Transverse myelitis (TM) is a rare auto-immune inflammatory disease in which the patient’s immune system attacks their spinal cord resulting in an unpredictable degree of neurologic disability, ranging from complete recovery to quadriplegia. TM patients often experience insufficient assistance towards understanding causes of the illness and have little to depend on in trying to deal with it. This study explores psychological strengths and coping strategies used by TM patients in coping with the illness.
A theoretical framework of positive psychology with a strong focus on seven constructs, namely positive coping, searching for meaning, benefit finding, hope, sense of humour, resilience, as well as religion and spirituality is presented. The main data collection strategy for this study was the gathering of stories as a form of conversation. These were subjected to thematic analysis by interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) focused on identifiable themes and patterns of living and behaviour.
The emerging patterns and identified fortigenic qualities were then considered, analysed and argued in relation to corresponding coping strategies. A model for the psychological coping and well-being of TM patients, based on emphasising the positive and constructive and considering existing models and strategies for the well-being of patients, was developed. The strategic and therapeutic model is presented in easily understandable language for the benefit of any care-giver (e.g. family member, friend or nurse) or the patient him/herself.