Archive for July, 2012

A leading Physiatrist and author Michael F. Saulino, MD, PhD writes “Traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) is perhaps the most devastating orthopedic injury, and with prolonged survival being the rule, rehabilitation of these injuries has an increasingly important role. The primary goals of rehabilitation are prevention of secondary complications, maximization of physical functioning, and reintegration into the community.”

Perhaps some of you may have watched a TV show called Fear Factor. People on this show are put into situations that intentionally produce fear and panic to see how much they can take before reaching a breaking point. However, the individuals on the show always have a way out, an end in sight or can just plainly decline the dare.

But those of us who have experienced a traumatic injury wake up in a hospital bed with no movement or feeling in our body, and have to come to grips with the reality that there is no escape. After my injury, the first few days were filled with so much activity in the hospital that I had difficulty attempting to keep up with what was going on around me. I did experience fear, not fear of what had happened to me physically, but a fear of the unknown.

Remember when you were learning to swim? As long as your feet could touch the bottom you had very little fear if any. Then you would splash around into deeper waters, and start to panic when you realized there was nothing solid beneath you. But you persisted. Along with the help of family, friends and maybe even a swimming instructor, you kept trying, and splashing and practicing until one day you found yourself swimming.

I think the initial shock of a traumatic injury will produce a fear of the unknown in most of us – I know it did to me. But then because of family and friends, and the regiments of physical and occupational therapies, the fear lessens. And just like learning to swim I realized that I could do this. Yes, my life would have some changes. And yes, new challenges would be in my future, but I also realized that I was still an active part of the world around me, and that I still had something to offer.

There is much that I could say here about recovery, but there is one very strong point I want to make to those of you who are reading this and are not disabled, and that point is the important role that you have as family and friends. Doctors and therapists are only one part of recovery for a newly disabled person. As Dr. Saulino stated, one goal of recovery is “reintegration into the community,” and that is accomplished through the encouragement and acceptance of family and friends. Do not distance yourself from us because of your fear of the unknown. Participate, communicate with us and learn to live our new lives with us.

I have often found myself in situations where little kids will see my wheelchair and stare and ask questions. But the parents, instead of communicating with their child and me, act embarrassed and try to hush them from asking questions as they rush them away. So instead of the child learning to accept me as a disabled person into the community, integration, they are being taught that I am not normal, resulting in isolation. The road to recovery must be traveled by everyone, and by working together, the physical and emotional challenges of a traumatic injury can be met head on and overcome.

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Let The Journey Begin

Welcome to the beginning of my journey. Like most journeys, no matter how much time you put into planning and preparation for the trip, you discover something that was overlooked, underestimated or just plain forgotten. And some journeys are chosen for us. This will be one of those journeys.

Fifteen years ago, if I had been handed a list of possible things to do during my lifetime, I can say with certainty that spending the rest of my life in a wheelchair would not have been one of my choices. But, here I am, rolling through life.

So what now? Do I scream, cry, pout or give up? Or do I make adjustments, learn new habits, rewrite the owner’s manual and press on? Both sides of that spectrum are options, and I know people that live their lives on each side.

I also know that I am not the only one that has had to make that choice. As a disabled person one of the first things I learned is that there is no owner’s manual.

So welcome to my owner’s manual. I plan on using this blog to discuss a variety of topics related to living with and rising above a disability. There are approximately 36 million people in the United States living with at least one disability. My particular disability, T8 paraplegia, will be my main focus but there are many similarities across the board where I hope to give some practical common sense advice on living with any disability.

I currently serve on a Board Of directors of a school for special needs children. I served as interim director for the South Carolina Spinal Cord Injury Association. I served on the South Carolina Governor’s Commission for the Department of Disabilities and Special Needs. And I also have helped start peer support groups and speak at numerous churches, schools and conferences across the country. I have learned much serving on these groups, and I plan on sharing not only what I have personally learned, but also what I have learned from others on their journey.

The title of my blog, “lifegoeson4us,” is for people living with any disability, not just spinal cord injuries. You can go to my web site http://www.rickhuntress.com/ or my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/BrokenTheBestThingThatEverHappenedToMe?ref=hl to find out a little bit more about me and to see my recently published book, Better To Be Broken.

I will be posting a new topic on a Saturday/Tuesday schedule. I look forward to reading your comments, and if you have any particular topic you wish for me to discuss, let me know and I will do my best to talk about it.

So…fasten your seatbelts, find something to hold onto and let the journey begin!

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