Toronto (June 13, 2011) - Two years after breaking his neck in a snowboarding accident while vacationing in Spain, Toronto Rehab patient Eric Furtado-Rodrigues feels like he is an expert on spinal cord injury and treatment. With input from a combination of medical professionals, his peers with spinal cord injuries, and a little online research, the 32-year-old former Portuguese airline flight attendant has successfully managed his health and life post injury. But up until now, there has not been just one source that Eric can go to for reliable, quality information.

Toronto Rehabilitation Institute (Toronto Rehab) and the Canadian Paraplegic Association Ontario (CPA Ontario) have partnered to develop Spinal Cord Connections (SCC), a website about spinal cord injury (SCI) and disease. Launched today, the new e-resource and community site was created for people with spinal cord injury, their families, and health care professionals who care for people with SCI in the community. Spinal Cord Connections provides current, research-based information about spinal cord injury, its treatment and care, education, the latest scientific discoveries, as well as information about community support services and resources and events.

“There’s so much to remember and do when you’re living with a spinal cord injury. You can’t remember everything you learn or everything you’re instructed to do, so a website like this is a great place to review information, relearn what you might have forgotten, or find new information,” says Eric.

“Spinal Cord Connections is about connecting people with spinal cord injuries to reliable and up-to-date information they can use to live more independent, full and healthier lives,” says Bill Adair, executive director of CPA Ontario. “When people have access to the best information available, they are empowered to make decisions that help them manage their own care, maintain good health and independence and participate fully in community life.”

The SCC site also hosts a series of interactive, multimedia, e-learning courses called SCI-University (SCI-U). Three 60-minute courses provide users with an opportunity to learn more about SCI and the benefits of rehabilitation, how to establish a healthy bowel care routine and bladder issues and care.

“We’ve designed SCI-U courses to appeal to a broad variety of people with different learning styles and different backgrounds,” says John Shepherd who helped create SCI-U. “Some people learn visually, others by doing. We’ve considered these different learning styles and have used video clips, animation, interactive tutorials and games to deliver information.”

It is estimated that the direct cost to the health care system for caring for Canadians with traumatic SCI is approximately $1.8 billion annually.

“The Spinal Cord Connections website will not only help us better support people with spinal cord injuries, but it will also have a positive impact on the health care system,” says Dr. Anthony Burns, medical director of Toronto Rehab’s Spinal Cord Rehabilitation Program. “If we can provide a source of information that promotes health and lowers the rate of emergency room visits and other complications that lead people with spinal cord injuries to see their physicians, that is going to save the health care system money.”

Toronto Rehab and CPA Ontario collaboratively developed the SCC website with both organizations contributing clinical, research, patient care and community-service expertise. Other agencies across North America contributed additional content. Throughout the website’s development, individuals with spinal cord injury were consulted to ensure the information and site is as consumer-friendly as possible.

“This website is unlike any other online resource for the spinal cord community,” adds the CPA Ontario’s Bill Adair. “To start, we conducted a needs assessment survey before embarking on the project that identified those topics and issues that were of greatest importance to people living with SCI. We really wanted to ensure that the information delivered was relevant to them and had the most positive impact on their health and quality of life.”

Eric is a good example of how people can, and do, make a positive adjustment to life with a spinal cord injury. “Given the right supports at the right time, you can regain your independence and lead a happy, healthy life,” says Eric. He will enjoy the summer with his fiancé who is moving to Canada from Portugal. The two are getting married in the spring.

Spinal Cord Connections is funded by CPA Ontario and Toronto Rehab. SCI-U is funded by the Rick Hansen Institute. SCI-U partners include Toronto Rehab, Canadian Paraplegic Association of Ontario, Alberta Health Services, and George Brown College.

About the Canadian Paraplegic Association Ontario

Canadian Paraplegic Association (CPA) Ontario’s first priority is to reach and serve all Ontarians living with a spinal cord injury and their families. CPA Ontario is also committed to serving people with other physical disabilities. CPA Ontario provides specific and individualized services during every step of recovery through its core programs and services: membership, regional services, peer support, information services, SCI alliance networks, advocacy, employment and attendant services. CPA Ontario has 17 regional offices across Ontario to serve those in need in local communities. CPA Ontario mission is to assist people with spinal cord injuries and other physical disabilities to achieve independence, self-reliance and full community participation. For more information about Canadian Paraplegic Association Ontario, please visit www.cpaont.org.

About Toronto Rehab

One of North America’s leading rehabilitation sciences centres, Toronto Rehab is revolutionizing rehabilitation by helping people overcome the challenges of disabling injury, illness or age related health conditions to live active, healthier more independent lives. Affiliated with the University of Toronto as a teaching and research hospital, Toronto Rehab integrates innovative patient care, groundbreaking research and diverse education to build healthier communities and advance the role of rehabilitation in the health system.

Media Contact

Phone: 416 340 4636
Email: UHN.News@uhn.ca

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