The Human Body (a spiritual approach)

I recently came across a sermon by the well-known, Louie Giglio of the Passion Conferences. If you haven’t heard of Passion, it’s a global tour aimed at ministering to young adults between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five. It’s an event I missed out on while I was in college. The headquarters are in Atlanta, Georgia. There are speakers and music artists – some that I’ve seen perform at other venues!

The sermon helped me put things in perspective, and realize that my problems are small. I have to have faith even when things don’t go as planned because all things are held together in our bodies and in the stars and the planets. Louie says “the earth is the size of a golf ball” in comparison to the universe; nonetheless, each of us are made in the image and likeness of Him.

He asks how we can know that God will “hold us together.” He states, “That’s really what we want to know.” He discusses the function of laminin, a cell-adhesion protein molecule and its function in our bodies. It’s the protein that tells our cells what to do. It’s the glue that holds our bodies together! It provides attachment for cells inside organs.

Laminins are in humans and animals and crucial for our survival. They’re in the shape of a cross! They hold one cell of our bodies to the next. I had already heard of laminin before, but it was great to find Loui’s video that gives such a vivid portrayal. I have made the symbols of the cross over my abdomen on many occasions. I had no idea I was doing over laminins! It’s a prayer!

Here is a clip of the video if you would like to watch it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSR8z_0uW5E

About Zina

Zina Hermez is the author of the book Not Without God: A Story of Survival and has been a long-time educator. Her stories have been featured in Christianity Today, the Salonpas blog, Spinal Cord Injury Zone, and the Breathe Conference. She’s written various guest posts, newsletters, and nearly 200 of her very own articles. A few of her hobbies include meeting new people, taking road-trips, and listening to music! You can follow her for updated articles at http://www.zinahermez.com, or connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Your Miracle Will Happen!

~”Thoughts” by Zina Hermez

Ever wonder why it’s taking so long? I used to think I had to wait for miracles? Sometimes we do. Miracles are a process though. We can play a part in making them happen. Prayer and exercise are my two faith pillars. They keep me grounded. I pray while I’m working out. I ask God to help in different areas of my life, and I pray for loved ones. It helps me sort out thoughts!

Have you ever become content in a bad situation? Have you ever told yourself that you can’t do something because it’s been too long? In order for a miracle to occur, you have to do something. Miracles seem to be spontaneous, but we have to act as co-creators with God by taking action!

God hears every prayer. You may be praying for one thing, but He can answer a prayer you prayed for long ago. You may have forgotten how badly you wanted it! Think about the lame man that was healed in Acts 3. He was a beggar. He wasn’t asking to be healed from his paralysis anymore. When John and Peter were going into the temple the man asked them for alms.  

Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk (Acts 3:6).” Then Peter took him by the right hand and helped him up. I think the man gave up on hope because he was that way for so long. However, he still had a spark! If he didn’t, he would not have gone around leaping, excited, and telling everyone!

Remember: when you lose your hope, you lose your faith, you’re emptied of desires, and your belief disintegrates. You can lose your opportunity for any potential miracle!

God knows what’s best for us. He doesn’t always say yes, but he usually doesn’t say no when we are reasonable. I learned he sometimes says “not right now.” But we have to be mobile. What is your plan of action? He could be waiting on you to start!

 

NO Exercise is Detrimental

Writer’s conference – California, USA

Today I’d like to write about exercise and how important it is for all of us. I’m constantly working on exercise in hopes of reaching my long term walking goals. I go to the gym, use the treadmill, elliptical, arm, back, and leg weight machines. I keep notes on my cell phone to record number of minutes, repetitions, and time.

Doctors say we only need thirty minutes a day of walking, jogging, or some other form of activity to maintain health. However, in order to build muscle, improve drastically, or attain a specific goal it is good to be on a workout regimen. I walk with crutches after a bad accident that left me paralyzed as a teen.

I have taken physical therapy into my own hands because often times in physical therapy, I have found that my best interests were not at the forefront. Therapists often quoted science in response to my hopes, and they put limitations on my dreams of walking based on my injuries. The beauty about having faith is that when you do, you are able to defy science!

It’s amazing how good I feel, and I am improving on my own. I can complete activities that I couldn’t do before, and I have more energy throughout the day! Things that would take longer to complete are faster now. I recommend exercise for everyone. It keeps us healthy, and I look forward to it. I never miss an appointment!

God never gives up on us, we must not give up on ourselves. I believe all things are possible because I have witnessed it in my own life.

“How a Teenager Overcame Traumatic Injuries”

My story was shared on the Salonpas blog earlier today, and I wanted to post it! I answered questions from a reporter in New York about myself and my book. Here is the link: http://www.salonpas.us/blog/teenager-overcame-traumatic-injuries/

I was asked how I felt when I first heard I would not walk again from doctors after my accident, and what my first major step in recovery was. Other questions were about what role my faith has played, and what made me decide to write a book, along with more! I am pleased with the article!

Hope you enjoy it!

About Zina

Zina Hermez authored the book Not Without God: A Story of Survival and created the Spinal Cord Injury Solutions! online website. Zina works as an English Language Instructor, and has been an educator for nearly fifteen years. Her thousands of students have been from many parts of the world, and she’s worked with all ages.

Zina writes articles on faith and overcoming disability, and her stories have been featured in Christianity Today, Spinal Cord Injury Zone, SCI Access, newsletters, and medical journals among many other various publications. To learn more about Zina visit http://zinahermez.com.

A Marine that Walked Again!

Here is a beautiful and inspiring story of a marine I found on Google, and I wanted to share it! Here is the link: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/nation/2014/11/24/marine-bionic-legs-bronze-star/70062558/ This article also does a nice job explaining what the ReWalk is—one of the latest advancements in technology for people with spinal-cord-injuries. It is battery powered, a wearable robotic device that enables people with paraplegia and other types of lower limb dysfunction the ability to stand, and actually walk!

I’m grateful I don’t need the ReWalk to walk, but for this advancement I am very thankful because I think it will change lives for the better and help a lot of people walk again. Even if minimally, it will get them out of their wheelchairs. Just like it has helped Capt. Herrera.

About Zina

Zina Hermez authored the book Not Without God: A Story of Survival and created the Spinal Cord Injury Solutions! online website. Zina works as an English Language Instructor, and has been an educator for nearly fifteen years. Her thousands of students have been from many parts of the world, and she’s worked with all ages.

Zina writes articles on faith and overcoming disability, and her stories have been featured in Christianity Today, Spinal Cord Injury Zone, SCI Access, newsletters, and medical journals among many other various publications. To learn more about Zina visit http://zinahermez.com.

The Fall

I drive through this route almost every day, and it lasts for several miles. I always do my best to take in the scenery, and I’m usually listening to music in my car. It is peaceful. I love the fall season. What comes next is not so fun—winter. But I’ve lived in Michigan all of my life so I am used to it. The snow and ice-covered trees look especially beautiful though.the fall Our winters can be harsh. I’ll never forget how I fell in 2013. I was walking down my ramp to go to work in the morning, and my crutch hit an ice patch. We were in the midst of a snow storm. My body twisted and I fell to the ground. I was okay. My neighbor Jay saw me and came out quickly to help. It was a wake-up call for me to take more precaution. I now use a walker down my ramp if it is icy on the ground. I can walk on my crutches fine, even in a few inches of snow. It is just the ice that kind of scares me since that fall. I am still bearing a little bit of weight through my arms.

About Zina

Zina Hermez authored the book Not Without God: A Story of Survival and created the Spinal Cord Injury Solutions! on-line website. Zina works as an English Language Instructor, and has been an educator for nearly fifteen years her thousands of students have been from many parts of the world and she’s worked with all ages.

Zina writes articles on faith and overcoming disability and her stories have been featured in Christianity Today, Spinal Cord Injury Zone, SCI Access, newsletters, and medical journals among many other various publications. To learn more about Zina visit http://zinahermez.com.

My latest article on Spinal Cord Injury Zone!

People sometimes write to me from other countries. I recently got an email out of India, and it was a plea for help. The writer has a family member that was injured in an accident, and the family member now has a spinal-cord-injury (SCI). I believe that in countries such as India, medical insurance (especially for those with spinal injuries) can be harder to afford than it is in the U.S.

He wrote: “Dear Zina, my brother in law had an accident 2 weeks back and is now a paraplegic even after 2 spinal surgeries. He has a T11-12 fracture. The Dr. says he won’t be able to walk again it’s too depressing. We live in India and we don’t have enough money for survival. My sister and brother in law are so depressed as they are having a 2 year old son. Can you guide us in what we can do to get recovery. Please guide us for recovery. Kind regards, Ruchi.”

These kinds of posts are always sad. I have already responded, but I would like to address Ruchi’s request and answer here for him as well as for the others that have written to me with similar requests on my blog. I have posted this advice several times. After a spinal-cord-injury, health insurance could very well not be affordable. However, you may be able to find a personal-trainer that is willing to help you at a reasonable cost. He or she can design a safe but challenging exercise program designed specifically for the patient’s needs.

Of course the physical therapist or trainer would determine when it would be safe to start exercise/physical therapy after spinal-cord damage. A family member also may be able to help if hiring a personal trainer or physical therapist is not an option. But safety must come first! You don’t want the person with SCI to become worse by risking further injuries.

I am not a doctor or psychologist. I don’t have a non-profit. I‘m a teacher and a writer and I started my blog in 2012. I have separated articles into categories and have given free tips, inspiration, and medical information. I also wrote a book, Not Without God: A Story of Survival and it describes how I healed from near-fatal injuries as a result of an accident that left me paralyzed at sixteen. While crossing the street to get to my friend’s bus stop, I was hit by a car. It’s a miracle from the Lord that I’m alive and able to walk.

In my book, I explain simple things I do such as getting daily exercise and taking fifteen minutes a day for prayer. It may be helpful to keep a food diary to know your body as spinal-cord-injury can also affect your digestive system. Another tip is to know how to listen carefully to your doctor without neglecting “your own doctor” within. Trust your intuitions–they can really help you! My book is more than just a personal story because it focuses on recovery.

Chapter five is called Some Quick Tips on How I Heal, and I suggest simple methods to recover such as prayer and exercise. I offer a short homework assignment at the end of the chapter where the reader is the student as well as the teacher. I encourage you to assess yourself! Please read my latest update, news, and article about my book on Spinal Cord Injury Zone:

http://www.spinalcordinjuryzone.com/info/12978/book-without-god-story-survival-published

Last but definitely not least—don’t forget to pray! Pray Always!

“Prayer will always change things! …you can’t talk to God and not have it change things!” –Bishop T.D. Jakes

 

“You’ll never walk again!”

He came into my hospital room one day, forcefully, past my mother! She must’ve been petrified. She was mad, but all of her strength couldn’t stop him from what he was about to do, tell her precious sixteen year old, her youngest, she would never walk again–and have to live in a wheelchair, for the rest of her life.

“You’ll never walk again!” he proclaimed. “Your accident..it…it..was just too bad!” He said quickly, almost in a blurb just to get it out. Clearly, he had been arguing outside of the door with my mother. With all the strength my poor mother had, she couldn’t stop him, even if she did want to throw him out the window!

He was just doing his job, or what he thought he was supposed to do, tell the bad news. After all, he didn’t want to give “false hope.” He stood up tall, in front of my bed, white coat, dutiful doctor and all. One would think at that age, I would’ve felt fear. He didn’t know my spirit. Instead I yelled back. “Yes I will,” in the same tone he gave me, as if I were throwing the dodge ball back. “You’re not God!” His attempt to predict what I could and couldn’t do proved unsuccessful.

I don’t know what angered me more, his trying to tell me what I would or wouldn’t be able to do, or his disregard for my mother. Even at a young age, I was protective of my mother. After a few more words were exchanged, and my convincing him that I wouldn’t accept his proposal, he stormed out of the room.

Mom had a strong faith too, and I know that helped me. She always told me I would walk again. I believed her. This doctor tried hard to tell me I wouldn’t. He wasn’t any of my life-saving team of surgeons. They would have never said that to me. Just some random internal-medicine doctor, who worked on the floor doing his rounds that day. He had our floor more than once, because I remember seeing him a few times, but I can’t even remember his name, just goes to show the impression he left on me.

When you are trying to get well, your goal is to recover and heal. Why is it that some health professionals tell you that after spinal-cord injury, you’ll be limited and confined to a wheelchair for the rest of your life? No one wants to hear that. No one wants to hear, “You had this accident, you’re spinal-cord injured. You will always need a wheelchair.” So why do they say it?

With no regard for miracles, some health professionals give a diagnosis according to science and the latest research. I have found that often times, some stubborn ones that I encountered had to know everything. Like the doctor in the story above. But I am stubborn too.

Some tried to defeat my dream. But I never cared. I held onto what I believed. Even if I did get treated like I was crazy. I held onto what God told me. I would walk. I did. Still not exactly as well as I would like. But I have not given up.

Healing is a process. Healing starts in the mind. It doesn’t happen overnight. Not that it can’t, it just seems to me that spinal-cord injury doesn’t know years. But we must not give up on faith to recover. We can still be healed.
This article is a spin-off from a story submission I made to Chicken Soup for the Soul

 

Children with disability

“If we see people with disabilities as passive recipients of care rather than as participants in the work of the kingdom, then we fail to understand the radical nature of God’s work in the world.” This is a quote I read in a blog post of an author who writes on having a child with Down Syndrome. Her name is Amy Julia Becker. I thought it was beautifully written so I wanted to share it.

I wrote an article that was published last week for the DMAN Foundation called A Donation from an Unexpected Donor. It was about a little girl with a disability named Brianna, and Amy Julia’s quote reminded me of my article so I wanted to share some of it:

Brianna Vitale was injured in a car wreck that left her paralyzed from the neck down and a C2-C3 quadriplegic at only age three. She is a patient of the DMAN Music Therapy Studio in Michigan where she receives regular music-therapy sessions on Fridays.

She surprised the chairman of the foundation while visiting the office one day when she gave him an envelope. When he opened it, he found a surprise–700 dollars in cash. She held a lemonade stand at “Heritage Days,” a local festival in Michigan to raise money for the foundation because she wanted other handicapped kids to enjoy the music-therapy studio.

Attendees were able to hold a booth at no charge. Assisted by her nurse, mother, two older sisters, younger brother, and grandfather, Bri sold lemonade. She also gave some of the proceeds to the Make a Wish Foundation.

Music therapy has really helped her with recovery. She talks with a whisper. This can be a common side effect for someone with a Trach. The therapy is great because while she is exercising her vocal chords, she is making her voice stronger. The hope is that she will be able to get rid of the ventilator.

Bri has lived through a tragedy that would be hard for many adults to face; but her physical limitations have not affected her spirit or the size of her heart.

She is twelve and when my accident happened I was sixteen. I’ll never forget how I felt when my sister and nurse broke the news to me, that some of the hospital staff wanted them to tell me I would never walk again.

“They are saying you aren’t going to walk,” my sister said with Regina, my nurse, quietly standing behind her. Regina’s hands were clasped as if she were in prayer mode; her presence was strong, her support. “But listen, you know about Jesus and you have faith.”

I can’t explain how I felt in those moments. It’s a feeling I will never forget. A feeling I pray for no one to ever experience but my sister was right, I did know Jesus and I did have faith. I just had not realized how well I knew him.

This is a poem I wrote in the hospital at that time:

GOD

GOD I am crying, crying out to you.
Will you help me, help me get through.
Through the hard times with faith, strength and wisdom.
And be able to face whatever the outcome.
I will give my hardest to do what I think is best for me.
With everything I got, heart, mind, ability will you hold my hand through this PLEASE?
But if in the end I will be upset, I’ll be thankful, thankful for being here with family and friends.
And thank you God we finally met.

Music therapy is helping Brianna and last week my doctor said I am still making progress. Recovery from SCI can take months, typically years but we should never give up on hope to recover, because it’s never too late! 

 

My article in “SCI Access”

SCI ACCESS: Insights and Information for People with Spinal Cord Injuries published my article.

Here is the link. Be sure to scroll down to page 14 and read “Alumni News.”

http://www.med.umich.edu/pmr/modelsci/Newsletters/SCI%20Access-Spring-2013.pdf

In a previous blog post I wrote that I would share the full article when it was published on the internet. This is their May 2013 newsletter issue. If you’re interested, check it out! I hope you can be inspired by some of the amazing stories of recovery and efforts to find a cure.

SCI Access is a newsletter provided by the University of Michigan Spinal Cord Injury Model System. UM-SCIMS is one of only fourteen SCI model systems in the United States.

They call me periodically to complete survey studies. I always gladly cooperate. I love to help U of M in any way I can, because that is the hospital that saved my life. You can also visit their main page: http://www.med.umich.edu/pmr/modelsci/

And this is a blog post I wrote about them back in July: https://zinahermez.wordpress.com/2012/07/04/university-of-michigan-c-s-mott-childrens-hospital/

I was there for almost three months after my accident in October of 1994. U of M became my home. When my future was unpredictable and grim, I felt safe there. When my discharge date drew nearer, I felt afraid and depressed. I did not want to go home because I developed a system there. I had learned how to deal with my injury.

The doctors and nurses were so friendly. Dr. Geiger had a smile that could light up any child’s life. Dr. Polley’s compassion was incomparable. Robin and Julie, my nurses were very kind. It amazes me that it’s been over eighteen years, and my team of doctors and surgeons are still there. Walking the floors of Mott Children’s, saving children, saving lives.

Love is a force that is able to heal the worst of situations. I pray for anyone in the hospital or ill to have the best care, the kind of care I was blessed to have at U of M.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ck1ZLuDBQUI

University of Michigan Spinal Cord Injury Model System Survey

I recently completed a study with the University of Michigan Spinal Cord Injury Model System. The UM-SCIMS is one of only fourteen SCI model systems in the United States. Successfully funded since 1985, they work to regularly keep in touch with those interested in being a part of SCIMS, to monitor clinical issues and collect key information to conduct research. Their goal is to enhance care.

They call me every few years to complete a study. I always gladly cooperate. It pays little, but it’s not the money that drives me to do it. It’s helping U of M in any which way I can, because that is the hospital that saved my life! You can read a blog post I wrote about them back in July: https://zinahermez.wordpress.com/2012/07/04/university-of-michigan-c-s-mott-childrens-hospital/

After the thirty minute interview, I inquired about writing for their newsletter, “SCI Access: Insights and Information for People with Spinal Cord Injuries.” The RN who interviewed me was thankful I asked because they are launching a new column called UM SCIMS Alumni News, so she emailed me the consent and other forms. The article is designed around a Q and A. The newsletter comes out in April. You can visit their web site here to learn more about them: http://www.med.umich.edu/pmr/modelsci/

These are the questions and my responses:

Q Tell us about yourself! Have any significant events taken place since your injury? Do you have any hobbies? What have you accomplished?

A On October 18th of 1994, I suffered a spinal cord injury. It was just weeks into the new school year, my junior year. While crossing the street on my way to school, I was hit by a car. My life changed forever. My spine broke at the L1-L2 level. I taught myself how to walk again. Today I’m walking everywhere with two forearm crutches, and practicing with one cane. It’s a miracle I’m alive. I hope to one day walk with no walking device. I’ve been in education for more than ten years. I enjoy helping others academically. I teach English to business people in the U.S on assignments at automotive corporations. I also teach classrooms at a Language center. I’m able to take care of myself.

Q Share your thoughts and advice? What has kept you motivated since your injury? What have you done to overcome any challenges you have met along the way?

A My advice would be to stay active and exercise. Whether in physical therapy, or with a trainer. Moving really does improve our health! Another article I wrote about that is here:  https://zinahermez.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/moving-improves-our-health/

It’s also good to stay connected to groups. One year ago I joined an on line writers’ group where I met authors. Through classes, webinars, and emails, I’ve been encouraged to write. I started my own blog to help cope with my spinal injury. It has been therapeutic, and given me great relief. My hope is that it helps others. You can visit my blog here: https://zinahermez.wordpress.com I believe we should never give up on hope for recovery, because it’s never too late to get well!

This is not the full article but once it is published I will repost.

How about you? What have you done to overcome obstacles? What have you accomplished? Whether SCI or another challenge, feel free to share your thoughts with me!

“Poor, and disabled!”

“He’s in a nursing home,” my friend got teary eyed. Her best friend John, became addicted to pain pills after a bad fall that broke his neck earlier this year. “He doesn’t have insurance. He was getting therapy at Beaumont hospital and making progress, and didn’t have the coverage to continue. The nursing home is really far, I haven’t been able to see him,” she explained. I’ve heard stories like this before. My other friend was surprised. Many people with Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) cannot get the adequate care they need to recover. It’s so tragic. “We had a fundraiser, and raised $11,000 dollars. His wheelchair alone cost $37,000,” she continued.

Lifetime costs of someone with SCI are anywhere from $1,000,000 to $3,000,000, depending upon their level of injury. In Michigan, we have something called “no-fault” insurance. This usually applies to automobile coverage, in which accident victims receive direct payment from the company with which they themselves are insured. They cover physical therapies or any appointments related to their accident, no matter whose fault it is.

I also had an accident. While crossing the street on my way to school, at sixteen years old, I was hit by a car. It was auto-related. I was a minor, and my father had insurance at the time. Thus, for life, I am covered for physical therapies, or any appointments related to my accident because Michigan has no-fault insurance. It relieves a lot of tension, and avoids hassle.

We are one of a few states that has it. There is a battle to try and ban it. If that were to happen, people would have a limited number of physical therapy sessions per year. I’ve completed maybe several hundred hours of physical therapy. A “fixed” number of therapy sessions would not be enough. How could anyone get out of a wheelchair and walk, with a fixed number of therapy sessions? With a spinal cord injury it would be hard.

The problem is people like John, and others whose stories I’ve heard either exhaust their savings, or simply cannot afford to get well. I met a guy who fell from a tree while hunting, and became spinal cord injured. He was athletic, a gym teacher, and no one would’ve thought. He had a fundraiser, as did John, but how much can fundraisers cover with the outrageous rising costs of healthcare and physical therapy? It’s almost as if you have to be a millionaire, to get injured. Only then could you afford it.

Motor vehicle crashes account for 40.4% of reported SCI cases. The next most common cause is falls at 27.9%, acts of violence at 15.0%, recreational sporting activities 8.0%, and other/unknown 8.5% – according to http://Mikeutley.org  

Physical therapy can cost anywhere from $100-150 dollars per hour. Sometimes more! I’m blessed to have coverage. I receive physical therapy two times per week. I go to the gym alone the other times. I thank God I’m healthy. Now I’m able to walk with forearm crutches. I’m hoping to recover enough to walk with no walking device. But what if my circumstances were different? What if my accident wasn’t auto-related, or my father didn’t have insurance? What if I was not in Michigan, and in a state that didn’t have no-fault?

Let’s keep a prayer for all of the spinal cord injured in our hearts..

“A Few Quick Tips on How I Heal” featured in Spinalcordinjuryzone.com!

My article, “A Few Quick Tips on How I Heal” was recently published on Spinalcordinjuryzone.com

You can check it out here:

http://www.spinalcordinjuryzone.com/info/11368/a-few-quick-tips-on-how-i-heal

The Spinal Cord Injury Zone website is a not-for-profit Spinal Cord Injury educational knowledge base. The mission of SCIZ is to archive important Spinal Cord Injury news and information for education and awareness. It’s my second article in the publication.

Inspired to write this some weeks ago, I wanted to share how I got better with tips in hopes that others would follow my example and gain some recovery. Positive feedback of how I helped someone through my article is heartwarming for me. It makes me happy.

I hear similar stories of people who deep down really believe they can walk. And get up on that walker, or eventually take steps on crutches. But sometimes they are not encouraged. The other problem is not having enough insurance or no insurance. Or even the option to partake in intense physical therapy. The idea is still fairly new. Intensive recovery for people with SCI to reach their maximum potential is still not common. I can only think of four or five places in Michigan that have this type of program.

I must admit, I also wrote this out of years of built up frustration from being told my limitations. Physical therapists sometimes release patients from physical therapy too early, my physical therapist and I were talking about it. They tell them their recovery has plateaued. In fear patients will be given “false hope,” sometimes we are not given much hope at all. It happened to me. I was told I “plateaued” at different times and was released from PT.

This month is eighteen years post injury, and I’m still making progress. I’m practicing with one cane, something I was told I would never do. It’s the least amount of assistance I’ve ever needed to walk. I want to tell people, they don’t have to give up on hope for recovery. I wish for no one to be told their injury is “complete,” and their hopes for walking are dim. What is wrong with false hope? It’s better than no hope.

“A few quick tips on how I heal”

My dad fell in church the other day. He said it happened as he was going down the steps. He felt a shooting pain in his back shortly before and there was nowhere to sit. As he walked down the step his leg gave out, he collapsed.  Other church members hurried over to catch him. He suffers from Sciatica and some arthritis. He turned 80 last July. Aging can bring about some of this. I think he’s becoming addicted to these cortisone shots. He’s had several and always seems to think that is the cure.  Once the medication wears off, the pain comes back. I was talking to him about the importance of exercise and moving around. I notice he doesn’t move around as much. Naturally, when we don’t move our body weakens.

I kept thinking, if it’s that hard for my dad to move without having paralysis. Imagine how much harder it is for the paralyzed? Well, I can imagine, because I have been. The majority of people with spinal cord injuries are told they’ll never walk again, and I never understood why. If nerves have the ability to regenerate, and muscles can be strengthened, why are people told they will always use a wheelchair? “Twenty years of study in humans has shown that the spinal cord has its own sophisticated nervous system that helps it recall how to move,” says Dr. Susan Harkema, a research leader in the field.

People sometimes turn to alternative options such as stem cell surgery. But that surgery does not fully solve the problem. It’s where they use adult stem cells extracted from other parts of the body, and implant them into the spinal cord at the site of injury. “The most important thing we’ve learned is that surgery is not enough. It has to be accompanied by rehabilitation (exercise),” says Dr. Carlos Lima, a neuron-pathologist on the Lisbon stem cell team.

We now have come out with Ekso Bionics or e-legs, the first originally of its kind out of Berkeley, California. You can visit the page here: http://www.eksobionics.com/ekso Initially, these were used for soldiers carrying heavy cargo while going uphill. The solid legs and back helped them prevent injury. The problem is the device weighs 50 pounds, and adding that much weight, I don’t know how functional you can be. Or how much time you can spend on them during the day, I would imagine not much.

My physician of eleven years told me it would be hard for me to walk with one cane, when I told her my goal was to at least be mobile and get around everywhere with it. She said it was “possible” but not “probable” when I confronted her with why she had said that.  I told her it was something I believed was very highly likely. I never accepted her proposition.

Today I’m walking mostly all day with two forearm crutches, and practicing with one cane. Something I was told I would never do. It took prayer, lots of exercise, and undying faith.

Some quick tips on how I heal:

  • Daily Prayer
  • Exercise and Physical Therapy
  • Logs (exercise logs can be great)
  • Listen to your doctor, but don’t neglect your “own doctor within.”

Daily prayer is crucial for me. I recommend at least 15 minutes a day of talking to God. I sometimes read bible verses, and short prayers in the morning. I often talk to him while at the gym on the walking machines, this really helps.

Prayer is the pathway that connects us to the heavens. No prayer is unheard although they seem unanswered. Trust that God has a plan for you. Even when you cannot make sense of things. In time, the answers will reveal themselves.

Exercise is something you should be doing at least a few times a week. Find a PT or trainer who can design a safe but challenging program for you. “Get up close and personal with yourself, get to know yourself,” Dr. Agus writes in his bestseller, The End of Illness.  “It all starts with you.” Oh yeah, and find a PT who believes in you. Mine believes in me, it makes all the difference!

Keeping logs is great. An exercise log to track progress, i’ve even kept logs on how much percentage of the day I use a wheelchair. Logs are great because they help you see your progress.

LISTEN to and RESPECT your doctors, but don’t neglect your “own doctor within.” You know that inner voice. We all have it. The one that screams at you sometimes to take a left or right when you are lost and driving the wrong way, your intuition. It has something to say.

These are just a few ways I get better from SCI. I think they will be helpful for you. I believe these principles can apply to more than just spinal cord injury. Heart disease is the number one leading cause of death in the country. Stroke is the third. Cancer is another leading cause. I believe prayer and exercise, and getting to know your body can help all of us.

www.aapmr.org has great information on Rehabilitation of Central Nervous system disorders, like spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, and MS. If you click on the “Knowledge now” button, you can find lots of information. Best wishes in your recovery.

Loving charities…

I went to a benefit gala last night with very good friends. It was in honor of people with Spinal Cord Injuries. What a spectacular event! I saw everything from Acrobats performing stunts to a ballet dancer, to a Michael Jackson impersonator, and even rappers. Oh yeah, and Frank Sinatra too. I even watched someone dance on stilts 10 feet tall! It was a fun night!

The D-Man Foundation was created in loving memory of Danny Kassab, a C-1 quadriplegic who was hit by a car at the tender age of ten. He reminded others life is too short to not live to the fullest. An inspiration, he meant so much to countless others. He was not aware of the impact he would leave.

It was a night of festivities and events to honor people with disabilities, mainly Spinal Cord Injury. It was a beautiful night, and there were other people with injuries there. When I encounter these organizations that reach out to people with SCI, I feel so happy. It’s amazing to me the motivation and energy that people pour out into these non-profits, that mean so much in the lives of so many.

Other favorites are Challenged Athletes Foundation, and the Mike Utley Foundation. Both support in helping others with disabilities ranging from all kinds of maladies such as Spinal Cord Injury, or leg amputation. They provide grants for adaptable sports equipment, or donate money towards funding research to find cutting edge state of the art equipment for people with SCI to join in physical therapy. They even award money to lessen the stress of the person with the disability.

The most amazing thing about these organizations is each of them has a special story, with one special person behind them. Blessings can spring forth from catastrophe. “Through tragedy comes purpose. As purpose starts with pain. Purpose does not start in universities, or with ‘cushy’ jobs. It starts with pain, and sometimes we are hurt bad enough so we can be used.”
Bishop TD Jakes

There is still not enough we can do about SCI, we are told there is no cure. The chances of walking after paralysis are often quoted as zero to four percent by doctors. These organizations offer a glimmer of hope, a light in the dark.

In what seems hopeless..

Peace of mind in crisis…

But the greatest of all, love.

“And now abide faith, hope, and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” –Corinthians 13:13

“Montel Williams: Climbing Higher”

I’m reading Montel William’s best seller, “Climbing Higher.” It’s a sequel to his first book, “Mountain Get Out of My Way.” He talks about his diagnosis of MS in 1999. Montel very clearly expresses his raw emotions. He describes everything from being unsuccessful at trying to commit suicide, to coming to terms with his condition and finding peace after his diagnosis.

The analogy he uses to explain MS to his five-year old son is intriguing to me, when his son asks a million questions.

He says:

“Inside everybody’s body are nerves. Along with your blood and your muscles, your nerves are what make you move, like this wire makes the lamp work. And every nerve has this stuff around it, a plastic coating that protects the nerve. If you scrape off a piece of this coating, in two or three days the wire is going to start to rust, and the light may not work when you turn it on. MS is hurting the stuff around my nerves, which is making them kind of rusty and stopping them from working right.”

I thought this was a brilliant account. I couldn’t believe how closely related it sounded to Spinal Cord Injury. As SCI does damage our nerves.

SCI refers to any injury to the spinal cord that is caused by trauma instead of disease. Depending on where the spinal cord and nerve roots are damaged, the symptoms can vary widely from pain to paralysis.

I marvel at his symptoms that sound like mine. For example, when he describes the pain in his feet in one reading. It was so bad he couldn’t even think right. But he carries on a smile so no one will worry. He pretends he is fine. Let’s not forget he is in the spotlight.

I read while I’m using the elliptical. A big improvement for me is to be able to read and use that machine. It’s the little things…“A key to getting in shape is determination and consistency.” – HealthCoach says. So I read, I train. I read some more, and train. All at the same time!

Montel’s turning point is when his wife asks him one day, “What are your kids going to do?” in Chapter 2. In the midst of his severe depression, this comment triggers something inside of him that causes him to change. He wakes up and realizes he does not want to hurt them. Nor does he want to let MS control his life any longer. He starts to see his condition as a blessing, and as a path to help numerous others with the disease. And he does.

Montel’s story is great because he rises above his condition and learns to go on mentally and physically. I admire him for that.

I think if we learn to see pain as a stepping stone to faith, then we are not bound by disability. Disability cannot bind us. It’s what we do with the disability, whether or not WE ALLOW it to disable us through our thoughts, actions, or self-belief.

One prayer that helps me:

“Heal me O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved; for you are my praise.” Jeremiah 17:14

My article on Spinalcordinjuryzone.com

“Disability is a condition, it’s not who we are. Diagnosis is a prediction, it doesn’t have to determine our outcome.”

Has something catastrophic ever happened to you? Where your life changed in an instant? Did you wake up in a hospital bed, not knowing where you were, or how much time passed? It happened to me. I never thought I’d be hit by a car at sixteen years old, while crossing the street on my way to school. Nor did I think once I survived the accident, it would live with me every day for the rest of my life.

You can read my full article on Spinalcordinjuryzone.com Click here: http://www.spinalcordinjuryzone.com/info/11248/disability-is-a-condition-its-not-who-we-are-diagnosis-is-a-prediction-it-doesnt-have-to-determine-our-outcome

University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s hospital

The University of Michigan, C.S. Mott Children’s hospital is consistently ranked one of the top ten hospitals in the U.S., according to the U.S. News and World Report for 2012.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that injuries are the leading cause of death for children and adults ages one to forty-four. Motor accidents, falls, and assaults are the leading causes of trauma.

U of M is a level one trauma hospital. Higher levels of trauma centers such as U of M have trauma surgeons on call, trained in Neurosurgery and Orthopedics. U of M is prepared to deal with traumatic situations. They were prepared to deal with me!

I was flown to U of M via helicopter, and hospitalized there for nearly three months after my accident in Oct. 1994. Daily I had help, around the clock from amazing doctors, nurses, and staff who provided the best care! When my discharge date drew nearer, I was deeply saddened. I never wanted to leave. Who is ever sad to leave a hospital?

U of M became my home. I was safe there. Being in a wheelchair was okay. Being damaged was accepted. It took two to three nurses to turn me in bed from one side to the other, and a lift to put me in a wheelchair. I was paralyzed.

I developed a system. I learned how to deal with a catastrophic situation–Spinal Cord Injury. I was getting comfortable, but it was time to go home. I prayed to God during the day, and wrote letters to him at night. I took calls, socialized, visited with family and friends, and was being homeschooled. I attended all of my physical therapies.

How would my life be in a wheelchair? What was to become of me? How would I go back to school? What would my friends think? Would I have any? I was scared. Life sometimes happens whether or not we are prepared. Life happened to me.

I’ll always go back..

I saw my surgeons that operated on me in the first hours after my accident last week. I have x-rays of my spine every four to five years. I still see my Pediatric Orthopedic surgeon. It was a team who saved me!

I walked into the new Mott, which is beautiful by the way with vibrant colors. It’s good because it keeps the kids distracted. I was surrounded by children with differences, some like mine, some different. They were all accompanied by their parents. We all shared one common goal–to achieve hope and healing there. I was the only adult waiting to be seen.

My pediatric doctor has followed up with me from day one. After all these years it is nice she has stayed with me. I was in Pediatrics when my accident happened. I’m now 34. The x-rays of my spine looked good; she said there is no deterioration of my spine due to aging. A Nurse practitioner came in who remembered me, and a Physician’s assistant came in to meet me.

I went to see the other Orthopedic surgeon who operated on me. He works with adults but my Pediatric surgeon called him in at the time because she needed “help.” I was hurt so badly. He came in to shake my hand. I hugged him, and thanked him for saving my life.

It’s interesting, usually a doctor sits and examines you and starts asking questions. This doctor just sat–I didn’t shut up. Telling him how awesome I’m doing. How I do everything by myself, take out garbage, grocery shop, live alone, pay my own bills. He was amazed. I showed him and the nurse practitioner my walking. He said my walking with the crutches looked like a “normal gate.” That made me happy.

U of M is a leader in research to improve life for individuals with SCI. I’ll be happy to participate in upcoming studies, to improve the quality of life for people with SCI.

C.S. Mott Children’s at the University of Michigan, YOU are forever written on my heart…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pLlOl2wCh8

Moving improves our health!

“The human body is not meant to sit for long periods of time. During the day alternate between sitting, standing, and walking, or get up and stretch often,” says HealthCoach. David Agus, Lance Armstrong’s oncologist, wrote a best seller called “The End of Illness” and he agrees. He writes tips on how to prevent disease.“As Americans we don’t move around enough, most people go to the gym for an hour, go back to their office, sit at their desk jobs for hours, and they think that is enough.” “The problem is most people, when sitting at our desk jobs, sit for hours at a time and don’t move around enough,” Dr. Agus says. “Every hour you should move, even if for no reason, get away from your desk, find a reason to get up,” he advises. This was one of the first on his list to prevent illness such as cancer. He also talks about eating healthier, hard boiled eggs, fish, vegetable oil, the natural stuff.

What if you’re spinal cord injured? What if you can’t get up so easily? What if you can’t stand? What if you can’t walk? What if you can’t even sit for long periods of time, or get out of a wheelchair without someone assisting you? I believe any movement is good movement to start. Whether it’s a transfer from your wheelchair to your bed, or using the hand cycling machine at physical therapy, or standing for several minutes at a time in a standing frame, it gets your heart pumping, your blood flowing, and you’re moving. As you train your body to move with help, and hopefully eventually without, to transfer, to sit for longer periods, to stand, to walk, whatever you are able to do, it gets stronger. Over time you can become more independent.

Just be safe. When I practice with one cane, I’m almost always with my physical therapist. When I’m doing it at home, I try my best to be safe. I used to hold two canes, with the right one in the air just in case I lost my balance. Now I use one. It’s crucial for someone with paralysis to move, because they don’t do it easily on a daily basis. I believe it’s even more important for us, to get up. Dr. Agus’ advice applies to all of us, those with and without physical challenges.

For those who cannot move their hands, feet, or fingers even, it can be much harder to get up, or even feel motivated to move. My feet are weak because my s1/s2 nerves still have some damage. I can push my feet down, but that is a recent muscle that has come back the last couple years. It’s harder to pull my foot up against gravity. Throughout the day I’m wearing AFOs (ankle braces) to assist my walking.

With a spinal cord injury, you can exercise for years and years, and not fully recover. Or you can exercise for a few years, and gain a lot of recovery. It depends on different factors, your level of injury, the nature of your injury, and your faith. Exercise and movement not only improve health, but can help you regain function. The number one factor is you. It starts with you.

Now go get up!

Zina Hermez