What are the stats on spinal cord injury?
The most up to date statistics on spinal cord injuries in Australia are a few years old, but each year there are around 140 in WA with fewer than 3% caused by haematomas like Symon's injury. He is among the tiny percentage (3%) who develop syringomyelia ( a chronic, progressive disease that results in muscle wastage in the hands and loss of feeling).
Men account for around 80% of spinal cord injuries.
Western Australia has the highest incidence of spinal cord injury in the country. A new peak body - Spinal WA - had been formed to bring together services and stakeholders for spine injured members of the community. Symon and his son Jacob are on the website's front page, riding their bikes.
The Shenton Park Rehabilitation Campus, where Symon lived for most of the first year after his accident, has now been closed. It began in 1893 as a smallpox isolation tent in the bush and as it grew, had numerous functions until it became the Rehabilitation Hospital during the polio epidemic of 1948-56.
There’s very little financial support available for victims of spinal cord injury, a situation recognised by celebrated spinal surgeon Sir George Bedbrook, who founded the Department of Paraplegia ( now the Sir George Bedbrook Spinal Unit) at Royal Perth Hospital in 1954. Thirty years later, he started the Paraplegic Benefit Fund (PBF) which allows members to claim up to $100,000 if they receive a permanent spinal cord injury. Symon has worked with PBF for many years, delivering the PBF Prevention program aimed at reducing the number of new spinal cord injuries.
Stem cell therapy has been heralded for over 20 years as the great hope for those with spinal cord injury. There are plenty of articles that suggest that a revolution is just around the corner, but it still depends on a range of factors around the exact nature of the injury. Although lots of studies are underway, and some people travel overseas for treatment, it is not widely accepted that stem cell therapy can provide a cure.