University of Southern California Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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Chris got a spinal injury in 1978, when he was 17 years old. He was injured when he dived into a mountain river. He got married later, but then divorced. Chris worked as a volunteer for an organization that supports people with disabilities. He also had paid work for a financial company.

Chris slept on a hard bed for a while. It caused lots of problems, including pressure ulcers (which is what a doctor or nurse calls pressure sores or bedsores). He had surgery for the pressure ulcers. Ten years later, Chris had a bad infection, and used a wheelchair which didn't fit him well. Both of these things caused more pressure ulcers, and Chris needed more surgery. It was hard, but Chris spoke up for his needs, and was strong, and he got back to health.

Read more about Chris in these articles...

When you get a spinal cord injury, you have to learn special things to do to take care of your skin. You have to learn what to do so you can avoid getting pressure ulcers. Most people learn this in the hospital. Chris remembered this:

"They show you videos [at the hospital] before you leave. 'This is what a pressure sore can do. This is how you get it....' They show you a quick film before you go."

If you watch a film about preventing pressure ulcers, like Chris did, you might learn something. You will probably learn more if you make a list of questions that are important to you. Take time to find the answers to the questions on your list.

→ read more in Learning How to Take Care of Your Skin

Chris had an abnormal bone growth inside his hip. No one could have prevented it. He got a pressure ulcer. It wasn't Chris's fault.

→ read more in "The Blame Game"

Chris had what is called heterotopic ossification or "HO," on his hip. HO is when bone grows where it is not supposed to. He got a pressure ulcer because of the HO.

→ read more in Things You Can't Control

You have to be sure the wheelchair is the right size for you. Chris got a new chair. It was not yet fitted for his body. His body moved around a lot. His hips rubbed against the chair. Chris got a pressure ulcer.

→ read more in Wheelchairs and Other Equipment

Chris had a pressure ulcer. He had to go into the hospital. He was laid off from his job when he was in the hospital. Chris's girlfriend broke up with him when he was in the hospital. He had trouble healing his pressure ulcer. The stress Chris felt might have made it harder to heal.

→ read more in Life Events

Sometimes people start drinking or doing drugs because their problems are really bad. Chris said:

"I got into the drinking and the drugs because I'd given up on life. 'Ah, what the hell, might as well just go party.'"

When he did more drinking, his girlfriend left him. That made Chris's problems even worse.

→ read more in Drinking or Doing Drugs

Chris's doctor gave him a good medicine. Chris's insurance told him to take a medicine that cost less. The cheaper medicine didn't work as well.

Chris also had trouble with equipment. He used a condom catheter, that is, a tube that went on his penis for urine. The condom catheter stayed on with tape. Chris's insurance told him to use tape that cost less. The cheaper tape kept slipping. Urine leaked out. Urine stayed on Chris's skin where it leaked. Chris got a pressure ulcer.

→ read more in Money and Things to Do to Take Care of Your Skin and Things You Can't Control

Here is what Chris said about the stages of pressure ulcers:

"They show you videos [at the hospital] before you leave: 'This is what a pressure ulcer can do. This is how you get it. It can start off as a bruise. It could start as a scratch. It can start as a mere abrasion. You know, like a skid mark. And then, eventually, turn into Stage 1. Stage 2, the skin breaks. Stage 3, muscles. Stage 4 is bone. And it happens very quickly.' They show you a quick film before you go."

→ read more in Different Kinds of Pressure Ulcers

People who have already had a pressure ulcer understand that anybody can get a pressure ulcer. In other words, experience is the best teacher! Many people who helped with this project, including Alley, Brenda, Chris, and Helen, would probably agree.

→ read more in Learning How to Take Care of Your Skin

Chris did not worry or feel afraid about what could happen. He believed he could deal with things that happened.

→ read more in Feelings, Attitude and Believing in Yourself

Chris had the same helper for years. He became good friends with his helper. Chris's helper really knew a lot about his skin. When Chris got a red spot, his helper saw it right away. It was because he knew Chris so well.

→ read more in Caregivers and Helpers

Chris spends a long time in his wheelchair. He and his helper check his skin very carefully so they can see any problems. That way, Chris can stay in his wheelchair.

→ read more in Now I Get It!

Chris takes pressure off his skin when he does things.

→ read more in Things to Do to Take Care of Your Skin

Alley and Chris helped out groups that help people with spinal cord injuries.

→ read more in Don't Overdo It

Speaking up for yourself can make you feel good. It can also make you feel good to help others. Chris and Alley worked for free for groups that help people with disabilities. Chris got another job later. He got paid to speak up for people with disabilities.

→ read more in Speaking Up For Yourself

Chris likes dating. He says he likes the "activity and the physical and the sharing."

→ read more in Dating and Marriage

Chris and his wife got divorced, but they are still good friends. Chris has a new girlfriend now who helps him feel good about his life.

→ read more in Friends and Family