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 aim is to allow its users to provide content and resources to positively affect every aspect of life for people living with SCI.
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 worked to bring that vision closer to reality.
The web site features a news blog, a calendar of events happening in the Bay Area that are of specific interest to the SCI community, a library of webcasts from various meetings and presentations focusing on SCI, a comprehensive resource directory of web sites related to SCI , and other user-contributed content.
The Patterson Network Project volunteers include Ron Sidell who is the executive director of Ophoenix.org, a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting patients recovering from disabling medical conditions. Ron is happily married to Helen Nichols.
Ron Sidell and Ophoenix Co-founder Helen Nichols:
Ron worked for 17 years at Genentech in South San Francisco until he fell ill with GBS at the end of 2001. He returned home after a hear and a half in two hospitals, after which he went on to become a “Day Treatment” patient at Valley Medical Center in San Jose. The resulting damage to his spinal cord is approximately C4- C7.
Many thanks to the work of former volunteers Franklin Elieh, and Nick Struthers have left the PNP to form a new organization called NorCalSCI.
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, 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.”