The other day someone asked me a question that’s been lingering with me a bit. They asked me what the most difficult part of my injury is. Well… Where do I start? I heard a saying once that “losing a body part is just as devastating as losing an immediate family member”. So, if that’s true I lost two legs, two hands, ten fingers, ten toes, my core and my trunk. Those are all the main body parts effected by my injury. If that saying is accurate, then I lost just about my whole family and then some. I know there’s people reading this thinking well you still have some use of your fingers and hands so technically you didn’t lose them completely. This is true and I agree to an extent, but I didn’t make up the saying, it’s just a comparison. A comparison that I, personally, think is a great one.
When they asked me this question at first I had to sit there and think really hard. Which is more important, your hands or legs? That’s a pretty tough question, but I finally came up with my best answer. The most difficult part of my injury was losing my hands. If you think about it your hands are like your best friends. You literally do everything together. You express yourself using them, you use them while talking, to describe something, etc. I can go on for days about all the things you do with your hands without even giving it the slightest thought.
When my accident initially happened I had no motor control whatsoever in my hands. Lifting my arm off the bed was one of my first huge successes. My surgeon had the idea that I would forever remain a “quadriplegic” and be bedridden for the rest of my life. We know now that isn’t going to happen but the fact that I once was in such bad shape that the Chief Neurosurgeon had such low hopes for my life is still a scary thought. While still in the hospital I would spend hours just staring at my fingers trying to move them, hoping some sort of miracle would happen and a little signal would go through my broken spine to my fingers. For months my hands were frozen in time, maybe a little twitch here or there, but nothing major. This meant relying on others to feed me, clothe me, brush my teeth, wash my face, press buttons on the remote, move my pillow/blankets, hold my cup while I sip through a straw, text message my friends for me, itch my body, everything. I could not do anything for myself, literally. Because everyone has their own way of doing things adapting to this was very difficult. There is nothing in the world more frustrating.
Thankfully, I have much more return in my hands now-a-days. Although I don’t do most things like everyone else, I do most things and that’s what matters. I’ve talked to a lot of people who say hands take the longest to return because all of the muscles are so small, which I totally understand. The biggest struggle in the case of a spinal cord is the uncertainty. The time limit is uncertain and the amount of return is uncertain, leaving you feeling stranded in your own life. As you progress and become more knowledgable about your body and treatments things do get easier, but never more certain.
I didn’t make this blog to whine and complain to you all, so instead of leaving on a negative note like that I’ll end with a progression video from yesterday’s therapy session. I walked the longest distance thus far, 120 feet! (Note: we didn’t film the whole 120 ft in case you watch it and say to yourself “that didn’t look like that far”) Enjoy!
Never take your hands, or any body part for that matter, for granted.