Spinal Cord FAQ

How long will I be on the rehab unit?

Our entire unit's average length of stay is just under two weeks. For persons with paraplegia, the average stay is two weeks. For persons with tetra or quadriplegia, the average stay is closer to four weeks. Each patient's stay is individualized to ensure a safe discharge home. This time frame may seem short. In many ways, it is; however, these timelines are similar to national averages. We have also found that going home as soon as possible while continuing therapy – either at home or as an outpatient – has many physical and psychological benefits. Our system of care encompasses all of these treatment areas and will continue to be a resource for as long as you need our services.

Will I be able to take care of myself to live independently again?

The extent of independence gained while on the rehab unit will depend upon the specific type of injuries as well as many factors such as prior level of fitness, age and available support systems. Persons with paraplegia and full use of their arms will generally be able to fully care for themselves and live independently at time of discharge from rehabilitation. Persons with tetra or quadriplegia may need some assistance for daily living tasks but are expected to be fully independent to direct their life, care and leisure. Continued recovery will occur for many months following discharge from the acute rehabilitation phase, during which home health and outpatient services will provide further progress toward the goal of caring for yourself. Our staff will also assist with linking you to community resources such as the Center for Independent Living, Illinois Assistive Technology Program and the Department of Rehabilitation Services to ensure you have access to all available community programs to enhance and promote independence.

Will I walk again?

This question is commonly posed to physicians and therapists. According to the American Spinal Injury Association, recovery does have predictable patterns based on diagnoses or severity of injury to the spinal cord. We use this association's guidelines to help guide our practice; however, each person can expect to recover in unique ways. There is never an absolute answer to this question. Recovery has been reported to continue for up to several years after the initial injury, and with ongoing research, new possibilities for recovery are emerging. With this in mind, our team will incorporate partial body weight supported ambulation, standing frames, long leg braces and electrical stimulation in order to promote ambulation or walking as soon as possible for persons medically appropriate for these activities.

Will I be able to go back to work?

Returning to previous life roles is a key goal of rehabilitation. Our team of experts will work with you and your employer to analyze your function and make recommendations to allow return to your previous form of work if at all possible. If after all avenues have been explored, and return to previous job is not possible, we will work to assist connecting you with Vocational Rehabilitation, a program through the Department of Rehabilitation Services (DORS) from the State of Illinois that specializes in getting people with disabilities back to work.

Will I be able to have intercourse or have children with this injury?

Both sexuality and fertility issues will be discussed with you during your rehabilitation stay. These issues are addressed in a private manner in order to allow you to freely ask questions and address issues that are of concern to you as an individual. Regarding fertility, there are many medical treatments and advances that can assist persons with a spinal cord injury in family planning. Information and referrals to specialty fertility clinics can be arranged.