Challenges of Patients with Spinal Cord Injury During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Qualitative Study

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Background: Spinal cord injury (SCI) is a chronic condition leading to physical and psychological problems along with numerous economic burdens for patients. In late 2019, an unknown disease called COVID-19 broke out, which quickly spread throughout the world. Objectives: The aim of the present study was to determine the challenges of SCI patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: This was a qualitative study performed among SCI patients after obtaining the code of ethics from the Research Ethics Committee of Ilam University of Medical Sciences in 2021. Data were collected using semi-structured, face-to-face individual interviews, in accordance with health protocols, in a safe environment without stress until reaching data saturation. Data were saturated after interviewing nine patients; to ensure data saturation, two additional interviews were conducted. Each interview lasted between 30 and 45 minutes, depending on the condition of each patient. The written files of the interviews were analyzed using MAXQDA software. Results: The mean age of the participants was 54 years. Thirty-two percent of the participants were female and 68% were male. After analyzing the data obtained from in-person interviews, three main themes, including expectations (need for financial support, need for social support, and need for physical support), concerns (fear of loneliness and fear of death), and health needs (health literacy, access to services and how to transmit the disease), were extracted. Conclusions: Considering the challenges in the three areas of expectations, concerns, and health care, it is necessary to take some measures to reduce these challenges.