The slow march of secondary conditions

First came scoliosis about two years after my injury, next came foot drop in my left foot two years after that. And at the ripe old age of 19, heterotopic ossification decided to pay a visit in my right hip and thigh, the lovely condition where you’re muscles are turned to stone from a bizarre spurt of over-calcification doctors still don’t understand.

Not being able to move your muscles or feel your body is bad enough when you have a spinal cord injury. Having to deal with all of the secondary conditions that come along with it simply makes me want to scream. And the longer you’re paralyzed, the more these secondary conditions begin to creep into your everyday life.

I was really hopeful when I first broke my neck. I thought I could stave off all of the secondary conditions if I was good about it. One of the most depressing things about having a spinal cord injury is watching your body go to pot right before your eyes. A lot of newbies try so hard to avoid these secondary conditions. It’s scary thinking about your body falling apart.

But I found out after 18 years of being paralyzed that to a certain degree it’s unavoidable no matter how healthy you keep your body. Being paralyzed can take a mighty toll on your body, so it’s best to be prepared for it.

Going in your standing frame, doing FES bike training, doing locomotor training, all of this will help keep your body in really great shape, but there are some things that will still happen no matter how many green smoothies you drink or weights you lift (sad face).

As a C6 quadriplegic, a few years ago I realized that two of my fingers had finally become contracted despite my stretches – my left pinkie finger and my right ring finger, and yeah it’s really depressing and still bugs me if though I can‘t move them. I could go to a hand surgeon to see if he would be willing to fix them, but since I can’t move my fingers I’m pretty sure my insurance won’t cover it.

The good news though is that the longer you’re paralyzed, you (usually) get mentally stronger, and are able to deal with secondary conditions better then you would in the newbie phase. I don’t think though I’ll ever get used to them happening completely. I am a human after all, not a robot.

How do you deal with secondary conditions that stem from your disability?

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