Sexuality and adults with spinal cord injury (SCI)

That probably caught your attention.  It’s pretty interesting how any talk of our sexuality makes people squirm.  It’s not a readily discussed topic, especially when it comes to those with disabilities, including those with spinal cord injuries.

Dr Stanley Ducharme is a clinical psychologist and consultant specializing in the areas of sexual dysfunction, gender, physical disability, addictions, relationship issues and concerns of daily living (his words – taken from his website).  Dr Stanley has been working with SIRC since 2009 when he first visited the centre.  He spent a few weeks there working to establish guidelines and conduct training to SIRC peer counsellors, providing them with the skills and tools to answer questions from newly injured spinal cord patients regarding their relationships and ability to be intimate post-injury.  Thanks to the sponsorship of Livability International and Stephen Muldoon, Dr Stanley has returned three more times to SIRC, building on that initial training he delivered back in 2009.

Posing with good friend and colleague, Mr. Stephen Muldoon. Often referred to as the "Backbone of SIRC."

June 15 2015:  Posing with good friend and colleague, Mr. Stephen Muldoon. Often referred to as the “Backbone of SIRC.”

Dr Stan returned to SIRC for a quick week-long visit, after doing some work in Dhaka, Bangladesh.  I am way out of my league on all things psychology so I’ll not get into any details, but do encourage you to check out Dr Stan’s website, including this rather interesting articleDeveloping Guidelines on Sexuality and Reproductive Health in Adults with Spinal Cord Injury”.  It documents the guidelines outlined by the Paralyzed Veteran’s of America  in what looks like 2010.    I was appalled actually, that such guidelines have only been in place for 5 years now!  And in case you think Nepal is quite the closed society, I’d like to correct you.  One of my many observations during my time in Nepal last year, the Nepalese are far less uptight about sex than us westerners are.  Just take a look at a few of the photos below and check out how many were in attendance at the meetings Dr Stan ran at SIRC.

The following is Dr Stan’s photo-commentary of his visit to SIRC last week.

All photos and captions in this posting are credited to Dr Stanley Ducharme unless otherwise indicated.

June 13 2015:  Tents are everywhere around Kathmandu valley. Unlike this picture, most are in "tent cities" and are simply tarps where many families live.

June 13 2015: Tents are everywhere around Kathmandu valley. Unlike this picture, most are in “tent cities” and are simply tarps where many families live.

June 13 2015:  Lighting butter candles at Boudha Stupa in Kathmandu in honor of the thousands of people who have lost their lives in the earthquake....49 days ago. On this day 100,000 candles were lit.

June 13 2015: Lighting butter candles at Boudha Stupa in Kathmandu in honor of the thousands of people who have lost their lives in the earthquake….49 days ago. On this day 100,000 candles were lit.

June 14 2015:  This tent is in full use as a hospital ward. The center has a capacity of 40 beds and is now at over 124 patients, (and counting). As of June 18th, 142 patients.

June 14 2015: This tent is in full use as a hospital ward. The center has a capacity of 40 beds and is now at over 124 patients, (and counting). As of June 18th, 142 patients.

June 14 2015:  One of many tents set up in the driveway and grounds of SIRC. In preparation for a rush of new admissions or a quick evacuation due to dangerous conditions caused by increased after shocks.

June 14 2015: One of many tents set up in the driveway and grounds of SIRC. In preparation for a rush of new admissions or a quick evacuation due to dangerous conditions caused by increased after shocks.

June 15 2015:  Dr Stan's first day at Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre where he took a very fruitful session to our staff on "Normal Responses to Traumatic Events".

June 15 2015: Dr Stan’s first day at Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre where he took a very fruitful session to our staff on “Normal Responses to Traumatic Events”.  Photo credit SIRC

June 15 2015:  Commuting to the spinal cord center in Nepal is not done by rickshaw, nor is it for the faint of heart. [Kate adds - that's Suresh, Social Worker giving him a ride.  And yes I would also be afraid!)

June 15 2015: Commuting to the spinal cord center in Nepal is not done by rickshaw, nor is it for the faint of heart. [Kate adds – that’s Suresh, Social Worker giving him a ride. And yes I would also be afraid!)

June 16 2015:  The Earthquake Group: An afternoon support group developed this week at SIRC for individuals who suffered a spinal cord injury, lost their home and experienced the death of a child, parent, spouse or all from the earthquake...(No words can sooth the pain of a paralyzed father who couldn't reach his 5 year old child dying under a pile of rubble only a few feet away.And then, lying there and looking at his dead son for three days before help arrived.)

June 16 2015: The Earthquake Group: An afternoon support group developed this week at SIRC for individuals who suffered a spinal cord injury, lost their home and experienced the death of a child, parent, spouse or all from the earthquake…(No words can sooth the pain of a paralyzed father who couldn’t reach his 5 year old child dying under a pile of rubble only a few feet away.And then, lying there and looking at his dead son for three days before help arrived.)

June 16 2015:  Even in the face of such difficult times, people still want to learn about intimacy, marriage and spinal cord injury. An educational session on sexuality and spinal injury.

June 16 2015: Even in the face of such difficult times, people still want to learn about intimacy, marriage and spinal cord injury. An educational session on sexuality and spinal injury.

June 17 2015:  I hope I haven't painted a gloom and doom picture with people waiting for the sky to fall in around here. There is great energy here and great camaraderie and spirit at the Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Center, SIRC. Patients are so grateful to be here and feel the nurturance and professionalism of the staff. They finally feel safe. Staff are unbelievable in every way. This is a Tuesday afternoon music session right outside the front door of the Centre with instruments being played by the patients, some even smiling. Other Patients, families, kids and staff really get into it and "swing along" for an hour each Tuesday. (Pretty Inspirational.)

June 17 2015: I hope I haven’t painted a gloom and doom picture with people waiting for the sky to fall in around here. There is great energy here and great camaraderie and spirit at the Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Center, SIRC. Patients are so grateful to be here and feel the nurturance and professionalism of the staff. They finally feel safe. Staff are unbelievable in every way.
This is a Tuesday afternoon music session right outside the front door of the Centre with instruments being played by the patients, some even smiling. Other Patients, families, kids and staff really get into it and “swing along” for an hour each Tuesday. (Pretty Inspirational.)

June 17 2015:  Preparing for Discharge: We set up this weekly session to allow patients to problem solve potential issues in the community prior to discharge. With many people having lost homes, jobs and love ones, the prospects of pending discharge seem and often are overwhelming. In addition, the roads to their villages are often impassable so that they need to find temporary living quarters near Kathmandu until the roads are repaired. Maybe years away.

June 17 2015: Preparing for Discharge: We set up this weekly session to allow patients to problem solve potential issues in the community prior to discharge. With many people having lost homes, jobs and love ones, the prospects of pending discharge seem and often are overwhelming. In addition, the roads to their villages are often impassable so that they need to find temporary living quarters near Kathmandu until the roads are repaired. Maybe years away.

June 18 2015:  This is a staff support/stress management session. Small groups from each discipline are formed and instructed to discuss the stresses of their work and potential solutions. A speaker from each group reports to the larger group and similarities, solutions and emotions are described. Later, more positive aspects of work are discussed as well.

June 18 2015: This is a staff support/stress management session. Small groups from each discipline are formed and instructed to discuss the stresses of their work and potential solutions. A speaker from each group reports to the larger group and similarities, solutions and emotions are described. Later, more positive aspects of work are discussed as well.

June 18 2015:  This is the psychosocial team posing for a picture on my last day of work. A great group of people facing an incredible challenge with a minimum of resources. Thank you all for the opportunity to work with each of you during this past week. A truly transforming experience.

June 18 2015: This is the psychosocial team posing for a picture on my last day of work. A great group of people facing an incredible challenge with a minimum of resources. Thank you all for the opportunity to work with each of you during this past week. A truly transforming experience.

June 18 2015:  What's a farewell without a bunch of psychologists and peer counselors celebrating in a fast food Nepali restaurant after work. So what that the monsoons had started and we all get socked and took hours to get home.

June 18 2015: What’s a farewell without a bunch of psychologists and peer counselors celebrating in a fast food Nepali restaurant after work. So what that the monsoons had started and we all get socked and took hours to get home.

Many thanks Dr Stan for allowing me to share your time at SIRC!

About Kate Coffey

After 25+ years in the investment management industry, I packed in my job and spent 2014 living and working in Nepal and Bangladesh, and visited some other places in between. It took me on a journey I did not expect, had me fall in love with Nepal and it's people, and become inspired at the work of Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre (SIRC) located 2 hours east of Kathmandu in the Sanga foothills. Since 2014, I have continued my warm relationship with SIRC and worked closely with my friends there in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquakes to date. This blog initially started out as a travelogue of sorts to keep friends and family worldwide updated while I was off on my travels in 2014. Since then it has morphed into a life story of the many places I have lived and worked and of the wonderful people I have met along the way. I hope you enjoy.
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One Response to Sexuality and adults with spinal cord injury (SCI)

  1. Pingback: Dr Stan and his inspired work | Bowen to Bangladesh

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