University of Southern California Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
Smaller text Bigger text Print this page
Home USC Rancho USC/Rancho Pressure Ulcer Prevention Project USC/Rancho Pressure Ulcer Prevention Project
About the Project Articles In depth
Home | People |


Rachel got a spinal cord injury in the year 2000 after she had a disease of the spine called "transverse myelitis." She was 27 years old. Although Rachel's boyfriend and mother cared for her, her paid caregivers were not good. They neglected Rachel. She got a very serious pressure ulcer (which is what a doctor or nurse calls a pressure sore or bedsore) on her bottom, and needed surgery and a colostomy. Rachel got other serious pressure ulcers on her feet, which she said she "...didn't think was anything." Rachel's story ends badly. Rachel died after complications from the surgery to reverse her colostomy.

Read more about Rachel in these articles...

Sometimes attitude can hurt your health. Rachel had an attitude of denial. She didn't accept that her spinal cord was hurt. She said:

"I don't claim [my spinal cord injury]. I just do not. I don't claim it. I feel in my heart that I am going to get up [and walk], so I don't claim it."

Rachel believed that she would get out of her wheelchair soon. She believed her hands would start working the same way again soon. She didn't want to learn how to take care of herself. Rachel let her mother feed her. Rachel did not want to have her truck fixed so that she could drive it herself.

Rachel also had an attitude of denial about pressure ulcers. She got pressure ulcers on the bottom of her feet. She didn't think they were important. Rachel had her mother wash them with water and bleach. This was probably too strong for skin that was hurt. She waited to see her doctor. When Rachel went to the doctor, they were Stage 4 ulcers.

→ read more in Feelings, Attitude and Believing in Yourself, Home Care, Taking Big Risks and Making Choices

Rachel had a paid helper. Rachel's helper worked hard at first. Her helper stopped working hard. The helper needed to change Rachel's diaper. The helper put paper towels in Rachel's diaper. There were still bowel movements in the diaper. The helper neglected Rachel. The dirty diaper caused a bad pressure ulcer.

→ read more in Things That Can Go Wrong with Your Health, "The Blame Game", Caregivers and Helpers, Things You Can't Control and Things to Do to Take Care of Your Skin

Rachel's mother saved her life when she saw Rachel had gotten a big pressure ulcer on her bottom because her helper had not changed her diapers. Her mother rushed Rachel to the doctor.

→ read more in Friends and Family

Some people who helped with this project thought a pressure ulcer was no big deal. Alley, Billy, Helen and Rachel thought, "It's no big deal." Their pressure ulcers got really bad. They all got very sick. The next time, they knew better!

→ read more in "It Just Happened"

You might think that a pressure ulcer is no big deal, like when Rachel called a small ulcer "nothing to write home about." You might think getting a pressure ulcer will never happen to you.

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