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Partner Dan Easton on why we have decided to support Stoke Mandeville Spinal Research

After spending time at Stoke Mandeville Dan Easton was left impressed by the important work the unit does for people with spinal injuries

Photo of Amanda Worne
Dan is a serious injury lawyer who deals with cases relating to serious and life-changing injuries such as brain and spinal injuries, as well as asbestos exposure claims.  You can follow Dan on twitter at @leighdaydan
As you approach the spinal unit at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, you are welcomed by a statute of a smiling Dr Ludwig "Poppa" Guttmann; the founder of the modern-day Paralympics, which started off as the Stoke Mandeville Games in 1948.  The welcome given by this modest statue only begins to give you a sense of the importance of the place you are about to enter; one of the leading rehab centres for patients with a spinal cord injury in the country.

Whilst the media may have a tendency (perhaps well-meaning but poorly understood) to get excited about stem cell research for getting paralysed patients walking again, rehab means so much more; from dexterity and muscle strength to bowel and bladder management.  It’s possibly the less ‘sexy’ side of rehab, but one that can have such a significant impact on day to day lives.

It’s partly that interest in rehab that led me to end up at Stoke Mandeville Hospital one morning excitedly trying on an electronic powered glove which helps pick up objects that a high level spinal cord injury (SCI) patient otherwise may not be able to do.  A glove may sound like a small thing, but as our guide Dr Bethel Osuagwu explained, when you’ve lost the use of your legs, making the most of your arms becomes many times more valuable than we appreciate.  Not only that, but his research through Stoke Mandeville Spinal Research (SMSR) may show the glove has therapeutic and physiotherapy benefits that strengthen arm muscles which would otherwise go unused.  

The SEM glove is just one of the projects the SMSR team are working on.  The aims of SMSR say it all; to undertake and support world-class research that enhances quality of life through improved treatments, rehabilitation and prevention of complications following spinal cord injury.  

Dr Julian Taylor PhD, SMSR’s Research Director explained:  “Each year in the UK around 1,200 people are diagnosed with a spinal cord injury which can have a huge impact on everyday living.  Thanks to the generosity of our donor supporters we are able to fund vital research that addresses chronic complications such as pain, pressure sores and urinary tract infections. In addition we are pushing the boundaries in testing new technologies to assist with neurorehabilitation and helping to create new standards of measurement to assess recovery after injury through our training courses.”

I left Stoke Mandeville that day convinced it was a cause we wanted to support and just a couple of weeks later we agreed Leigh Day to become a corporate sponsor of SMSR and also to sponsor their ambassador, Amanda Worne, who suffered a T12 SCI from a cycling accident back in 2015.  It’s a relationship that both we and SMSR want to see become a long term venture so that, not only through our cases, but in the wider sense, Leigh Day will do what it can to support rehab in every sense for spinal cord injured patients.

As lawyers at Leigh Day our job isn’t simply handing over a cheque at the end of the day.  By the time we get to the end of a complex case we may have worked with a client for three or four years or more to build up the information needed about their case, to ensure they will get the very best life possible once that cheque is finally handed over.  

Rehab is often the primary focus; what medical treatment can my client get that they aren’t getting now?  What equipment do they need?  Do they need adaptations to their house, or even a new house altogether?  Is there psychological support available?  This side of our work complements the bigger picture of getting compensation; what our clients need now through rehab is likely to be much the same as they need for the rest of their life, paid by a compensation award.

We fight for people who have been injured, helping them rebuild their lives. We know from first-hand experience how important early rehabilitation is to make sure this happens. SMSR’s research aims to overcome the real practical difficulties affecting our clients’ daily lives, and helps them live fulfilled lives. We’re proud to be associated with this important work.  

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