Take Time To Feel Grateful

In case you haven’t noticed, I do a lot of complaining about the difficulty of finding doctors who know how to treat complications from spinal cord injury. From our perspective — meaning those of us with SCI here in the United States, the causes are evident: medical schools that ignore or bypass SCI as a specialty, a complete lack of medical clinics for treating chronic SCI, pervasive cultural bias about our quality of life, too few accessible exam tables and other diagnostic equipment, and meager funding of medical research aimed at understanding the consequences of our lifelong condition. There are more reasons, but you get the idea.


But there is another side of the coin. When you compare our situation with the global SCI population — especially in poor and developing countries — we are truly fortunate.

Take a country like Sierra Leone, for instance. A church I am associated with has been supporting basic medical needs in a community in that country for more than 20 years. Here are some eye-opening, even astounding stats to consider: As of a year ago, Sierra Leone had one pediatric surgeon to serve the entire nation’s population of 7.5 million people. Most people go without health care altogether. Women’s health care is especially lacking. For contrast, in my state (Oregon), we have one doctor for every 321 people. In Sierra Leone there is one doctor for every 33,000 people.

These stats are based on basic health needs. Imagine if you lived in Sierra Leone when you sustained your SCI. Ambulance service in most areas is nonexistent. During the rainy season, dirt roads in rural areas are impassable. Chances are you would not have made it to a hospital — if you could even find one within hundreds of miles.

   Join Our Movement

What started as an idea has become a national movement. With your support, we can influence policy and inspire lasting change.

Become an Advocate

Now I’m going to take myself to task. With all the complaining I do, I have been able to have home health nurses come to my home at least two days per week every week for the last nine months. I have either seen — or have appointments to visit — the following doctors or health care settings: my primary care physician, a urologist, a urologic surgeon, an infectious disease doctor, two different vascular surgeons, a pain care specialist, a wound care clinic, a cardiologist, and a wheelchair seating clinic. I have had five trips to major hospitals for various procedures.

And still I complain about a lack of doctors who are knowledgeable about SCI, even though I have managed to live to the age of 78 or 79, depending on when you read this — more than 58 of those years with paralysis. If anyone has reason to be grateful for the health care they have received, I am that person. I — we, are so fortunate to have what we have in the United States.

I thank God every day for the care and support I have.

I think that is part of the reason I am still alive and rolling. Every night, at the end of another day of running up against obstacles, either physical or cultural, I pause to dwell on where I am now and how far I have come. And I remember a long list of moments from the onset of my injury at 20 until now, when something good happened at just the right moment and it seemed to have little to do with my own efforts. Yes, bad things have happened, but they are far outweighed by the food fortune I have been privileged to have.

So my message in this blog is to take time to feel grateful. When you have reason to complain, say what you have to say, but do it with gratefulness in your heart and respect for those who may be listening. And don’t forget our brothers and sisters who are less fortunate — wherever they may be.

About the Author - Tim Gilmer

Tim Gilmer graduated from UCLA in the late-1960’s, added an M.A. from the Southern Oregon University in 1977, taught writing classes in Portland for 12 years, then embarked on a writing career. After becoming an Oregon Literary Fellow, he went on to join New Mobility magazine in 2000 and edited the magazine for 18 years.

Tim Gilmer

The opinions expressed in these blogs are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $10,000,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.