When I sit down to write on such a broad topic as a spinal cord injury and what I’d want to share with our readers, the first things that comes to my mind is – life is fragile. This injury is not picky – it can happen to anyone at any time and it really tests your strength, resiliency and shows you what’s important in life.
Having been injured for 17 years now I still feel like some days I’m getting used to life sitting down, yet other days I have a hard time remembering my “old life”.
I feel like my brain is always going full speed and planning things before they happen. For example, if going out for the day (let’s pretend it’s pre-Covid) I have to make sure everywhere I go has access to get in, a washroom I can use, parking – well that’s an entire article on it’s own – just to name a few things. Before my spinal cord injury, “winging it” was much easier. I’m not saying I can’t be spontaneous anymore, it just looks a bit different. Thank goodness I’m a natural planner! That makes things a lot easier.
Often people will think that a spinal cord injury means you can’t walk and that’s it. That is completely false. The other thing is that there are no two injuries that are the same. I have a C6/7 Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury. That doesn’t mean that someone else with that level has the same damage as me. I’m considered incomplete because I have a tiny bit of muscle in my upper back that’s lower than my injury level. But I’m pretty much paralyzed from above my chest down with zero function or sensation. So it’s much more than not being able to walk.
I’m going to make an executive decision and say that every person with a spinal cord injury, if given a choice of what they want most, would choose their bladder and bowel function back. Just going to the washroom is a huge, I’m going to say it, inconvenience. Many people with spinal cord injuries have trained their bowels and have set days. And some days are longer than others and you really want to make sure you’re done. And with bladder, we either have to do a catheter every time we need to pee, like me, or others have indwelling catheters or some men have the option of what’s called a condom drainage. Yes this is probably too much information for the average person, but I’m guessing our readers are far from average. And I think it will give some insight on just a couple parts of the injury. I’m not shy to talk about this kind of stuff.
Life doesn’t stop due to a spinal cord injury, we just have to pivot. And often pivot again and again and again. The word resilience would definitely be one I’d use to explain this. Everything we did before we can still do, some things just may need to be adapted, done differently, need help to accomplish and so on. When I first got injured at 20 did I see myself being married, owning a successful business and a mother one day? Absolutely not. But it’s just because I had never known anyone with a spinal cord injury. I didn’t know about all the sports, ways to adapt activities and more. There are so many things at our fingertips. That’s why I’m a huge supporter of Spinal Cord Injury BC. It’s an organization all about supporting people living with spinal cord injuries and living life to the fullest. Like my husband says “taking the can’t away”.
What I want to make sure is heard most of all is that life goes on. I’m human and yes I have moments. We all do. I’m looking forward to teaching my daughter that even when things are hard that anything is possible. And to never underestimate someone, especially herself. The world is already full of enough “you can’t” and negativity, why not choose to be the positive light and the one that decided “I can.”