Why I’m volunteering to find a cure for spinal cord injuries

Two years ago, my life changed forever.

I was diving in Port Macquarie when I had an accidental knock to the head.  It was a strange feeling – almost like someone came into the room and switched all the lights off.

It turned out that I had a serious injury to the cervical 4/5 region of my spinal cord.  I couldn’t believe it.  I was hospitalised for one year and it was one of the toughest experiences of my life.  I left hospital in a wheelchair, knowing that I would likely live with quadriplegia for the rest of my life.

One of the things that gave me hope was participating in an international drug trial conducted in partner with NeuRA’s senior researchers. The drug, Riluzole, was administered to reduce swelling in my spinal cord and improve my movement. When the doctors told me I had quadriplegia, I thought it was going to be lifelong.  But this experience with research made me question this.  Perhaps, thanks to new research, my circumstances could change for the better.

So I volunteered for another trial at NeuRA.  This time I was helping researchers look at how I could control my muscles to assist with breathing.  I learned so much from the research team that later I helped them to create a video to show other people living with a spinal cord injury how they could improve their breathing muscles.

The reason why I participated in research trials at NeuRA is that these activities gave me a sense of hope and independence.  The researchers are so committed to improving the living conditions of people who have a spinal cord injury.  Their passion and enthusiasm gives me hope that some kind of cure might be found one day.

In July, I spoke to the New South Wales Minister for Health Brad Hazzard and the state Treasurer Dominic Perrottet about my experience with the NeuRA research team. They were visiting NeuRA to unveil the institute’s new Spinal Cord Injury Research Centre.  During the event, I heard about three new projects that the NSW Government is funding.  I certainly won’t shy away from taking part in the upcoming trials and I will 100% commit to new treatments. It’s for the better of people. The research is extremely valuable for people with spinal cord injuries.

by Steve Ralph