Life with a Spinal Cord Injury

On February 20, 1985 I was a typical three-year-old. On that day, my parents, an aunt, and I were in a car accident while on Joel at age 3our way to Des Moines. I received a spinal cord injury (SCI) between the second and third vertebrae (C2/3) in my neck. I can’t control, or feel, anything below my neck and require mechanical support to breathe. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t be active.

Through the decades, I have been given the opportunity to do many things and have learned several lessons. Each section below gives a brief description of how I deal with various aspects of living as a high quad. If you’re looking for more information, click the link at the end of each section for detailed information.

Breathing

Blue is one of my favorite colors, but not when it comes to skin tone. For nearly 26 years, I used a traditional ventilator for breathing. In late 2010, I had a diaphragmatic pacemaker system implanted to replace my vent and restore more normal breathing. Each system has its pros and cons, but they get the job done. Read more on how this system works and if it’s right for you.

Locomotion

Since my body is too lazy to do what I tell it, I use a wheelchair to get around. In my time with SCI, I have only used three power wheelchairs and have researched several types. Meeting all your needs is tricky, but solutions do exist. See my current chair and other types I have tested.

Environment Control

The world is designed to function with hands and legs, as that is what most people use. For those of us that don’t have control of these parts of our bodies, it can be a challenge to perform everyday tasks. In order to use items such as a computer, I use a mouth stick for most items as well as the help of others.

Caregivers

Depending on a person’s injury level, it is likely that they will need to utilize nurses, or caregivers, for some activities of daily living (ADL). Since I can’t move anything below my head, or breathe, I need to have an attendant 24 hours a day. Learning to work with these assistants can be a major task for some new, or long-term, injuries.

Funding

All aspects in life require some source of funding, this is especially true with SCI. Whether funding is through private insurance, state or federal insurance, or some other source, it will affect what you can do with your SCI. My main funding source is private insurance, with its own set of limits and cost.