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.