Every day gives us the opportunity for a new start. How do you start a new life situation?

The story of Linda Lüthi

"I was born with the diagnosis of spina bifida. This disease is a congenital spinal cord injury that cannot be healed. Since I was born, I’ve had major surgery at least three times. Now, I just have a few minor operations to go.

I always knew that I was a little different to my siblings and school friends. For a long time, this wasn't a problem. However, in Year 4, it became obvious: the interests of and possibilities for my able-bodied friends were becoming increasingly different to those for me in my wheelchair.

When I switched to a school for children with physical disabilities, I realised that there were lots of other children like me. Today I know that I can do lots of things in a wheelchair, too. My family has taught me to see everything that’s still possible. I do wheelchair sports and I’m good at them. I’m soon going to be applying for apprenticeships."

"It gives me courage to see that I’m not the only one."

Linda Lüthi, spina bifida
Overview stories Beacons of Hope

New life

The Intensive Care Unit is already part of rehabilitation. This is where the new start begins. Keeping joints mobile, overcoming swallowing and speech difficulties caused by breathing, identifying cognitive problems, dealing with emotional strain, and many other processes make up the first step towards independence.  Tom Hansen and Annemiek de Jager of the Swiss Paraplegic Centre both have a great deal of experience in the care and treatment of patients on the Intensive Care Unit. They tell us what affects patients and relatives – but also what they themselves are affected by.

Reinventing yourself

The Amazonian Urodid moth weaves one of the strangest and most beautiful cocoons in the insect world. It is bright orange and uniquely shaped. Normally, cocoons completely enclose the pupa in silk so that the metamorphosis process can be completed. Urodid cocoons, on the other hand, have a coarse, open mesh design with an exit at the bottom. They hang like a pendulum on a long silk thread from the underside of a leaf to protect the pupa against ants entering the cocoon. The mesh-like structure of the cocoon allows rainwater to flush through the cocoon and protects the pupa from drowning.

The atrium in the Swiss Paraplegic Centre symbolises the transition from the Intensive Care Unit to rehabilitation. People with a spinal cord injury undergo a type of metamorphosis, transformation and reinvention of themselves. This requires all their emotional, mental and psychological strength.

Amazonas Schmertterling Motte

About the metal sculpture: while the object is unique in its filigreed design, it only reveals its secret if it is observed carefully. The following thoughts inspired metal artist Joe Meyer to create this work:

"Go courageously into the unknown ahead of you. Without knowing what awaits you. Be aware that, at all times, you are surrounded by a cloak of security, which provides reassurance that you will be supported during your development. Be inspired by the rare caterpillar that artistically creates its own protection and then, once its transformation is complete, manages to leave its cocoon as a splendid butterfly."

We support people with spinal cord injuries. Throughout their lives.

  • Very few people are aware of the fact that a spinal cord injury means much more than being in a wheelchair. It results in momentous turning points in the life of people with a spinal cord injury. The loss of mobility, no longer being able to walk, maybe only having limited use of your arms are one aspect of it. The loss of bladder and bowel functions, sexual functions, sensory functions and other things are another.

  • Returning home from the protected zone of the rehabilitation clinic is like a new start. At-home nursing advice from ParaHelp makes returning home easier, as does support in the coordination and networking of contact partners, such as clinics, Spitex nursing and care services, residential institutions, therapeutic services, providers of aids, funding bodies, GPs and the direct surroundings. 

  • One day a small opening appeared in a cocoon and a man observed the future butterfly for several hours. The insect battled to force its body through the tiny hole. Suddenly it looked like the butterfly could not move any further. It seemed as if it could no longer carry on in its own strength.

    So the man decided to help by taking a pair of scissors and cutting open the cocoon. Although this made it very easy for the butterfly to get out, it was tiny and had very crumpled wings.

    The man carried on watching, expecting the wings to open and spread out at any moment to support the butterfly's body and provide it with elasticity. However, this did not happen! Instead the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling along the ground with crumpled wings. It was never able to fly.

    Despite his kindness and good intentions, the man failed to understand that the limits of cocoon and the struggle are essential. As the butterfly fights its way out of the small opening, fluid from the butterfly’s body is pushed into the wings. This prepares the butterfly to be able to fly as soon as it achieves freedom from the cocoon.

    Sometimes the battle is exactly what we need in our life. A life without obstacles would never make us as strong as we can be. We would never be able to fly.

    (Source: author unknown)

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