I dislocated and broke vertebrae c5-c6. C7 is the one that usually pokes out the most, so it’s the two above that. My spinal cord was squashed and emergency surgery was performed to release the pressure. 4 screws and a plate were inserted as well as bone from my hip to fuse that part of my neck.
The further up the neck you hurt the less movement you have.
With my level of injury I have movement in my neck, shoulders, upper back muscles, biceps and wrists, with my right side currently stronger than my left.
My fingers don’t work, as well as my pecs, stomach, lower back muscles, and of course my legs. I also have no control over my bladder and bowels.
I have flickers in my triceps and even though I hope for these to keep improving, flickers don’t necessarily mean the muscle will regain full function.
This is the movement I have four months post injury, but doctors say there is a slight chance you can regain more movement up to two years post injury.
I have normal feeling to just above my nipple line. One side of each arm feels normal with the elbow side feeling numb, I can hit my elbow and not even know. My thumbs have normal sensation but this gets progressively worse as you go to the next finger, to the point where I can’t feel my little fingers.
There are some other places down the rest of my body where, when touched, there is a pins and needles sensation. One of these places is my feet.
Other Perks of a Spinal Cord Injury
Other than the obvious limitations in movement, there are a lot of other inconveniences with spinal cord injuries that before my accident I wouldn’t have known.
Temperature – My body can’t regulate its own temperature. Meaning when I go outside and its cold/hot my body can’t heat/cool itself back to normal temperature. I learnt this the hard way when I went outside on a reasonably cool day with just a t-shirt on, my temperature dropped to hypothermic levels and I had to be wrapped in a space blanket for a couple of hours.
Spasm – Messages sent to my brain below the area of injury are blocked by scar tissue and nerve damage, so when my body is stimulated below the level of injury it causes my body to spasm. This is very noticeable when a muscle is stretched, when my legs are moved, and when some sort of pain occurs below the level of injury. This makes sleeping difficult when my legs are stretched out, doesn’t give me a lot of confidence in my chair knowing a spasm can happen at anytime, and makes transferring hard. But most of all it is annoying and uncomfortable.
Pressure sores – Are caused by lack of movement, or pressure on an area for an extended period of time. As I’m sitting on my arse for most of the day if I don’t pressure release every 2 hours or so I will get a pressure sore. I pressure release by either putting my head between my knees for a minute or by going side to side taking weight off each butt cheek for a while. Pressure sores can leave people in bed for months going from one side of their body to the other, unable to get up in there chair. I had to do this for a week when I had a minor pressure sore caused by a seam in my pants.
Catheter – I have no control over my bladder and for the first 4 months I had a catheter coming out of my penis draining into a leg bag. After that time I had an operation so that the tube now comes out of my stomach in between my penis and belly button and still drains into the leg bag. Having a bag of piss on my leg is not something that I enjoy and I can become quite uncomfortable when it gets full and is noticeable out in public.
With a catheter in I am at more risk of an urinary infection, this has happened a couple of times to me thus far and caused my temperature to go through the roof, increased my spasm and made me vomit. I also have to be careful with my catheter blocking, one time my catheter blocked and I had 950ml of urine in my bladder before the nurses realised, this could cause me to disreflex or even make my bladder burst.
Bowels – The worst part of my day is getting ready in the morning. In the morning the nurse will come in and put a supository up my bum, I have to wait 20 minutes before i can get up and go into the bathroom at this point the nurse will push into my stomach a few times (because i have no stomach muscles to push myself) then give me 5 minutes of my own time, this will be repeated as much as needed and when done the nurse will put their finger up there again to check to see if i’m finished. I hate this process and it will probably be the main reason why I’ll need a carer when I go home.
Dysreflexia – Is a medical emergency that causes head aches, profuse sweating, flushing of the skin above the level of injury, anxiety, and high blood pressure which can lead to a stroke. The causes of dysreflexia can be a blocked catheter, constipation, urinary infection, injury below the area of injury and reaction to medication, an ingrown toe nail can even cause dysreflexia.
Fat gut – Always was fit and kept myself in good shape now I have a fat gut as I have no muscles in my stomach to keep my insides in there.