Reflections on a year as JMW’s client support manager

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Reflections on a year as JMW’s client support manager

Having spent the previous 20 years working and volunteering in the charity sector, taking on a role with a solicitor’s firm was a step into the unknown. Fortunately, I knew many of the senior staff I’d be working alongside through previous roles with the Spinal Injuries Association (SIA), and culturally I was sure it would be a good fit.

Moving back into directly supporting people affected by catastrophic injury was a major driver in my decision-making and coupled with the opportunity to continue supporting the work of SIA, albeit from an external position, meant it was a no-brainer.

I work across the personal injury and clinical negligence departments, providing holistic support to clients and their families, the majority of whom are affected by spinal cord injury, a condition I have personal experience of following a diving accident in 1998. I know first-hand how devastating an injury of this nature can be, and the long-lasting impact it has on the injured person and those closest to them. 

The physical effects of a spinal injury can be obvious – the inability to walk or move limbs, but they can also be hidden, the inability to control bladder or bowel, loss of sexual function and sensation and neuropathic pain. All of this can be extremely challenging to deal with, especially when such an injury is someone else’s fault.

Whether the result of an accident or by negligent medical treatment, our clients are dealing with the fact that someone else’s actions were the cause of their injuries. Psychologically, it can be difficult to move past what’s happened and focus on making the most of the future. Part of my role is to help clients change their mindset and look forwards. Identifying barriers to fulfilment, working on setting achievable goals, signposting towards organisations that can help, and being an empathetic listening ear can all help in reshaping the landscape our clients find themselves in.

All of this happens in conjunction with the legal work our experienced team of solicitors undertake, ensuring the compensation our clients are awarded reflects the impact of their injury and caters for their future needs.

Spinal cord injury covers a wide spectrum, and no two injuries are the same. I’ve been fortunate to support clients with a range of injuries over the past year, the majority of whom have had what is classified as ‘incomplete’ injuries. This term refers to injuries where there is still a degree of movement and/or sensation below where the spinal cord is damaged. Whilst the appearance can be that people affected by this kind of injury are ‘better off’ than those with a complete injury (many of whom will be permanent wheelchair users), the reality is that sustaining an incomplete injury can be just as devastating.

The impact of pain and fatigue can be extremely debilitating, and the lack of understanding about the hidden effects of spinal cord injury, especially when someone presents as ‘normal’ can make it difficult to engage socially or re-enter the workplace.

Those with incomplete injuries are less likely to have benefitted from specialist rehabilitation following their injury and are often left to figure things out for themselves with little support.

This is where JMW’s client support service can really help, offering personal experience and insight alongside the ability to connect people to organisations and services that can really make a difference. It can also help just to talk to someone who understands.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my first year as JMW’s client support manager, and as we mark SCI awareness day, a reminder that everyone affected by spinal cord injury has their own set of unique challenges, the impact of which we should all try to be mindful of.

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