A Broken Cord: Part 1

Did you know it costs, on average, $100,000 a year to live with a spinal cord injury? Yes, you read that correctly. I am not referring to normal living expenses either. That figure you see there refers to everything we need to stay alive like a wheelchair, proper cushions, chair maintenance, medical supplies, medication, doctor visits & tests, therapy, personal care assistants and more depending on your level of injury and current health. Also, another important factor is that despite being college-educated many spinal cord injury survivors cannot work in their given fields which means dependence upon some form of government program like SSID, Medicare or Medicaid. If they can work, are already wealthy or landed some sort of insurance settlement they have to buy a comprehensive insurance package and pay for some things out of pocket. Consider a few important facts...

1. Currently there are 1.5 million people world wide living with spinal cord injury.
2. Of that 1.5 million, 450,000 reside in the United States.
3. The average yearly cost of living with a spinal cord injury is $100,000.
4. That is $45 BILLION a year in insurance expense.
5. I have been in a wheelchair for 21 years.
6. I have cost Medicaid and my private carrier a minimum of $2,100,000 in total.

That's a hell of a price tag for catching the wrong angle of the bottom of a swimming pool.

Now let's think a few things through. Those are numbers here in the U.S. and as they relate to me. What is the total cost world-wide? If you said $150 billion you are right. That is a lot of money. That is a very large amount of money by any standard. Let's put it into a more detailed perspective... in Fact #4 I quote a figure of $45 billion. In 2014 technology giant Apple posted a quarterly revenue of $42.1 billion. Yes, that is an annual revenue of $168.4 billion. Now put that up next to the total cost per year of spinal cord injury at $150 billion. This means that the total amount of money spent on spinal cord injury a year is almost equivalent to the annual profit of a Fortune 500 company!

I, along with my fellow brothers and sisters in chairs, have been told by the medical establishment that the reason there is no cure for spinal cord injury is because it is not common enough to warrant a major investment because there is such a very little return on investment. WHHHAATTT???!! Ok, aside from the morally wrong attitude, that's some pretty piss-poor accounting because somebody... somewhere... has their chunk of $150 billion (if not more) sitting in the bank while they check their stock portfolio on their Apple iPad from a beach in Bora Bora!

There's no money in spinal cord injury. I call Bullsh-t. Stay tuned... more on this in the coming months.

Thanks for reading.


  1. Hi Caleb,
    I just celebrated my 29th year since my injury, which really wasn't much of a celebration. Having never actually done the math pertaining to cost because I figured it might just blow my mind, not to mention send me in a direction I'd just assume avoid.
    Nevertheless this topic is something that's always been in the back of my mind, occasionally rearing it's ugly head. When it has I've found it nonsensical and absurd, as you so eloquently spelled out. And my conclusion has usually been the same-- there's money to made in keeping the status quo.
    When you put "medical" if front of any object the cost will nearly double. Take for example the 'special olympic think tank power' that went into designing, say, a shower bench. How can they justify a $300 price tag for that piece of crap that we'll get maybe three years out of? You get my point.
    My take is that it's a racket, pure and simple. That's why idiots like us had to leave the US in the hope that stem cell treatment in some 3rd world dump would provide a cure. I don't know about you but, the return I got back on a $56k two try investment would have been put to better use on a new set of wheels.
    Anyway, great post brother, it should enlighten people to a few of the specifics. Chin up, most couldn't handle the shit we deal with.


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