Feeling the impact of spinal cord injury research

Consumer Engagement Lead, Antonio Vecchio, reflects on the incredible impact that research has on his everyday activities.

As a consumer, I get excited by the possibilities of what spinal cord injury (SCI) research can uncover and discover. With researchers working globally on a vast range of research topics, the prospect of life-changing breakthroughs for the SCI community is very real. Although it is important to think about the potential that research can have, it is just as important to acknowledge the impact SCI research has already had on our current lives as consumers.

Looking at my everyday quality of life, the impact of research can be seen in ways that may not be obvious at first glance. Another way to think about research is to say, if research had not been conducted in the past, my life would look very different today.

My daily routine, like many of us, involves taking medication. Like many members of the SCI consumer community, I take Baclofen to help control those uncontrollable spasms. Something I recently learnt was that Baclofen was initially developed to treat epilepsy. As a result of research into its uses, it was proven ineffective in treating epilepsy however, it was effective in controlling spasms. Through further research and clinical trials, the use of Baclofen has evolved to become an effective medication for treating this secondary health implication. This is just one of many examples that show how past medical research has influenced the current practice and management in spinal healthcare, whether from the intensive care stage through to rehabilitation and daily management of secondary spinal complications.

‘Necessity is the mother of invention’ – Plato

It is not only medical research that impacts my quality of life but invention and innovation born from necessity. For example, over time, research and development has created lightweight wheelchairs made out of materials such as titanium and carbon fibre. This important development, on arguably one of the most important pieces of equipment for the SCI community, has had a tremendously positive impact on so many lives. Even as I look at my everyday activities around the house, it would be hard to imagine living without the inventions and innovations discovered through research. I, for example, have limited hand function and use an array of tools and technologies to cook and write. Although this type of innovation is not often associated with spinal research, the impact of such innovations cannot be understated as it directly improves the quality of life of a consumer like myself.

As consumers, we need to continue pushing research to deliver outcomes that have a real impact on our quality of life. The challenges that we face need to be steering the next medical breakthrough or innovation. So let’s draw inspiration from the past to drive the future of research and change the spinal research landscape.

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