Paralysis

1st August 2017
Posted in Blog
1st August 2017 geri

Paralysis

I’ve often been asked what does paralysis feel like and despite being paralyzed for almost four years now, I can’t fully explain it. The moment the impact occurred it was as if an electrical short-circuit occurred in my body; as if a trip-switch had been hit and everything went instantly numb despite being fully conscious. No pain, no feeling anywhere, just a still, surreal calmness and a floating body experience.

A common misconception of paralysis is that it occurs from either the neck down or the waist down but this is incorrect. The body is so much more complex than that and paralysis doesn’t always occur in one straight line across the body.  A quadriplegic, like me, is someone with impairment in all four limbs, trunk muscles and organs; they may be able to move their arms but triceps and finger dexterity is impaired. In paraplegia normal hand function remains whilst trunk muscles and the lower body is affected.

A healthier self in 2017

A healthier self in 2017

 

Spinal cord injuries can result from damage not only to the spinal cord itself but to the vertebrae, ligaments or disks of the spinal column. Ultimately, the spinal cord (the nerve fibers relaying electrical signals to and from the brain to every part of the body) is damaged.  This may lead to impairment in part or all of the corresponding muscles and nerves below the injury site.

Leading to my next point; Spinal cord injuries can be divided into two types of injury – complete and incomplete depending on the severity of the injury. A complete injury does not necessarily mean that the spinal cord is completely severed. It means that there is no function below the level of the injury; e.g. no sensation including hot or cold and no voluntary movement. Both sides of the body are equally affected. This is my case with burns from hot items including hot water bottles, cups of coffee etc being a permanent hazard.

Slovakian sunflower

Slovakian sunflower

An incomplete injury means that there is some functioning below the primary level of the injury. A person with an incomplete injury may be able to move one limb more than another, may be able to feel parts of the body that cannot be moved, or may have more functioning on one side of the body than the other.

So if you can’t feel anything how do you know you are hot/cold or if something’s uncomfortable? Essentially, any painful, irritating, or even strong stimulus below the level of the injury for example too tight clothing can cause an episode of autonomic dysreflexia. The symptoms include flushing and sweating only above the level of injury, bradycardia, pupillary constriction, anxiety and nasal congestion and below the level of injury, there is pale, cool skin and piloerection. So despite a broken communication network between the body and brain, the body still manages to notify the brain that something is wrong just in a different way than before.

Off-road

Off-road

Comments (8)

  1. Paul

    Great blog Geri. This November 6th will mark my 4th year as a incomplete C5-C6. It’s nice to hear other people’s perspective when it comes to dealing with there peralises. It was so hard for me in my first month to try and grasp what had happened. But Looking back now I am able to see just how far I have come and that even though I have a bad day now and then as long as you stay focused and set goals you can accomplish anything.

    • geri

      Thanks Paul. Mine will be four years this October. That’s it exactly, in the beginning it’s completely overwhelming and it’s only with time the mount Everest becomes smaller hills which you can begin to gradually overcome. I like your perspective setting achievable goals and taking one at a time. Keep reading and all comments and suggestions are welcome.

  2. Mary

    GerI read your blog all the time. I’m not very good on face book so hope I’m replying in the right place. I think its really good. Xx Mary K.

  3. Mary

    Geri,
    Replying from New York. Read your blog, then re-read it again. So much to learn, and your explanation of paralysis was brilliant. I’m learning so much of a topic I knew nothing prior.

    Is it ok to comment even though I am not dealing with SCI? I was basically introduced to you via Facebook, and I’ve jumped on the appreciation a.k.a. awe “bandwagon” since learning of your story and blog.

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us. Keep on keeping on!

    Sincerely,
    Mary

    • geri

      Mary, I am delighted you are enjoying the blogs and delighted to have you on board. That’s what it’s all about raising awareness. Prior to my injury I would not have know any of it either despite having down eight years of science in college. I am honoured to pass on my knowledge and thanks for reading xx

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