Living with a Spinal Cord Injury

20 May 2021

Spinal injuries are unpredictable and life changing. The location of the injury is key, and generally speaking the higher up the injury in the spinal column, the more severe the consequences. 

I suffered from a spinal injury, although today it is invisible to the naked eye.  At the age of 13, I fell off a horse when jumping. I recall landing flat on my spine and the pain that followed.  I had fractured several vertebrae in my lower thoracic spine and crushed a disc (at T12/L1).  My spinal cord was not affected.

I was put into a rigid plastic corset (which went from my clavicle to my sacrum) for six months during which time I had a robotic gait. I commenced an intensive programme of physiotherapy coupled with swimming several times a week.  Overall, I made a good recovery and my injury was of relatively low level severity.  That said, nearly 20 years later, I still receive regular follow up from physiotherapists. My back remains weak and painful at times; there is a noticeably tender area. I have a specific exercise routine to keep my core strong; when I lose muscle strength the pain creeps back.   I experienced pelvic girdle pain during pregnancy. I have been advised the pain will get worse as I age.  Although my injury was not permanently debilitating and is well managed for now, to this day I continue to learn how to deal with it.

As a medical negligence and personal injury solicitor, I have worked on behalf of a number of individuals who have suffered severe spinal cord injuries. I have assisted individuals in the early stages of the injury, where the road ahead seems littered with challenges and lives are turned upside down.

There is often a period of grieving in the early stages. It can take years to acknowledge the injury and its profound changes on the body and the mind.  Spinal injuries are traumatic and individuals should not shy away from seeking specialist psychological support.

Tasks like washing, dressing or even using the toilet become new challenges.  Bodily functions change after a spinal injury and it is common for individuals with complete injuries to lose bowel and bladder function.  Strategies need to be put in place to manage continence.

Other areas can be affected like sexual function, fertility, pain sensations and skin problems arising from new pressure points.  Accommodation can become unsuitable and require substantial adaptation or even relocation.  Anyone with a severe spinal cord injury would say that almost every aspect of their life changes and that often even the simplest of tasks need rethinking.

Most spinal injuries are evolving.  Physical therapy is essential to maximise physical functioning (for example, a paraplegic may want to focus on developing upper limb strength).  Rehabilitation takes places with a multi-disciplinary team which can include physiotherapists, nurses, rehabilitation consultants and occupational therapists.  Each spinal injury is unique, therefore individuals need tailored rehabilitation.

Charities, such as the Spinal Injuries Association , provide a wealth of advice and support to all of those affected by spinal cord injuries. 

Riding For the Disabled  use animal therapy by enabling individuals to horse ride. The RDA’s approach is to focus on what an individual can do instead of their limitations. Individuals who take up new activities can achieve remarkable sporting achievements; the national Paralympics team is a testament to this.  I have seen individuals over the years who have been severely injured but show incredible resilience and strength in embarking on this unplanned chapter of life. 

If you, or a member of your family, are affected by any of the issues covered in our blogs please contact one of our specialist spinal and back injury lawyers on enquiries@kingsleynapley.co.uk or call us on 0207 814 1200.

FURTHER INFORMATION

If you would like any further information or advice about the topic discussed in this blog, please contact Eurydice Cote or our Medical Negligence and Personal Injury team.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eurydice Cote is an Associate in the Clinical Negligence and Personal Injury Team. She advises individuals who have sustained catastrophic and life changing injuries. Eurydice has helped clients who have sustained a range of injuries, including complete and incomplete spinal cord injury, amputation, orthopaedic injuries, gastrointestinal injuries and loss of vision.

 

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