Dawn Robinson and Becky McGill, PT after a 2019 Paddle Board Race
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought special challenges to people who are living with spinal cord injury.
Becky McGill, PT, is the Spinal Cord Injury Program Coordinator at Bacharach. She has worked with people with SCI for 30 years, and at Bacharach for 31 years.
“When the shelter in place order was issued, most people with SCI were able to thoroughly isolate and avoid venturing out,” said Becky.
For those who did continue to go out, Becky says “Wheelchair sanitizing becomes paramount. People with spinal cord injuries are using their hands to touch the wheels and the rims of their chairs. The rims and wheels should be wiped down frequently to keep them clean, so germs are not transferred to the hands and then the face.”
The Three Most Dangerous Infections
For people with a spinal cord injury, it is important to avoid infection. “Most dangerous are bedsores, bladder infections and respiratory infections’” said Becky. “People with SCI are particularly vulnerable to respiratory infections. Their injury may have left them with diminished muscle strength in the respiratory and abdominal muscles. That means it is harder for them to cough. Coughing is an important reflex that protects the lungs. It is how the body tries to get rid of mucus.”
Many people with SCI have aides who help them with tasks that they cannot perform themselves, such as housecleaning. However, having an aide can also pose a risk. In some cases, the aides themselves have tested positive for the virus.
Take Advantage of Delivery Services
“This is a good time for anyone with SCI to take advantage of ways to stay at home but to complete life tasks. Groceries may be delivered. Health care appointments may be available through telemedicine. Prescriptions can be delivered by mail. All of these are helpful in avoiding situations that could increase the risk of exposure.’
“One good thing that has come out of the pandemic is learning to hold zoom meetings,” said Becky. “We used to have people say they’d love to come to our monthly meetings but couldn’t get there. Once we can meet in person again, we will still have zoom going, so that everyone can take part even if they can’t be there.”