find out what you need to do to enter the contest:

We hope that you will join us in raising awareness of SCI!

2. Support by donating

The charities and support network for SCI people do amazing work in all aspects that need to be addressed: either expert advice, financial aid, legal advice, rehabilitation and mental health support or even medical research.

You can check out below a list of top 8 charities in the UK that focus on this subject, each of them playing a different role in people’s rehabilitation journey and that of their loved ones too. So regardless of which you decide to support it will make a difference for the SCI community.

2. Get involved by volunteering

If you are looking to do more than just donate funds and want to get involved in a more tangible way, then volunteering might be just the thing for you. Without the efforts of thousands of volunteers across this network of charities, many of their projects and tangible actions would only be a pipedream.

Depending on your time availability and personal skills with which you can contribute, there are many projects or activities that you can get involved with. So check out the list below and find out if volunteering with one of these charities would be something that’s suited for you.

Main charities that support SCI people

Either you want to help in someway either by getting more informed, donating or volunteering or you also suffered from a life changing SCI incident, we thought that it would be really useful to highlight the most important charities and organization that support and advocate for the SCI community:

Aspire offers practical support to people paralyzed by spinal cord injury to help them move from injury to independence. Aspire’s services include housing, independent living, welfare benefits, assistive technology and more.

Spinal Injuries Association (SIA) strives for a fulfilled life for everyone affected by spinal cord injury. SIA’s services include expert advice, advocating on the key issues and providing specialist support.

Horatio’s Garden creates and nurtures beautiful, accessible gardens in NHS Spinal Injury Centers to support the physical and psychological rehabilitation of everyone affected by spinal injury.

Back Up helps people affected by spinal cord injury get the most out of life. They provide Back to Work support, courses, children and young people support, mentoring and more.

Regain is the only UK charity dedicated to improving the independence of those who have become tetraplegic due to a sporting accident.

WheelPower is the national charity for wheelchair sports. For over 70 years, they have transformed the lives of disabled people through sport and physical activity.

Cauda Equina Champions help people affected by Cauda Equina Syndrome live their best life. They provide patient-led services, including residential workshops, psychosexual therapy courses, support groups and more.

Spinal Research funds vital research globally to help develop effective treatments for spinal cord injury. They are working towards a future where paralysis caused by spinal cord damage will no longer be a life sentence.

In conclusion

If you have reached this far down the article then we are truly grateful for the time you dedicated to finding out more and better understanding about Spinal Cord Injury and what life with a SCI can look like.

We hope that all that read this may find it useful and that their biggest takeaways will be that life with a SCI doesn’t have to be a life sentence and that even in the most dire of circumstances life should be celebrated!

One thought on “Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day 2023

  1. What a wonderful page! My name is Suzanne and I am a Community Fundraising Manager at Spinal Research.

    I am trying to collect 50 messages of hope for SCI awareness day. You can add yours at:


    I would love to see yours.

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