A day in the life of a person who is paralysed from the neck down
I open my eyes. Everything is blurry at first. Focusing on the dirty mark on the ceiling, I do the same thing I do every morning.
Can I move my legs? No
Can I move my arms? No
Can I wiggle my toes? No
The deep sinking feeling of disappointment sets in. I roll my head to the side and look across the room. There by the door is my wheelchair.
I lay there for a minute or two just getting my bearings.
My name is John and I am Tetraplegic. I broke my neck in a motor bike accident almost 2 years ago. My spinal cord was damaged permanently. My brain can no longer send signals through the spinal cord to the muscles. I am paralysed from the neck down.
After months in hospital after my accident, I came home. That’s when the hardest part of accepting my condition came. I couldn’t reach for the remote and change the TV channel. I couldn’t go to the bathroom on my own.
Everything I wanted to do, I had to ask someone to do it for me. After time, I just got tired of asking and I spent days looking out of the window. Reminiscing about running through the park or swishing my fingers in a pond.
My carer walks into the room. Startled, my daydreaming abruptly ends. Lilia is my carer and she lives with my wife and I. Because of my condition, I require round the clock medical care.
See, when you are paralysed although you can’t feel anything, things can still go very wrong very quickly. I have a Tracheostomy that breathes for me. It’s a small breathing tube that is attached to a hole in my neck. If my Tracheostomy became lose, I could die within a few minutes.
I can also get nasty pressure sores. So, I need Lilia about to keep me on tip top form.
Lilia approaches with a smile and a good morning. Flannel in hand I know this is the start of the long drawn out routine of getting me ready for the day ahead. It’s a good job that I wake at 6am else I would miss breakfast!
The washing took a while to get used to. But now it’s just part of many things I had to learn to accept. She lifts my right arm to wash. I wonder if my arm is heavy?
We chat about the weather as she hoists me into my wheelchair. 8am and I’m on my way to breakfast.
Eve smiles as I get wheeled up to the table. “Morning!” She says. Everything seems so much brighter now.
After breakfast Eve heads off to work. I look out of the window in the lounge and imagine myself waving to her as she gets into her car.
The house echoes slightly. But on with the day. Lots to be done. On goes my headset and I am away with my Dragon NaturallySpeaking software.
I spend my day surfing the internet. Researching new scientific discoveries, reading the news and updating my friends in Australia with what’s being going on here. We speak on Skype every Monday at 1pm sharp.
Eve gets home around 5pm as always. We share our days whilst she prepares the vegetables. I cannot help her with the dinner but then again, I was always a terrible cook!
After a relaxing evening, the lounge clock sounds for 8pm. Dong… Dong … Dong… and so on. Those 8 dings really do ring in my ear. I never did like that clock. I let out a little laugh to myself as I wished I had taken a hammer to it when I could have done. Now it stays there… hung on the wall… tormenting my ears.
Eve wheels me to my bedroom and we kiss goodnight. She hugs me tightly and a tear trickles down my face. Smiling, she wipes it away.
We stay there…. Gazing at one another. Neither of us speaking a word but both of us knowing what the other is thinking.
I am grateful to have survived to still spend time with the people I care about. Time that as an able bodied man, I didn’t appreciate as much as I do now. When you are paralysed, time slows and the hundreds of things you can no longer do make you see the thousands of things you can still see and hear.
“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” – Jimmy Dean