Chapter Check-In: Minnesota

MNSCIA members display the city of Edina’s proclamation.

MNSCIA members display the city of Edina’s proclamation.

The Minnesota Spinal Cord Injury Association (MNSCIA) has recently done a few very successful things to increase awareness of resources, education and advocacy to improve the lives of Minnesotans with spinal cord injuries. With September being Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month there was no better time to do that.

The frst thing that we did was kick off a state-wide project designed to raise awareness of the needs of people with SCI by asking cities across Minnesota to officially proclaim the month of September Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month. One of our board members and a number of volunteers worked with mayors and city councils across Minnesota to write these proclamations. The result was that more than two dozen cities wrote such proclamations. MNSCIA board members and associated volunteers were invited to numerous city council meetings, where formal proclamation presentations were made to us. They were great experiences that grabbed local community attention.

We plan on doing the proclamation project annually, with the ultimate goal of getting every city in Minnesota to write similar proclamations. The lesson that we learned this year was to start the process earlier. We did not start reaching out to cities across Minnesota until July, which was possibly too short notice for many cities. Consequently, next year we plan to start reaching out to cities in March.

On September 21, members of the MNSCIA gathered with medical professionals from across Minnesota when we hosted lunch at the “Bridging Together: Advanced Spinal Cord Injury Conference.” We introduced our organization and communicated our desire to be a collaborative SCI advocacy group and resource partner with all organizations and professionals present, emphasizing our ability to fill resource gaps. We then drew attention to our proclamation project. One of our board members read the Minneapolis proclamation to the group, and copies of proclamations we received from various cities were prominently displayed on each table for everyone to peruse and discuss.

With MNSCIA members at each table we used lunch to have candid dialogue with nurses, therapists, and doctors about our theme, “Authentic Answers to Unspoken Questions.” We explained what it is like to live with SCI. Conversation topics varied from table to table, touching on events of daily living, muscle spasticity, pain management, doctor bedside manner, SCI research and networking opportunities. It was great for the doctors, nurses and therapists to see people with spinal cord injuries outside of a medical setting. I think it helped the professionals see those of us with SCI as whole people and not just patients.

According to the feedback we received, the event was a resounding success. For example, a registered nurse in attendance lauded the event for essentially serving as a role reversal with the MNSCIA members becoming the “experts” and the medical professionals being on the learning end — and he discovered that he had plenty to learn about SCI.
Both of these ventures did wonders to not only bring about further awareness of SCI in Minnesota, but also to spread the word about the great things that the MNSCIA plans to contribute to the Minnesota SCI community going forward. The momentum that we have seized since then has been invaluable to the further development of our organization.

Shawn Dean,
MNSCIA Co-Founder and Vice-President