03-Mar-2022

REHAB scores points with “Peer Event” of the Fördergemeinschaft Querschnittgelähmten in Deutschland e.V. (Support Association for Paraplegics in Germany) (FGQ)

So-called “peer counselling”, i.e. the counselling of affected persons by other affected persons, is one of the central concerns of the Fördergemeinschaft der Querschnittgelähmten in Deutschland e. V. (FGQ).

“The English word ‘peers’ denotes a group of people with common interests, similar age, similar social status or similar background.” So-called “peer counselling”, i.e. the counselling of affected persons by other affected persons, is one of the central concerns of the Fördergemeinschaft der Querschnittgelähmten in Deutschland e. V. (FGQ).

Especially in the first months after the onset of paraplegia, the affected individuals and their relatives usually lack perspectives on how to continue. This is where the FGQ’s help comes in. Experienced paraplegics can credibly demonstrate that a good life and a viable future are indeed possible for paraplegics

Kevin Schultes, volunteer board member of the FGQ
Kevin Schultes, volunteer board member of the FGQ. Picture credits: private

Approximately 150 voluntary FGQ peers are committed to providing this kind of direct help for paraplegics throughout Germany. The principal causes of paraplegia have shifted considerably in the wake of demographic changes. “In the past, it was often the classic motorcycle accident, which left young men with lifelong damage to their spinal cords. Today, more than 50 per cent of the causes of paraplegia are disease-related”, summarises Kevin Schultes, voluntary member of the board of the FGQ. “In addition to tumours that metastasise to the spinal cord, other disease-related causes include inflammations or infarctions in the spinal cord, herniated discs, and degenerative diseases that lead to paraplegia, especially in old age. The tasks for our association are changing accordingly.” The 53-year-old, who has been a paraplegic for the past 26 years, works as a management consultant in medical technology, so he is quite familiar with the industry and its clientele.

“Specialised centres treat about 2,500 new paraplegics each year. In total, we are talking about nearly 140,000 people with paraplegia in Germany.” To assist this large group of affected people, an association was founded 40 years ago by committed paraplegics and staff members of spinal-paralysis centres. The supportive association, which combines specialised expertise and self-help for affected individuals, has been present at REHAB from the very beginning and is a permanent feature at the fair, which the FGQ uses as a forum for disseminating information, networking with therapists, doctors and manufacturers of aids, and above all for sharing know-how with affected individuals and their relatives. In the meantime, the FGQ has a full-time management – also thanks to the support of the Manfred Sauer Foundation – and is professionally positioned to administrate all necessary tasks for its 4,000 members.

Approximately 150 volunteer peers from the FGQ are committed to providing direct help for people with spinal paralysis throughout Germany.
Approximately 150 volunteer peers from the FGQ are committed to providing direct help for people with spinal paralysis throughout Germany. Picture credits: FGQ, photo of Schultes (privately owned)

Approximately 30 peers from Karlsruhe and its surrounding area are expected to participate in the support association’s “REHAB Peer Event” on Saturday, 25 June 2022, where they will talk shop and share their ideas and experiences. The volunteer peer counsellors undergo extensive training and further education; the FGQ has hired a peer coordinator especially for this purpose. In several weekend courses, prospective peers are trained and accompanied in their personal coping with paraplegia. They also learn many basics of social law so they can better support clients with recent paraplegia in issues such as the provision of aids, adaptation of living space, work integration, etc.

In the past, it was mainly prominent para-athletes or otherwise famous people with spinal paralysis who were seen as peer role models. In the meantime, however, peers are more often ordinary women and men who live and work in normal families, professions and constellations. This is the best and most credible way to provide counselling at eye level. “Of course, a world-famous wheelchair skater like David Lebuser, who supports us as a peer, is an attractive role model for young affected persons, but we are more likely to reach the father of a family or a mature woman through peer counsellors from the affected person’s own age group and with comparable life circumstances”, Kevin Schultes summarises the results from 40 years of the FGQ’s work.

Further information can be found online at www.fgq.de and www.der-querschnitt.de.

Expert information on the topic of paraplegia is provided by the member magazine PARAplegiker. https://www.fgq.de/news/der-paraplegiker/

So-called “peer counselling”, i.e. the counselling of affected persons by other affected persons, is one of the central concerns of the Fördergemeinschaft der Querschnittgelähmten in Deutschland e. V. (Support Association of Paraplegics in Germany). (FGQ). Picture credits: FGQ