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Spinal Cord

Lions Australia Spinal Cord Fellowship

Funds raised by the Lions Australia Spinal Cord Fellowship go to StepAhead Australia, an organisation regarded by the Federal Department of Health and Aging as the peak Australian entity searching for a cure for chronic spinal cord injury.

Around 15,000 Australians live with a spinal cord injury.

The cost to patients and their families can be immense and the cost to the Australian health care system is approximately $2 billion per annum.

The spinal cord is an extension of the brain and runs from the neck to the lower back. The spinal cord consists of millions of nerve fibres that transmit information to and from the limbs, trunk and organs of the body.

A spinal cord injury happens if pressure is applied to the spinal cord, and/or the blood and oxygen supply to the cord is disrupted.

There are two main types of spinal cord injury, depending on where the damage to the spinal cord occurs.

Quadriplegia or Tetraplegia is the partial or complete paralysis of the upper and lower portion of the body, including legs, trunk arms and hands. Quadriplegia is a neck injury. Paraplegia is the partial or complete paralysis of the lower portion of the body, including the legs and, in many cases, some or all the trunk. Paraplegia is a back injury.

The damage to the spinal cord may be complete or incomplete, depending on the degree of injury to the nerve fibres. Incomplete injury can result in movement and sensation abnormalities and a complete injury usually means total loss of movement and sensation – permanent paralysis.

  • 300 – 400 new cases are recorded in Australia each year
  • 84% are male
  • Most frequent in the 15-24 year  age group (30%)
  • Increasing in the 65-74 year age group
  • 20% are caused by medical conditions including vascular disorders & degenerative spinal conditions
  • 46% of spinal cord injuries in Australia are motor vehicle related incidents
  • 28% are related to falls
  • 9% result from being hit by an object
  • 9% are water related
  • 8% are other causes including football and horse related

What does a spinal cord injury affect?

A spinal cord injury does not only result in the loss of limb function and sensation.

There are many other areas of the body that can be affected, depending on the person’s level of injury. Some include:

  • the ability to breathe and cough
  • voluntary control of the bladder
  • control over the rectum and bowel movements
  • the density and strength of bones and the stiffening and fusion of joints
  • nerve sensitivity causing neuropathic pain. This can range from pins and needles to strong pain below the injury level
  • reduced or lack of sexual function, lower sperm quality and count
  • skin break downs producing a pressure sores and tears
  • spasticity – exaggerated response to stimuli causing muscles to contract or spasm
  • the ability to regulate the body’s temperature to respond to heat and cold

The purpose of the Fellowship is to “support StepAhead Australia (previously known as the Spinal Cord Society of Australia) in funding Australian Scientists or Clinicians to study the latest techniques of Spinal Cord injury both within Australia and the USA to the intent that the knowledge and experience so gained shall be made available to the Australian public. This funding shall subsidise salaries and expenses (including equipment) that are deemed necessary to help achieve the goals of the nominated Fellowship holders”.

The project is sponsored by Lions District 201V3 and administered by the Lions Club of Traralgon Inc. The management committee is made up of members from the Club and a District representative and is currently chaired by Lion Wayne Taylor.

Lions Partnership

StepAhead is a research organisation dedicated to funding the discovery and development of new therapies for the traumatically injured or diseased central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) – with a special emphasis on treatment of chronic spinal cord injury.

In 1999, the Executive Director of what is now StepAhead Australia – Dr George Owen – spoke at a local Lions Club meeting looking merely for financial support for his organisation.

He spoke of the disturbing statistics that put one Australian each day into a wheelchair suffering from either paraplegia or quadriplegia. Most of these people are young and suffer their injuries from swimming hole accidents, sporting injuries and car crashes. Their injuries currently confine them to a life of pain and constant dependence on others to allow them to enjoy the basics of life.

Lions were so impressed by the goals of StepAhead – “to get the paralysed to walk again” – that they took on the task of financially supporting the organisation. Currently the Spinal Cord Fellowship is a Category B project of Lions Australia.

StepAhead has entered into a partnership with the University of Melbourne and Melbourne’s St. Vincent’s Hospital to set up a dedicated spinal cord research laboratory.

More information on the progress of the research can be found at www.stepahead.org.au

For Further Information
See www.lascf.org.au

All general enquiries: info@lascf.org.au

Other assistance:

Lion Geoff Neal District V3 Spinal Cord Chairman and Club Liaison Phone (03) 5174 9354 help@lascf.org.au

Project Chairman, Lions Club of Wellington-Latrobe Inc. (managing club)
Lion Bev Goddard Phone (03) 5192 4370

All Correspondence to: Spinal Cord Fellowship Post Office, Toongabbie, VIC, 3856.

Additional Resources

StepAhead Australia Inc Community Relations and Scientific Development
info@stepahead.org.au or www.stepahead.org.au

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