SPINAL CORD INJURY PEER SUPPORT PROGRAM
This free resource for individuals with spinal cord injury matches current patients with former patients who have faced similar challenges. This peer relationship adds an important level of encouragement and support during rehabilitation and in the community after discharge. A number of speakers join the groups to offer information and share experiences.
The program also gives participants the opportunity to network with other members of the spinal cord injury community and learn more about local resources and services that are available in their home communities. Issues and concerns frequently discussed include coping, attitudinal barriers, accessibility, referrals, parenting, relationships and intimacy, adaptive technologies and educational and job opportunities. These sessions are free of charge, private, and confidential.
SPINAL CORD INJURY (SCI) SUPPORT GROUPS
Open to current and former patients of SCVMC Rehabilitation and their family members or caregivers.
Spinal Cord Injury Monday Peer Support Group
Meets every Monday
Currently Virtual- Contact Robert Medel at [email protected] or (408) 885-2397 for more details.
Spinal Cord Injury Connections (Educational / Outreach) Support Group
Currently on hold due to COVID-19. Prior to pandemic, the group met the 3rd Thursday of every other month.
Contact Robert Medel to be notified of the next meeting at (408) 885-2397 or [email protected]
PEER SUPPORT TEAM
Our Peer support team has a lot to share. We acknowledge their healing touch that they offer selflessly. They will guide you every step of the way.
If you would like to schedule a meeting with one of our Spinal Cord Injury Peer Supporters, please contact Robert Medel at (408) 885-2397 or [email protected]
In 2012, Carl was 55 when an operation to remove a blood clot on his spinal cord left him with a T8 complete SCI. Despite being paralyzed from the navel down, he continues to work as a Supervising Pretrial Services Officer. Carl lives in the same house with his wife, dog and cat in San Jose and does nearly everything he did prior to his injury, just a little differently.
"Although I have been a Peer Supporter since 2014, I love to come back to the meetings not only to share my own experience in solving problems with the patients but I continue to learn from both the peers and the patients to finding answers to the challenges I face in my continued recovery".
Chris was 48 when he had a diving accident while on vacation with his wife and two kids in September 2014 and sustained a C4 complete injury. Formerly, a stereotypical Silicon Valley engineer, he now has a much broader perspective on life – He enjoys the simple moments with his family.
During rehab Chris went through the dizzying array of IT options available to get back online. He knows the frustration of feeling, "It's still me inside!". He wants to offer recent Quads his experience to try and ease that transition.
In February of 2010, 32-year-old Chris Bridgman suffered a T-10 incomplete spinal cord injury when he crashed his dirt bike and was rushed by ambulance to SCVMC for emergency surgery. Chris and his wife, Jennifer, were weeks away from welcoming their first child.
Chris credits his VMC team and a strong support network with helping him keep his positive outlook early on his recovery.
Chris worked tirelessly in outpatient rehab to become as independent as possible, including learning to drive with hand controls and eventually returning to work as a mortgage loan officer.
Chris continues to lead a very active, adventurous and meaningful life. He and Jennifer are now parents to three sons (two of which were conceived post-SCI with the help of fertility treatments.) In recent years, the Bridgman family has joined forces with the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation to help spread awareness and raise funds for groundbreaking SCI research. In 2017, the Bridgman family received the “Christopher Reeve Spirit of Courage Award” at the foundation’s A Magical Evening gala in New York City. Despite the unforeseen path his life has taken, Chris has never lost his positive outlook or his desire to give back.
“My family reminds me to live in the moment, to be grateful and to keep pushing forward. I feel very fortunate in this life, and I pledge to do all I can to help others who find themselves in a similar situation.”
In April of 1998, Cindy was 38 when she was injured in a motor vehicle accident. She sustained a T8 complete injury. After a completing an extended stay in SCVMC, she moved to a skilled nursing home until her own accessible apartment become available.
Meanwhile she started volunteering at VMC, purchased a van and learned to drive with hand controls. In 2008, she became a volunteer on the Advisory Board for the In-Home-Supportive Services Program for Santa Clara County. A few years later, Cindy had to stop her valuable work for the county due to health complications.
"I value my family and friends and sharing experiences and ideas with the other peers. Sometimes in life, we don't have control of what happens to us. But I used to tell my friend, also a paraplegic, had this not happened to me, I would have never met you!"
In November, 2011, at age 54, Debbie was diagnosed with a spinal cord tumor at level C4. Surgery left her paralyzed on the left side and without sensation on the right. It's called Brown-Sequard Syndrome. During the first 4 years since her surgery, Debbie regained much of her mobility and continues to improve. She is a Registered Nurse and works as a Clinical Educator for the Palo Alto Medical Foundation.
"I am blessed to be part of the Peer Support Team. Their 'can do' energy continually empowers me to believe in my dreams and is a place to share the joy of my accomplishments since surgery. I hope sharing my story helps create a space for others to have the same experience. Engage!"
In 2004, Kevin was 41 when he dove into a shallow swimming pool while celebrating at a Party. Kevin sustained a C1 incomplete SCI and was lucky to escape with his life. Although initially paralyzed from the neck down, 3 months later he made his way out of the SCVMC rehab center on crutches.
Kevin now spends some of his time as a director at ReCares, a Non Profit Organization that collects and redistributes donations of clean, gently used medical equipment.
Although Kevin can walk with the aid of crutches, he finds his mobility scooter works best when he is out of his house and makes full use of it during his annual pilgrimage to Burning Man. "I can't move as fast anymore but a like to joke it has not slowed me down. I do remember being inspired by a peer supporter when I was a patient attending the peer support meetings and I hope sharing my experiences will have the same inspirational effect on others"
LIGIA ANDRADE (ZUNIGA)
Ligia was 28 years old when she sustained a C5/C6 complete spinal cord injury from an automobile accident on January 17, 2009 while heading home with her children who were 12 and 7 at the time. Since then, Ligia spends her time encouraging, educating, and empowering others with disabilities in her community. Ligia is a Commissioner for the San Mateo County Commission on Disabilities, Treasurer of the Board of Directors for the Center for Independence of Individuals with Disabilities-San Mateo, a Sexuality and Disability Educator for Sexability, and has been a peer supporter for five years now. Along with her professional endeavors, she enjoys spending time with her children, as well as with her friends and family.
"The peer support program is an invaluable asset to our spinal cord injury community. It saved me as I was beginning my recovery, and still continues to as I continue to recover. Hope is what binds us all together, and I want to bring that same type of hope to others going through what I went through and still go through. We need each other to get through this change in our lives."
Marv was 48 years old when he was involved in a motorcycle accident in 1998. He sustained a T-12 spinal cord injury and is paralyzed from the waist down. Married with two kids, five grand kids and one great granddaughter, this Vietnam Veteran continued to work until he was fifty-four and now spends all of his time doing volunteer work, i.e. Scuba diver at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Volunteering for Canine Companions and volunteers with the V.A.
"I was blessed with my service dog Yara in November of 2010. I waited for ten years to apply thinking that I didn't deserve one of these amazing dogs. I was wrong. My Yara helps me in so many ways including my work with special needs children. There is a good life a debilitating injury or illness. You get out of it what you put into it."
In August 2004, Nick was 42 when he had a mountain bike accident in the hills above Los Gatos and was initially paralyzed below his shoulders. He was airlifted to SCVMC where he was diagnosed with a C5-6 incomplete SCI and underwent surgery. Nick experienced a lot of return over the days and weeks after his accident and coupled with what Nick would describe as an obsessive attitude towards his rehab, he was able to get back to almost the same physical condition he was in before the accident. Nick, who is originally from Scotland, still continues to enjoy mountain biking in the Los Gatos Hills.
"Since joining the Peer Support Team, I continue to be humbled and inspired by my fellow Peers and the patients that I have had the privilege to meet and work with. If there was one thing I know now that would have helped me in my recovery is the realization that my condition did not just affect me but also had a huge impact on the people closest to me."
In January 2016, Ran spent his 21st Birthday in Reno ICU after a Snow Boarding accident at NorthStar, Tahoe where he sustained a C8 Asia A SCI.
Ran then spent 6 weeks recovering in Rehab at SCVMC before returning home. Within 10 weeks of his injury, Ran was driving again. He continued his recovery and returned to UC San Diego to complete his BS in Computer Science. He graduated in 2017 and took up a full time position at Google as a Software Engineer working on virtual reality. How cool is that!
"Humans ability to adapt to any situation continues to surprise me. I'm living my new life with as much happiness as I could've had previously, there's so much out there in the world waiting to be explored!"
Rich was 41 when he broke his neck in a motorcycle accident in July of 2009 at C7/T1. Despite no return function, Rich's recovery has been stellar. This was due to a diligent pursuit of a high quality of life, problem solving and advocacy. One of his greatest joys is just being a dad to his daughter who turned 13 in 2015. Native of Los Gatos, Rich enjoys driving his family on vacations, attending concerts, car races, dining out, going to the movies, boating, BBQ-ing, and attending his daughter's school performances and sporting events. Rich has gone parachuting post injury as well as camping. He and his daughter have gone for a ride in a glider. Rich is a big fan of regular exercise and a healthy diet (most of the time).
He finds sharing success in his recovery with others just learning to adapt mutually beneficial. Staying connected to the community of other wheelchair users enables Rich to stay rooted in gratitude and solution oriented. "Life is good. Don't miss it!"
Franklin was 24 when he suffered his injury while vacationing at a beach on the East Coast as he dove through an oncoming wave of water, not realizing there was an elevated level of sand bar behind the wave. He suffered a C6, Complete, ASIA A injury. Though blessed with strong upper body motor function, he has no mobility below the chest level. Franklin has always been employed in sales and marketing and has traveled domestically and internationally. A resident of San Jose since 1985, he graduated from San Jose State University in 1986 and has been employed in the field of sales & marketing ever since. He's also the co-founder of NorCal SCI, a non-profit foundation supporting individuals with spinal cord injuries.