Words by Julie - Living Life With Paralysis

Science Explains Everything 3

I have been waiting to write this blog post since August 11th, two weeks after the incident. It was prompted by a text conversation with a friend. You see, at that time I was already in the “acceptance” phase of the grieving process.  I have since realized it came pretty early – the phases of grief are pretty fluid and occur in no particular order. My friend wanted to know how I was so accepting of being paralyzed. I responded by saying that it might not last (my acceptance of my new life) but that what helped was understanding the science of it all.

Let’s start with car vs. bike. It’s obvious who will lose and who will win. A bike travelling 25 km/h hit from behind by a car travelling 90 km/h. The 140 lb rider forced into the air with incredible speed will hit the ground with massive force. Mr. Hoba, I’ll leave that one for you to figure out, not sure I want to know the answer. So the rider hits the ground and the helmet absorbs most of the shock of the impact instead of the riders brain (just like the egg project). The unprotected face is another story.

There are other issues related to the impact, like the explosion of T4. The vertebrae releases a triangular shape piece of bone and fires it toward the spinal column. The dura (membrane around the spinal cord) is not strong enough to withstand the edge of the fragment. The fragment therefore has the ability to damage the nerves that operate all of the motor, sensory and interneuron cells below the T4 region. Nerve cells are like telephone wires. Cut the wires and the conversation ends. If the cells were not severed then there is a chance that they will come out of shock. But the body keeps that a secret, and tells it to no one.

The tear in the trachea changes the respiratory system. The whole idea being that it is a sealed container with only one way for air to get into or out of the thoracic cavity. A hole in the trachea changes all that. For some reason I escaped having a tracheal tube inserted in my neck, but instead had a breathing tube and two chest tubes. Chest tubes help remove the excess fluid or air that is outside the alveoli, but inside the pleural cavity. It’s funny to think that air inside the lugs is a bad thing. But what it means is that air is inside the wrong parts of the lung, making the alveoli in the lower regions of the lung not able to expand and fill with air. Not getting enough air means lower oxygen levels in my bloodstream and less oxygen getting to the cells that are trying to heal.

All this science; the physics of motion, the biology of cell division, the mystery of nerve cells, it all explains why I am currently sitting in a wheelchair in Parkwood. So although I don’t like it, I get it. What I don’t like is that someone else is responsible for all of the science that was put into motion to get me here. And there is no science that explains that.

Update: still working on getting my blood pressure a little bit higher. Seem to have good bp days and some not so good bp days (I am currently tipped pretty far back in my wheelchair). Another good thing that has come back is that my rectum is now considered to be “spastic” which means it responds to stimuli and and makes me one step closer to establishing a bowel routine (and therefore some more independence).


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