Spinal cord injured adolescents and young adults: the meaning of body changes


  • Marilyn E Dewis RN BScN MEd

    Corresponding author
    1. Assistant Professor, School of Nursing, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
      Marilyn E. Dewis 2915 West 28th Avenue, Vancouver British Columbia, V6L 1X3, Canada
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Marilyn E. Dewis 2915 West 28th Avenue, Vancouver British Columbia, V6L 1X3, Canada


Spinal cord injury primarily affects those aged 15 to 29 years, and thus the injury occurs at a time when critical developmental tasks are being confronted Not only may normal development be disrupted, but this age group may lack the life expenence required to cope with the enormity of the multiple sequelae of the injury The literature suggests that psychological adjustment to any disability is particularly difficult for adolescents and young adults, and that, as yet, psychosocial problems are minimally acknowledged in rehabilitation treatment programmes This preliminary study of 15 young people with recent spinal cord injuries had two purposes to describe the meaning of body changes from the perspective of the injured persons and to describe the strategies they used to respond to the changes The researcher conducted intensive interviews with the participants These interviews were transcribed verbatim, analysed and interpreted It was found that the behaviours of the subjects focused on a concern with feeling normal and being valued, and the use of deliberate strategies that helped to engender positive feelings in this regard Efforts to normalize were consistently seen in three areas physical appearance and function, physical and emotional independence, and social skills and interpersonal relationships The means used to maintain normalcy were ingenious and resourceful, and were, for the most part, developed by the subjects without direction from their caregivers. From the accounts given by the participants, numerous nursing implications can be drawn for assessment and intervention in the early post-injury period that may help promote optimum rehabilitation