World Spinal Cord Injury Day marked in Samoa

The Samoa Spinal Network joined the commemoration of World Spinal Cord Injury Day with Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi also joining the event - on a wheelchair.

In a first for Samoa, the Samoa Spinal Network and its members converged at the Taumeasina Island Resort on Saturday to mark the day, which is an infinitive of the International Spinal Cord Society and promotes disability inclusion globally.

Samoa Spinal Network President, Asomua Epenesa Young, told the Samoa Observer that the celebration on September 5 is dedicated to the members of the local chapter, the Samoa Spinal Network.

“We thought that we would have people who are walking experience living in a wheelchair for a lifetime for most of our members,” Asomua said.

The local non-profit organisation has had 87 members since its establishment in 2011 with 26 passing on and 20 members participating in the September 5 celebration.

The Prime Minister, who joined the members of the local chapter, was offered a wheelchair with other guests which they used to wheel themselves into the resort’s ballroom to join the programme.

Asomau said most spinal cord injuries in Samoa are caused by falls, who also revealed that pressure ulcers are also prevalent among people suffering from spinal cord injuries. 

“Spinal cord injuries in Samoa are mostly caused by falls, for instance, falls from coconut trees, mango trees and that,” she said

“We have a few diving accidents as well, mostly males than females. We didn’t want to take over the medical side of things, but we wanted to assist in the rehabilitation and the education of people with spinal cord injuries of how to care for themselves as well as the caregivers.

“This is because having pressure sores is an evidence of not being able to be turned over regularly, when you sit on a chair or sit in a position for a while you feel numb and you have to shift yourself accordingly.”

Asomua said that the group's main activity is to build up their members' confidence to live normal lives, as they may not have the legs to walk, but are intelligent and can be productive.

Three of the organisation’s members graduated from the Australia Pacific Training Coalition with Certificate 3 in Disability and one has a scholarship to travel to Cambodia to study. The organisation has also been able to seek employment for them.

Asomua added that over the years she has seen positive change despite the organisation losing some of its members due to pressure ulcers, and while working there has its challenges, the experience is rewarding for her personally. 

“I feel that I’ve been so privileged to be a part of their lives and their families,” she further reiterated. 

“We feel that we have achieved a lot with them and we’ve helped them get over their social issues and psychological issues because of course they get depressed because they were able to walk around and have fun, life was so full of life. “

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