‘Medical technology has allowed me to live a fulfilled, productive life.’
Dave Bracher of the Spinal Injuries Association (SIA) was one of our patient speakers at our MedTech Awareness Week in December. We sat down with him to talk about how medical technology has transformed his life.
Could you tell us a bit about your background and condition?
I have a spinal cord injury, so am paralysed from the waist down and a full-time wheelchair user. I became injured in 2008; a regular cold escalated into a heavy dose of ‘man-flu’ and my immune system, for some reason, couldn’t cope.
I contracted two rare neurological conditions, Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) and Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM), which attacked my peripheral and central nervous systems respectively, and ultimately caused permanent damage to my spinal cord at level T10, which is around tummy button level.
Having experienced first hand the amazing and transformational support of the Spinal Injuries Association whilst at Stoke Mandeville, I initially worked as a volunteer for SIA before being elected as a Trustee. I served three years in this capacity, including 12 months as Vice-Chair, before standing down and successfully applying to become SIA’s Vocational Support Manager.
I moved into my current role of Campaigns Manager in May 2017, and lead on all SIA’s political and issue-specific campaigns.
What role has medical technology played in helping you with your condition?
Initially, medical technology saved my life. After being admitted to hospital, I was put into an induced coma for 12 days, during which time I was given a tracheotomy because I couldn’t breathe for myself. The impact of GBS and ADEM on my nervous system was treated with industrial quantities of expensive drugs, and when I started to regain function with my hands and arms it was medical technology that helped to accelerate this process to maximise my recovery.
I really should have died during this period, especially in the first couple of weeks, but medical technology and outstanding care kept me alive.
This might sound a bit naff, but when I was in hospital and the future looked relentlessly bleak, getting back to some sort of work and being able to provide for my wife and two young children was all I really thought about.
It didn’t seem very likely I’d be able to achieve that back then, but medical technology and medical products have enabled me to realise a number of goals and lead to the fulfilled, productive life I have today that seemed completely out of reach when I was in hospital.
What message do you have for NHS Commissioners from a patient’s perspective regarding medical technology on the NHS?
Medical technology is truly amazing, I feel like we’re entering Star Trek territory with some of the high-tech advances being made! Given the ageing population and proportion of the population who have a disability, I’m hoping all medical equipment in the future is accessible, because today it’s not even close.
I have huge trouble assessing x-ray and scanning equipment like an MRI or CT scan, and women with a spinal cord injury mostly can’t access the equipment needed for a mammogram or other proactive health screening.
Some spinal cord injured people can’t even access their local GP surgery. This isn’t good enough and has to change. NHS commissioners need to consider equity and inclusion, so that all areas of the population are well-served by medical technology.