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Slater and Gordon has awarded a Monash University researcher $23,344 to help people living with spinal cord injuries, like Echuca’s Kyle Kiely, understand serious secondary health risks, such as osteoporosis, chronic pain and bowel dysfunction.

The grant is part of the law firm’s annual Health Projects and Research Fund, a philanthropic grants initiative which focuses on improving care and treatment for people with significant disability caused by a catastrophic injury, asbestos-related illnesses or occupation caused cancers.

Run by Research Fellow Dr Sandy Braaf, the study will aim to develop strategies and recommendations to communicate and improve health literacy and options for people living with a spinal cord injury (SCI).

Former lawn bowls greens keeper Kyle Kiely is one person who will benefit from this study. The 19-year-old was struck and left a paraplegic by a 4WD while riding his motorcycle off road in July 2017.

Kyle was flown to The Alfred hospital where he spent four weeks in a coma. He then spent a further four months recovering at the Austin Hospital and Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Centre, only returning home in the days before Christmas.

Mr Kiely now lives with his mother and requires assistance from a carer every day, unable to get very far without a wheelchair.

He said he had suffered a couple of minor secondary health issues, adding that the communication of these further health risks would be more effective if doctors and medical professionals used simple and easy-to-understand language.

“It would really help people in my situation to understand what the risks are and how I can avoid them without all the technical language,” Mr Kiely said.

Slater and Gordon Senior Motor Vehicle Accident Lawyer Joanne Panagakis said the firm had a number of clients who had suffered SCIs following serious road accidents. Ms Panagakis said the devastation of a SCI meant that those injured and their families often overlooked other possible health complications.

“Slater and Gordon is proud to be able to provide this grant to better assist people with spinal cord injuries,” Ms Panagakis said. “We encourage any initiative and study that helps support and educate people with spinal cord injuries, many of whom are our clients.”

Dr Braaf said that when people suffered the devastation of an SCI they were often not made aware of the other complications that could arise including bowel and bladder dysfunction, pressure areas, osteoporosis, and chronic pain.

“Despite the provision of information in hospital, rehabilitation and by community‐based service providers, a lack of accessible and usable information to prevent illness has been reported by people living with SCI,” Dr Braaf said. “These conditions negatively impact on the health and quality of life for people living with spinal cord injury.

“While many of these conditions are preventable, a lack of useful, accessible, and accurate information about secondary conditions is available.

“By determining the health literacy needs of people living with spinal cord injury, the project will inform the development of strategies that can assist people to access, understand and use information to make positive health decisions.”

The study will aim to establish clear strategies for improving the communication of health information for people with SCI and contribute to the development of tailored information to be passed on to patients.

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