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Mary Free Bed’s Research team creates care packages to alleviate pandemic’s effect on people with spinal cord injuries

Neilsen gift box photo

Mary Free Bed is helping to relieve the stress faced by current and former patients with spinal cord injuries during the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to a $10,000 emergency support grant from the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation. Using these funds, the hospital’s John F. Butzer Center for Research & Innovation created care packages for 40 members of the Mary Free Bed community.

“Boxes were stocked with items meant to decrease the likelihood of catching the virus,” said research coordinator Kelsey Boersma. “We also added things to facilitate a sense of normalcy and reduce the burden of leaving home.”

People with spinal cord injuries are considered a high-risk group for the virus as well as other health issues. The care packages, intended to ease the pandemic’s effect on access to services and supplies, included gift cards for groceries and delivery services, and a supply of personal protective equipment – masks, gloves, antibacterial soap and wipes. Chocolate and peanut butter supplied a fun treat.

“We also added a list of tips and tricks for mental wellbeing and staying safe during the pandemic,” Boersma said.

The Neilsen Foundation provided emergency relief funds to select former grant recipients who applied. Mary Free Bed was awarded a grant in 2017 for a three-year, collaborative research effort investigating whether a novel exercise training program affects quality of life for people with spinal cord injuries.

Care packages were shipped to participants in the exercise intervention study and provided to Dr. Sam Ho, medical director of Mary Free Bed’s Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation program, to distribute based on patient needs. Additionally, Meijer gift cards were provided to care managers on the Spinal Cord Injury team to distribute to families and caregivers of inpatients.

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