How Can You Help Someone With A Spinal Cord Injury?

Support Wounded Warrior events in your hometown!

Support Wounded Warrior events in your hometown!

Editor’s Note: Cheri Arnold, a Desert Storm veteran served as an Air Force Medical Technician and injured herself when a gurney collapsed on her back. When Arnold returned home from overseas, she was hit with an automatic door that resulted in her becoming an incomplete paraplegic. We often think of wounded warriors as young men, 19 to 25 years old, who have fought in combat and been injured in battles. However, there are many more Wounded Warriors who have risked their lives and have never actually fought. Part 3 of a 4-part series.

Who are you? How do you define yourself? What happens when you no longer can be who you’ve been? These are issues that people with spinal cord injuries often have to face. How do you accept no longer being who you’ve been prior to your injury and redefine who you’re going to be? How do you handle the mental strain and anguish when you realize that the profession you’ve trained for all of your life and are happy doing is no longer going to be a part of your life? How do you make the transition from being a caregiver to having to receive care? When people with spinal cord injuries ask these questions, all of them will have to find the answers to their questions in their own way.
Cheri Arnold loves being outdoors despite her back injury.

Cheri Arnold loves being outdoors despite her back injury.

Cheri Arnold had spent her whole life studying, working and believing in a life of service as a nurse. Since she had two separate injuries, nursing was no longer an option. Even though she was a warrior and had a very active lifestyle prior to her last injury, she saw the life that she loved being taken away. Like many others, Arnold asked herself what she would do, since she could not pursue her dream. People are different and they answer this question in various ways. Some find that it isn’t difficult to continue on with life. For others, learning the best solution to the problem involves a difficult struggle, and they may need help exploring possibilities. Cheri Arnold went through the process of learning what a new life can be like.

Everyone wants to be independent. Relying on others to help with basic bodily functions is not appealing. However, most people with spinal cord injuries cannot function properly without the aid of another person or caregiver. Cheri Arnold, who was a nurse and a caregiver for many years, had a difficult time with this role reversal. For most of her life, she’d been in charge, both as a nurse and mother. She was the ultimate caregiver. Due to her injuries, she was limited and always had to have help.

As Arnold explains, “I want to be as independent as possible. But I’ve learned that oftentimes I hurt myself by not allowing others to help me. The people who try to help me don’t know how much help I need or want, and when I prefer to be more independent.” There are no rules or guidelines for people who have an injured loved one. The injured person is trying to understand the new world they’ve been forced into, and the caregiver wants to help as much as possible, without taking away independence.

Accepting her injury has been difficult, but Cheri Arnold enjoys life and lives it to the fullest.

Accepting her injury has been difficult, but Cheri Arnold enjoys life and lives it to the fullest.

There are not set rules that state when an person wants to be independent and when they need help. Everyone is different and needs help in different ways. The dynamics between the caregiver and the person receiving care could possibly create frustration or misunderstanding. The injured person should communicate to caregivers how they want and need their help.

Next: Cheri Arnold Searches for Empowerment and Finds It

About the Author: For the last 12 years, John E. Phillips of Vestavia, Alabama, has been a professional blogger for major companies, corporations and tourism associations throughout the nation. During his 24 years as Outdoor Editor for “The Birmingham Post-Herald” newspaper, he published more than 7,000 newspaper columns and sold more than 100,000 of his photos to newspapers, magazines and internet sites. He also hosted a radio show that was syndicated at 27 radio stations; created, wrote and sold a syndicated newspaper column that ran in 38 newspapers for more than a decade; and wrote and sold more than 30 books. Learn more at

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One Response to How Can You Help Someone With A Spinal Cord Injury?

  1. Pingback: Wounded Warrior Cheri Arnold Becomes an Incomplete Paraplegic But Learns to Live Life to the Fullest « UroMed Catheter Health Blog

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