September is a month dedicated to bringing awareness to spinal cord injuries and celebrating those living with these conditions. This is a special month for me because the day I was told that there was a definite injury to my spinal cord, is a day that I will never forget.
Since then I have learned how challenging, frustrating, and lonely living with a spinal cord injury can be. There have been many more difficult days, just like that one that followed, and are permanently stuck in my mind. The day that I met my physician at the rehabilitation hospital I had worked so hard to get too, who then told me that in all of his years of experience he had never seen a patient who had suffered both bilateral leg amputations and a spinal cord injury is one I won’t forget. He then began to reach out to other medical professionals trying to find other patients with similar injuries…so far he has only found three of us. Living with both leg amputations and a spinal cord injury feels like being part of an exclusive club that I had no interest in joining.
My spinal cord injury has been the hardest challenge of my recovery for me to accept and try to overcome…at times it’s felt even more challenging than the limb loss. The hardest part is feeling like this injury is out of my control. This form of injury feels more personal as if your body is simply giving up on you and choosing not to listen to you. I’ve even found myself talking out loud to my impacted muscles begging them to wake up, listen to me, and “just do their job”. Like I said..it all feels so personal.
Something I’ve learned from this injury though is how to never give up. I was told I might not ever walk again and that was extremely difficult, but I let myself grieve those feelings of heartbreak and disappointment for one night, and then I woke up the next morning with the mindset of “I might not ever walk again? Watch me. I know that I will.”
I’ve also been told that we can only “wait and see” how much I will recover. Without the certainty of recovery I could just give up on working at therapy, but pushing through every day despite not knowing what the results may be has taught me perseverance. With this mindset and the help of many amazing medical professionals and support from everyone around me, I have seen progress in my recovery that we didn’t know if we’d ever get to see..all in the first year.
I think having a month dedicated to bringing awareness to this type of injury is so important because everyone in these situations has different levels of injuries and handles the news differently, but somehow we all find new ways to live full and happy lives. Yet, no matter how well we are able to live our lives, the topic of our injuries always seems like a topic that people either don’t want to or don’t know how to talk about. What I mean is, if you know someone living with a spinal cord injury, don’t assume what they can or cannot do. Don’t assume that we don’t want to talk about it, or that we don’t want to participate in something simply because we might have to do it differently than everyone else.
Whenever I see someone with a spinal cord injury living an independent and happy life, or even participating in sports and remaining active, I am inspired by them. I hope to be as successful and accomplished in life as some of the people I have met. Living life looking differently, and knowing that every simple task will have to be done in an adaptive way takes an incredible amount of strength. So let’s talk about spinal cord injury and let’s celebrate those strong enough to live with them.
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