Today is Spinal Injuries Awareness Day, so no surprise that my own spinal injury is on my mind this morning….
Apparently every eight hours someone suffers a spinal cord injury; in the summer of 1990 I was one of them. I had been diving off rocks into the sea and in one unfortunate second I struck my head on a rock that was submerged beneath the waves. I was fully conscious throughout and was acutely aware that I had injured myself fairly badly but had no real knowledge of the actual extent of my injuries.
The impact to my head had cut my scalp, crushed my spine and I suffered a cervical fracture at C7 causing permanent damage to my spinal cord. I was lucky to be alive.
I’ll never forget the realisation that I couldn’t move my legs, nor the 30 minutes that followed, even typing this now I can feel my heart beating faster. I shan’t go into graphic details now; those of you who have been there will know the quiet, internal chaos that follows a life changing trauma.
The first week was a blur of hospitals, consultants and airplanes and I was finally admitted to Stoke Mandeville Spinal Injuries Unit seven days after my injury. I can remember still feeling fearful but with a sense of calm and reassurance that I was finally in the best and safest place I could be. Over the next 10 months the nurses and physios were incredible, always dedicated to getting me fit, strong and independent; I couldn’t have received better specialist care.
This isn’t a post to detail my rehab experience, but for anyone in the early stages of recovery from a spinal cord injury I want to assure you that it does get better and life gets much easier. No, it will never be the same as it was prior to your injury, but that doesn’t mean it has to be worse. However, your own attitude and approach to life will figure in this hugely. Without a doubt the people I know who have succeeded post injury are those who are optimistic, ambitious, tenacious and positive; (a dark sense of humour is also hugely beneficial).
Coincidentally on the news this morning there was also a report from The Lancet medical journal revealing that a young man from Oregon has been able to stand and control some lower limb movement after an electrode was implanted in his spine as part of a research programme at the University of Louisville.
I like to see stories like this to inspire hope, I don’t really ever think about walking or regaining movement in the future, partly because currently it’s such an impossible dream, partly because I have no desire to stagger down the street with a battery pack in my spine and 100 electrodes stuck to my legs, (not a good look!) but primarily because I prefer to spend my time living life and enjoying all it has to offer in the here and now.