Named after Richard Patterson, former Santa Clara Valley Medical Center’s SCI Peer Support Coordinator, the Patterson Network Project aims to create a robust and Bay Area-wide forum for the SCI community. The site’s primary objective is to allow its users to contribute content and resources that positively affect every aspect of life as an SCI survivor and its greater community.
Richard passed away in June of 2011 but he had set out a goal of using existing communication tools and technologies that could one day help extend the reach of SCI support group meetings beyond the walls of the hospital. Sadly, Richard did not get to see his vision fulfilled but a small group of volunteers have been working on bringing that vision to reality.
The web site features discussion forums covering numerous subject matters, a library of webcasts from various meetings and presentations focusing on SCI, a comprehensive resource directory of web sites related to SCI, a blog containing posts by SCI survivors, a calendar of events happening in the Bay Area that are of specific interest to the SCI community, and other user-contributed content.
The Patterson Network Project volunteers include Franklin Elieh, Nick Struthers who is a member of the SCVMC SCI Peer Support Team, and Ron Sidell who is the executive director of Ophoenix.org, a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting patients recovering from disabling medical conditions.
Franklin was 24 when he suffered his injury while vacationing at a beach on the East Coast as he dove through an oncoming wave of water, not realizing there was an elevated level of sand bar behind the wave. He suffered a C6, Complete, ASIA A injury. Though blessed with strong upper body motor function, he has no sensation or mobility below the chest level. A year following his injury, he did regain more strength and movement in one hand and three years post injury, he regained sensation in his bladder and bowels.
He was a SCVMC peer supporter from 2005 to 2017 and has always been employed in sales and marketing. Franklin has traveled to 10 countries and 30 states within the U.S. He lives independently in San Jose and has a caregiver who assists him in the mornings. He drives and does most everything else for himself.
“Back in 1989, when I suffered my injury, there was no such thing as peer support groups. We had to literally figure things out on our own and, of course, there was no Internet, e-mail or texting back then. The amount of information that today’s SCI survivors must learn is exactly the same as what it was back in ’89 but unfortunately, typical rehab stays are now 1/4 of what they were back when I was injured. We can help make a major difference in advancing one’s ‘quality of life’ by communicating with them before they leave the hospital so that we can make the transition back to their home communities as comfortable as possible while showing them how they can still lead a very productive, active and fulfilling life. The best thing about it is that we’re always going to be available to them as long as they want us.”
In August 2004, Nick was 42 when he had a mountain bike accident in the hills above Los Gatos and was initially paralyzed below his chest. He was airlifted to SCVMC where he was diagnosed with a C5-6 incomplete SCI and underwent surgery. Nick experienced a lot of return over the days and weeks after his accident and coupled with what Nick would describe as an obsessive attitude towards his rehab, he was able to get back to almost the same physical condition he was in before the accident. Nick, who is originally from Scotland, still continues to enjoy mountain biking in the Los Gatos Hills.
“Since joining the Peer Support Team, I continue to be humbled and inspired by my fellow Peers and the patients that I have had the privilege to meet and work with. If there was one thing I know now that would have helped me in my recovery is the realization that my condition did not just affect me but also had a huge impact on the people closest to me.”
Ron Sidell worked in Information Technology for 17 years at Genentech Inc, until he became disabled by Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) that left him totally paralyzed and on a ventilator for a year. GBS left him with what presents as a C5-C7 injury. It’s now fourteen years later and he believes that recovering more function is a life time endeavor.
“I was lucky to work with Richard Patterson when this project was first conceived. It was important to him to be able to extend the reach of SCI peer support, for those who live too far away to attend the weekly peer support meeting. This has been a potent motivator for me, as I have always lived just out of reach of those 4 p.m. weekly peer support meetings. Rich also was passionate about providing a technology solution that would join the Palo Alto VA’s SCI community to the VMC SCI community, to help expand the peer support pool to better serve both communities. We are on the verge of being able to accomplish his two primary goals, and I am proud to have worked alongside the wonderful people who have worked to bring us to where we are today. I am really excited to see the Patterson-Net site roll out to our community and the general public.”
Ron holds the title of Executive Director at Ophoenix Public Benefit Corp and is on the board of directors at the Valley Medical Center Foundation.