Life after a spinal cord injury – a personal insight
Spinal cord injuries can be life changing and devastating not only to the individuals directly affected but also to their families. The recovery pathway from spinal cord injuries is unpredictable. Some survivors of catastrophic injuries spontaneously walk again. Others undergo years of physical therapy just to regain small movements in muscles to be able to do basic things we all take for granted.
Having personally suffered from a spinal injury, I know very well the mental and physical difficulties an individual faces.
My own injury was not caused by anyone’s negligence, and as I am a personal injury solicitor helping clients who have suffered due to the negligent acts of others, I feel it’s important to share my story because it lends neutrality to the situation. I am also in the fortunate position of being able to understand first-hand what my clients are experiencing.
It was in November 2018 that I suffered a rupture of an AVM (arterio venous malformation) in my spine which led to a bleed. A spinal arteriovenous malformation (AVM) is a rare, abnormal tangle of blood vessels on, in or near the spinal cord. Without treatment it can cause permanent damage.
In a flash my life was turned upside down. My focus was on the fact that I was about to become a mother, being pregnant at the time. Things I took for granted such as walking were no longer routine for me. I had to relearn the most basic things such as taking a few steps, alongside learning new tasks such as transferring from my wheelchair into a chair.
Having undergone surgery, I then spent four months in rehabilitation at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, relearning to walk. Initially I was using a wheelchair as my right leg was very weak and practically paralysed. Fortunately, as time when on, I felt my muscles responding and strengthening and I was able to walk with aids such as a frame, orthotics and then progressing to crutches.
In rehabilitation, the days were pretty intensive, and I would push myself to attend physiotherapy and focus on strengthening my leg. Being someone who wasn’t into fitness before my injury, the gym became part of my new normal.
I don’t wish to focus on the emotional challenges I endured, but rather to emphasise the importance of the practical side of rehabilitation after a spinal injury.
I was fortunate to receive specialist neuro physiotherapy from a team of therapists who were experienced in dealing with individuals who have suffered spinal injuries. However, it was in rehabilitation that I was able to connect with others who have suffered such injuries, and this was where I got first-hand experience of how a spinal injuries patient is managed.
People who think about spinal cord injuries often fixate on paralysis, the most severe symptom. But it’s not just your movement that will be affected. Some other symptoms a person may experience, depending on the location and nature of your injury, include:
* Difficulty controlling your bladder or bowels;
* Difficulty with sexual function;
* Pain at the site of the injury, or neuropathic pain;
* Altered sensations throughout your body;
* Difficulty breathing without assistance, or changes in your breathing;
* Skin problems, especially pressure sores.
I was able to see from my own experience that physical therapy has the power to rewire your brain and spine. Since my injury, I have a newfound appreciation for my body. Our bodies and our movements are incredible and should not be taken for granted. It is easy to underestimate just how much is involved with simple movements, until you are faced with an entirely different body that simply does not react the same way.
The key to my recovery, which is still very much ongoing, was the support network I built around me, from physiotherapists, occupational health therapists and mentors I was able to talk to via spinal injury charities. I also had supportive employers who were very understanding.
For me returning to work since my injury has definitely made me gain a deeper understanding of the emotions and challenges faced by an individual after suffering a traumatic injury. In turn it assisted in developing a stronger relationship with my personal injury clients.
At Anthony Gold, our injury and medical negligence team is made up of specialist personal injury lawyers who have many years of experience in dealing with such complex cases and of putting in place rehabilitation and much needed support for the individual concerned and their families. We deal with clients with compassion and sensitivity, while all the time prioritising their legal rights.
*Disclaimer: The information on the Anthony Gold website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. It is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied.*