September is Spinal Cord Injury awareness month- a month dedicated to bringing awareness to and celebrating those living life with a spinal cord injury.
A spinal cord injury is damage to the spinal cord that causes temporary or permanent changes in the body, like loss of muscle function, sensation, or different functions below the level of the injury. There are four sections of the spinal cord: cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and sacral. Each section of the spine protects different groups of nerves that control the body. If the spinal cord is severed, this is a complete injury and there is permanent damage below the level of injury.
My spinal cord was stretched about one inch so I have an incomplete injury. This means I have the ability to move below my injury, which was actually above the c1 vertebrae because I dislocated my skull. Almost all of the muscles in my legs activate, I just have to work on getting them stronger! However, right now, my arms are not as far along as my legs. I am regaining new movements in my arms and hands and I’m still believing that they’ll get there, it’s just taking time. Also, since my injury was at the base of my skull, only my face sweats; and when I get cold it takes me a very long time to warm up. This is because I can’t regulate my body temperature (you will hear more about this in a later blog so stay tuned!!!)
Spinal Cord Injury awareness month is important to me because surviving and living with these types of injuries is a fairly new possibility thanks to modern medicine and technology. One way living with a spinal cord injury has been made a little easier is because The American for Disabilities Act or ADA https://www.ada.gov/ was signed in 1990! Before then, places were not required to be handicap accessible. Even now, something I have learned is that just because a place says they are “accessible” doesn’t mean they actually are. One time, we ate at a place in Birmingham that was ‟handicap accessible’’ and I wasn’t able get around the tables inside. We took our food outside to eat in the cold weather. Another time, we were at the movies, and went into the “handicap” stall which was barely enough room to fit one person, let alone two people and a wheelchair. To be fair, I totally understand this and don’t expect everyone to fully accommodate those who are handicapped; however, I think there is a need for awareness of what a person in a wheelchair actually needs. I am grateful for the businesses that do to try to make it easier for me to be part of society and am encouraged by the changes that are continuing to take place.
Raising awareness is an important part of developing support for changes in the community. It changes knowledge and attitudes around spinal cord injuries.
Sometimes people stare or simply don’t know what to say around me or others with a disability. Remember that I’m still the same person I was before, just a little different on the outside. The more time you spend around people with different abilities, the more comfortable you become around them, which is why I think it’s so great that society is working so hard to accommodate people with disabilities. For me, being part of society and interacting with people I don’t see on a daily basis is really refreshing and uplifting. I’m willing to bet others with disabilities would say the same thing! So be encouraged to not let the physical image of someone with a disability take away from your interaction.
There are so many reasons to raise awareness about the struggles people living with disabilities face. This is only one struggle out of so many but it is important to remember that the more we learn about other people and the lives they lead, the more understanding we become.