Make your own free website on Tripod.com

Tokyo Shimbun

December 4, 2001

 

By

Yoshinori Kawakami, Tachikawa Branch Office

 

Thatfs what we want to hear!

In Japan, more than 100,000 persons injure their spinal cord in traffic or sports-related accidents, paralyzing whole or half the body.  It is said that there are 100,000 persons who have been injured and that the number is increasing by approximately 5,000 every year. Although anyone may damage their spine, the system of medical treatment and rehabilitation in Japan falls far behind those in the US. Why is this so?  We interviewed Mr. Norio Fujiki who has an injured spinal cord and is the Deputy Chairperson of the Japan Spinal Cord Foundation, the Japanese non-profit corporation, founded in Fuchu-city, Tokyo.



Aiming for an Establishment of Medical Treatment System

Difference of Systems of Rehabilitation between Japan and the US

n   What are the differences in the systems of medical treatment and rehabilitation between Japan and the US?

One of them is the view on rehabilitation. For instance, in the case of neck injury in a traffic accident, in the US, after the neck is stabilized, fingers, legs, abdominal muscles or other body parts even vaguely expected to move, are thoroughly exercised and strengthened.  Even if the injured are not fully recovered, they want to increase what they can do by themselves.  As the muscles will be stiff and degenerate if not used, rehabilitation at an early stage is quite important for these injured personsf independence.

Whereas in Japan, because saving the lives of injured persons requires so much effort, little value is placed on early rehabilitation. . Rehabilitation is only started after two weeks or so to avoid un

reasonable force on the body.  In many cases, high priority for the entrance to rehabilitation facilities is given to the persons who are expected to recover, and seriously injured persons are not even given a chance to receive rehabilitation treatment.  Moreover, because hospitals rarely keep the seriously injured for long periods of time, it creates a heavy burden on the families.

 

n   What are the differences in the social system?

In the US, the source of funds is secured because a portion of the fines for traffic regulation violations is allocated to medical treatment or the rehabilitation of those with an injured spinal cord.  However, the medical treatment fee system in Japan sets a maximum amount for rehabilitation per patient, which restricts the number of care staff.   Recently in Japan there have been cases of people visiting the U.S. to receive rehabilitation treatment, spending large amounts of money. I know of 4 or 5 cases. 

 

Continuing Useful Information Delivery

n Why is the Japanese treatment system behind the times?

I suppose it is because of shortage of information on spinal cord injury.  Medical experts and administrative officials concerned do not correctly grasp the actual situation.  It could be regarded as a new problem due to medical progress.  In the past, spinal cord injury resulted in death within a few years if it was not reversed by medical treatment.  These days, the injured person is alive although he/she is not fully recovered.

 

n   What are the activities of the Foundation?

Being established 5 years ago, there are about 10 people with spinal cord injuries and medical experts working for the foundation.  We are aiming for the establishment of a medical treatment system for spinal cord injury by spreading awareness of the present situation to related parties and the general public through lectures, publications and an Internet homepage. 

 

 

Although there is no example yet, we want to fund research for reproduction technology of a spine.  Technology progress is rapid.  There have been several successful experiments on animals, and an application to humans is being developed.  It is within sight of the near future that a person who has an injured spinal cord will recover its functions. 

The source of revenue of this foundation is not from membership fees but from donations.    It does not make sense to provide information to members only because anyone may get spinal damage.   Receiving donations from a wide variety of people, we offer basically free publications and consultation.  Although financially tight, we want to continue activities such as delivery of useful information that satisfy donors.