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The Catalyst

Longevity After Injury Project promotes life after injury

By Alex Jackson
Special to The Catalyst

Living with a physical disability comes with a number of challenges including accessibility issues overcoming the stigmatization of living with a disability and adapting to a new way of living.

The Longevity After Injury Project at MUSC focuses on quality of life after spinal cord injury. Health disparities, recreational opportunities and access to employment are among the top concerns for Jim Krause, Ph.D., and his research team.

Life was challenging for Tyrone Singletary, 48, after his motor vehicle accident left him with a spinal cord injury at 19 years old. Singletary said, “I thought it was the worst thing until I went to rehab.”

Singletary, who had been  a high school drop-out, found his purpose in life while in rehab. Not only did he learn how to adapt to his new disability, he took classes to earn his GED certificate and begin a career in data processing and computer programming.

Participants discuss issues at the Longevity After Injury Project’s Consumer Advisory Panel.  photo provided

Singletary’s success after such a life-altering injury would not have been as manageable without the support of others with disabilities who were also undergoing rehabilitation. In addition, he credits his faith and family. Helping others succeed in spite of their injuries was important to Singletary who volunteered his time to assist those with new injuries so that they too might live a prosperous life.

Most recently, Singletary has been battling with pressure ulcers and urinary tract infections, which are common complications resulting from spinal cord injury.

Jim Outlaw also understands the realities of living with a spinal cord injury.  He was injured in a car accident in 1990.

Outlaw, 48, says you must keep the best attitude when living with a disability.“It’s not as easy as it looks, but I’ve just been lucky,” he said.

Outlaw has been a Walmart employee for 15 years and for that he is most grateful. He works with customers at the fitting rooms and he also answers the phones. While he has to use Tel-A-Ride, a paratransit company, to get to and from work, he enjoys being part of the workforce.

As part of a Consumer Advisory Panel, the Longevity After Injury Project meets regularly with people with disabilities to discuss such topics as healthcare, accessibility and employment. Outlaw attends these meetings and he thinks it’s important to get the community’s perspective on such issues.

South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation Department provides support

Last month, the Longevity After Injury Project recognized National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Marsha Smalls and Kelly Sieling, from South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation Department were interviewed to discuss the programs and services offered by their organization.

An employment specialist for people with spinal cord injuries, Smalls helps clients assess their vocational needs and begin the process for seeking employment. SCVRD provides other services including resume writing and mock interviews.

Rehabilitation technicians are available to assess working environments to ensure employees with disabilities have the necessary accommodations to do their jobs successfully. Seiling enjoys seeing Lowcountry citizens reaching for their goals in an effort to become more involved and successful in their communities. Smalls enjoys seeing a person change their life while gaining self-respect and dignity. Both Seiling and Smalls hope to see more people like Singletary and Outlaw, who not only look beyond adversity, they strive toward living with a purpose.

November 7, 2013

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