Spinal cord injuries are among the most complex and lasting among all injures troops incur both in war and peacetime. The physical toll borne by Veterans in the service that leads to these injuries is enormous, so the care and treatment they receive should be as considerable.
“The sacrifice of the fallen was enormous and noble,” VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said at the ribbon-cutting event at a new spinal cord injury center at the Syracuse VA Medical Center. “Our obligations to care for the living cannot be less so.”
That’s the thinking behind VA’s expansion of spinal cord injury centers. The newest one in Syracuse—a 6,500 square foot, 30-bed facility—opened last week to serve the more than 200 Veterans with spinal cord injuries in the surrounding area.
The center closes the distance gap considerably for those seeking care. Injured Vets used to travel to Cleveland or the Bronx to receive treatment, often removing themselves from the care of their families. The expanded center houses rehabilitation services, a therapeutic pool, a dialysis program, and other state-of-the-art facilities, and joins a network of 21 polytrauma nodes across the country.
Budget battles in Washington haven’t stopped VA from receiving funds necessary to care for these Veterans. Since 2009, VA has increased funding for spinal cord injury treatment by 32 percent, along with a 21 percent boost in traumatic brain injury funding.
Those being cared for have sacrificed their bodies to the country, and we in turn must offer the same level of dedication. A former employee at the Syracuse facility understands that notion; after starting at the hospital when it first opened in 1953, she continues to volunteer today. Long-lasting injuries mean long-lasting care, and in that volunteer’s spirit, we’re aiming to match that devotion.
Check out how VA research has found new ways to identify and treat spinal cord injury below.