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Tips for Travelling with a Spinal Cord Injury

Traveling with a spinal cord injury

With the holiday season behind us, and several months to go with the winter weather many people take this time to get outta dodge and find some sunshine! Here are some of my personal observations and suggestions for travelling with a disability.

Prescription medication — Don’t pack it in your suitcase

This is probably a no-brainer for everyone, but it’s so important I thought I’d include it regardless. Especially if you’re flying somewhere, keep your meds with you in your carry-on. I personally keep an entire supply, with a bit of extra, regardless of how long I’m travelling for. Clothes and toothbrushes are easily replaced, many prescription medications are not. My luggage has been lost before, and it’s because I kept my meds on me that my trip was hardly inconvenienced.  I was going to Koh Lanta in Thailand, I bought myself a bathing suit and just lived in that until my luggage finally arrived.

It’s also important to do your research and keep medical prescriptions on hand. Some countries don’t allow medications that are commonly used in North America. For example, “It is illegal to bring into Japan some over-the-counter medicines commonly used in the United States, including some inhalers and some allergy and sinus medications.”[1] Every country has it’s own rules and regulations. Make sure to check first. No matter where you’re going, it’s a good idea to keep a healthy supply of meds, and proof the meds are prescription. This can save a lot of headache, and can save a trip entirely. No one wants to be caught in a pain flare-up or potentially life threatening situation because meds have been lost or confiscated.

Communicate as much as possible about your disability and specific needs

In my experience, I’ve found communicating as much as possible about my disability and specific needs, and being as friendly as possible, has served me well. Most people and places want to help, and if they’re given enough notice and information, they’ll make sure your trip goes as comfortably and successfully as possible. It can be hard for the airports, busses, or hotels to accommodate you at the last minute. They’ll be unprepared and scrambling. Also, if something does go wrong and you still find yourself in trouble, you’ve done everything right, and they’re much more likely to bend over backwards to make it up to you.

Take advantage of the perks

One of the hard facts about travelling with a disability is you’re going to be inconvenienced in extra ways, and you’re going to miss out on some things. This world just isn’t up to accessibility standards. Even if you do everything right, communicate your face off, and prepare as much as possible, you’ll encounter people who are improperly trained, ignorant, or just plain make mistakes because, lets face it, no one’s infallible. There will be accessibility fails everywhere; in Bali, the sidewalks had massive, deep holes and were simply covered with old slabs of wood. Ridiculous. BUT, there are many ways in which people with disabilities are, in a sense, compensated for that. First to board? Yes! Possible bumps to first class? Oh ya, baby. Free tickets for attendants? Take it! In my opinion, take advantage of every opportunity you’re presented with. You’ll face extra bumps on the road, so indulge in the free champagne you might be offered. It makes the bumps more fun anyway.

Talk to friends, family, and other experienced travelers.

Adventure awaits you, whether you’re headed south to sunshine or just over to family you haven’t seen in ages. A great way to find out options and opportunities is to chat with everyone you possibly can! It’s amazing the little gems you can learn about from other people’s experiences. And also the little hacks about places you might never have known or experienced without their input.

Happy travels!

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Scott Stanley on CBC: 'Another woman gave birth to my child': surrogate sues fertility clinic
Murphy Battista
December 1, 2017

Scott Stanley on CBC: ‘Another woman gave birth to my child’: surrogate sues fertility clinic

Murphy Battista’s Scott Stanley spoke to CBC, “The law is quite clear that in order to use someone’s tissue, (donors) have to provide written consent and that it needs to be informed, if you’re going to use that tissue for reproductive purposes.” Read the full article here.

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Importance of Fitness for the Spinal Cord Injury Community
Kyle Gieni, Resource Coordinator, PIRC
November 30, 2017

Importance of Fitness for the Spinal Cord Injury Community

It is no secret that being physically active is important, but this is of the utmost importance for those living with a Spinal Cord Injury (SCI).

People living with SCI are more prone to health risks such as blood clots and obesity, which could lead to more complex cardiovascular diseases. Other complications include pressure sores, urinary tract infections, and chronic pain, which could lead to a decreased lifespan. These are just some of the personal physical barriers people with SCI have to deal with when accessing physical activity. Transportation, parking, low-income, and mental illness are also barriers when it comes to working out. Most gymnasiums are not suitable for people with SCI for a number of reasons, but simple fixes can easily be done to accommodate us. Some spin classes now have arm cycles for people who cannot use a stationary bike to participate. Even people who cannot fully use their hands can participate with “Active Hands,” which help to grab the handles of equipment.

A recent study done by UBC and McMaster University recommends 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic exercise 3 times per week for people with SCI.

That compared to 150 minutes per week for the regular person. This still leaves a number of questions unanswered: What should people with SCI do for weight/resistance training? What is the maximum amount of training people with SCI should do? Can somebody with SCI harm themselves if they work out too much? These questions probably cannot be answered for the SCI community since there is a large variance of people living with SCI. These are just guidelines, and I think it comes down to personal choice as to how hard one wants to push oneself. If you want to get in shape, start by doing small workouts and build on that. If you are hurting yourself working out, ease off a little bit by doing less, or concentrating on another part of your body.

There have been many innovations in the fitness world relating to watches that track physical activity.

Fitness watches have become a popular item in the that few years. Unfortunately, most of their benefits do not translate to individuals who use wheelchairs. I did try a Samsung Fit Gear 2 this year which lasted about 6 months because the strap broke and I got used to not wearing it. While I used it, I did a half-marathon (21km), and the watch said I did 10km, so in this case, it was almost half-right. The watch did give me a good idea of how many pushes I was doing in a day, so then I could compare days to see how many pushes I did each day. 20,000 pushes was a good day for me while I tried to average over 10,000 per day. Some new fitness trackers, including the Apple watch, have algorithms to track the distance of a wheelchair user, so advances are being made in the SCI world of fitness and how to digitally track progress.

Another option, that has recently included SCI folks in their ad campaigns, is the Fit Bit. I haven’t tried this particular device…yet, but the ability to track water intake, heart rate and your fitness progress over time is intriguing. You can watch the ad here:

For more information on SCI community resources

See PARC (Physical Activity Research Centre) at ICORD, 818 West 10th Ave, which offers a fully accessible gymnasium to do a number of different exercise programs. Here you can participate in a full arm-cycle spin class on a first come first serve basis Tuesday and Thursday @ 1:30 pm. Massages by Langara RMT students are also given on a first come first serve basis for those sore muscles.

Other SCI fitness resources can be found online, which include:

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Get a Great Gift for a Good Cause — Spinal Cord Injury BC
Murphy Battista
November 21, 2017

Get a Great Gift for a Good Cause — Spinal Cord Injury BC

Let’s face it, most of our holiday shopping is done online, so why not support a great cause at the same time with Spinal Cord Injury BC’s (SCI BC) online ‘Gifts for Good’ event on 32 Auctions.

The auction runs from November 20th through to December 3rd. With plenty of items to choose from, there’s something for everyone on your list this season. For the adventure seeker on your list there’s skydiving, there are many options for the foodie in your life, and if you are in need of a relaxing local getaway there’s storm watching from a warm hot tub in Ucluelet.

It’s all for a great cause, Spinal Cord Injury BC’s work for those affected by spinal cord injuries and related physical disabilities and the rehabilitation showcases the ongoing dedication to BC communities.


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Information provided in our blog posts is not intended to be legal advice.

The outcome of every legal proceeding will vary according to the facts and unique circumstances in each individual case. References to successful case results where the lawyers at Murphy Battista LLP have acted for clients are not necessarily a guarantee or indicative of future results.