A spinal cord injury is traumatic and life-changing, and sets you on a very slow road to recovery. Injuries result when the nerves in the spinal cord are damaged due to sudden trauma like that from a blow or a knife wound. The protective bone structure around the spinal cord, called vertebrae, is damaged and bone splinters, ligaments, fragments or disc material tear into the spinal cord tissues.
Spinal cord injury falls into two categories- complete and incomplete. In a complete injury, sensory and motor functions are impaired completely, whereas in incomplete injury various aspects of neuromotor functions are impaired.
Spinal cord injury might result from various causes, the most common being motor vehicle accidents. Falls, acts of violence and sport injuries also cause spinal cord injuries in many people. Diseases like cancer, arthritis and osteoporosis, and alcoholism also contribute to spinal cord injuries and malfunction.
What Is a Spinal Cord Injury?
If a person is suspected to have sustained a spinal cord injury, it is important that he is kept completely still until emergency medical aid arrives. Any movement can aggravate the damage already done and result in further complications.
Spinal cord may get damaged when there is trauma to the neck or to the back. It is difficult to point out exact symptoms, but some signs do point to spinal cord damage. A spinal cord injury causes various responses in the body. They include difficulty in breathing, severe pain, inability to balance oneself and feelings of numbness and weakness in different parts of the body.
The injured person needs to be rushed to the nearest Level 1 trauma care center where tests have to be performed to detect the extent of injury. Treatment and surgical care are administered to patients to alleviate pain, prevent deterioration and cure infections. Movements are restricted with the help of body braces and neck collars to prevent further injuries.
X-rays, Computerized Tomography (CT) scans and myelograms are performed to assess the extent of damage. Further treatment depends on the injury suffered by nerve roots and tissues.
Though trauma from accidents, sports injuries, falls and acts of violence are most common, spinal cord injuries can happen due to other causes as well. Certain illnesses, electrical shock and acute loss of oxygen to brain tissues like that suffered from underwater mishaps, can cause spinal cord injuries.
Contrary to popular notion, the spinal cord need not be fully severed for a loss in sensory and motor functions. The spinal tissues or nerves can get stretched or crushed, or bruised due to impact. A small injury to the spinal nerves can result in SCI.
An injured spinal cord can no longer coordinate body movements. It is unable to send signals back and forth from the brain to other parts of the body, thus hampering sensory, motor and autonomous functions. This results in partial or complete paralysis.
How Can You Heal?
If you or someone close to you has suffered a spinal cord injury, you would know how devastating and utterly overwhelming the event is.
The period of grief that follows is painful and traumatic. Doctors and spinal health experts say that grieving is normal and is essential for the recovery that follows. It is not an easy terrain to negotiate, and the best way to arm yourself is to gather as much information as possible about your condition.
Your doctor will refer you to a rehab once you are stabilized and the injuries have healed. The goal of a stint at the rehab is to learn to come to terms with the injury, and understand how to fully appreciate life in a different way, both physically and emotionally.
Depending on the extent of paralysis, you will have to learn to control and manage your bowel and bladder functions. If the lower part of the body is affected you will have to learn to walk with the help of crutches or use a wheelchair. You will also be helped with breathing exercises and other workout sessions that help in improving motor functions.
Rehab activities help you adjust to a life that has lesser feeling and mobility than you previously had. There are specialists at rehabs to help patients with different types of spinal cord injuries and impairments.
You may still be grieving for the loss of life as you once knew it and wondering how you will cope. At the rehab, you will be encouraged to open up about the doubts and fears you have. Learning to cope is the first step towards recovery and a rehab helps you in this.
Physical rehabilitation involves learning to build, strengthen and improve muscular control. You will learn to perform all essential day-to-day activities like brush your teeth and cook, as independently as possible. You will realize that life after the stint at the rehab can be fulfilling and satisfying, provided you learn to accept and deal with your feelings, be open about your needs, and be ready for physical and emotional intimacy.
Rehab centers work with both the injured person and his family. Your loved ones will also need to know as much as possible about your condition and ways in which you can be helped in the recovery.
Seek Legal Counsel
Sometimes spinal cord injuries result from mistakes that are not yours. If you suffered debilitating spinal cord injury when your motorbike was hit by an over-speeding car or due to a fall from a broken staircase, you can sue for negligence.
Personal injury lawsuits, especially spinal cord injury cases, are complicated and complex. There are aggressive personal injury and car accident lawyers Austin who will be able to deal with such cases in all capacity.
You will need to prove that the person or party you are suing has caused the injury due to negligence and is at fault. If you work with a reputed and trusted law firm you will not go under-represented or under-compensated.
Spinal cord injury has life-changing ramifications. There are many people who have lived a fulfilling life with paralysis, complete with enjoying lasting relationships and sexual intimacy, and parenting kids. Reach out to SCI resource centers and connect with communities to ensure you do not walk alone.