Finding a Way to Cope: A Qualitative Study of the Experiences of Persons With Spinal Cord Injury

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Purpose: Spinal cord injury (SCI) is a catastrophe that causes disabilities and permanently changes people’s lives. The people have to adapt to the loss of self-care ability and may need long-term rehabilitation. The recovery can be problematic, affecting physiological, psychological, and financial aspects of life. The purpose of this study was to explore the lived experiences of persons with SCI living in Taiwan. Methods: In 2009, we conducted a qualitative study on 10 participants with SCI recruited from the Association of Spinal Cord Injury Persons in Taiwan. Open-ended interviews were conducted using a guide and tape recorder for subsequent transcription. A phenomenological method was used to collect data by interviews. Results: The core experience of persons with SCI was “finding a way to cope,” which was a process from despair to self-acceptance and composed of four categories: (a) shock and unpreparedness for the injury: the catastrophe of the injury itself and the underrecognition of physiological disabilities; (b) panic and fear: denying the injury and yearning for a miracle; (c) abyss of despair: imprinting of life, bearing the agony alone, and chaos of life; and (d) reflection on the meaning of life: adaptation to physical disabilities, self-acceptance, and growth. Conclusions: Our research was descriptive and focused on the structure of the lived experiences of persons with SCI. Many issues of inequality also revealed physical disabilities, such as difficulty looking professional, resulting in burden of stress and frustration. These results highlight persons with SCI should be classified as case management and integration of social welfare resources to facilitate care for persons with SCI after discharge.

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