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Thread: July 15th , 2008 Diving Accident - So many questions

  1. #1

    July 15th , 2008 Diving Accident - So many questions

    Well i must admit it was the worst birthday EVER!! We all got together to do some celebrating after work. We decided to go out to the lake and get cooled off. We were all out on the boat and decided to stop at the sand bar for a quick dip. Next thing i know i turn around and they are lifting my girlfriend out of the water onto the front of our boat (flat surface). She dove into the lake which was only maybe 3 feet deep. She bounced up and was face down. As they placed her ont he boat we held her head still to eliminate her from moving. She immediatlely was talking, breathing, moving her arms, crying, but not able to move her legs. This happen Tues July 15th? She had surgery at 6am the next moring to fuse the vertebraes together that were broken (C5 & C6) the nurse said that they normally fuse them together with a lower and upper vertabrae such as C4 & C7........ There is major bruising and swelling on the spinal cord but apparently no know abrasions, lesions, or lacerations???? SHe was chemically induced into a coma for the areomed ride to a larger hospital. They allowed her to come out of the coma a bit yesterday and she knew where she was, who she was and etc. She is still not able to feel anything inher lower part of her body. She is now on a ventalator, feeding tube, and cath. It was mentioned to us that it is for purposes so she does not become weak to try and breath on her own becasue of all the medicine she is on, is that right?? So many Dr's and nurse coming in and out of the room. Seems like they all say something differernt. Are they able to determine already if the damage is permemant?? Dont they have to wait till the swelling goes down?? If the vertabraes are fused back together and ther is no spinal cord "permanent damage" will she walk again? Can the bruising and swelling cost her the ability to walk again? What do Dr.s look for to determine progress or what are the symptoms to permanent paralysis?? ANY help in direction is greatly appreciated

  2. #2
    The bad news-It's entirely possible she won't walk again.
    The good news-She won't be on the vent forever, I expect that's temporary.

    The doctors WILL all tell you something different, at this point. The fact is, nobody knows how she'll do. They tell us all the time, every spinal cord injury is different. In my experience, the doctors tend to give you the absolute worst-case scenario. I resent that, some ppl don't. They say they don't want to give "false hope". I say they can bite me on that.

    This is a link to an article you need to read. It will answer a lot of your questions:

    I can tell you from experience that how she is as she comes out of the coma, isn't how she'll stay. The swelling does its share of damage, but as it goes down, she may improve. This is called spinal shock. It goes down SLOWWWWLY, like 6 months or more.

    All you can do is prepare for the worst, hope for the best. She'll need to go to a good rehab. That is crucial. She'll need to work hard while she's there, too. SCI is a huge battle. I pray you stick and help her with it. You're clearly smart to have found us so quickly.

    This really sucks, and I'm sorry. For what it's worth, I have a similar injury. I now travel frequently-often alone, I tend my family, walk a little, even scuba dive. It's not over, but it's a long haul.

    Keep us posted. Ask any questions, any time. We like to help.


  3. #3

    thanks for the quick reply

    What does complete c5 vs. incomplete c5 mean?? What factors are you using to determine that she may not be able to walk again?? Is the fact of the bruising alone a factor that can determine paralysis?? Sorry but this is only 2 days old for me. I have been reading forums and looking for hope but yet preparing for reality. She is young, strong, healthy, and determined. I know that she will be VERY prepared to hit the rehab with everything she has and MORE.....

    What exactly causes the paralysis?? IS the brusing, swelling, casuing pressure enough to make permanent damage?? Is it a loss of muscle? Is it a loss of oxygen in the cord?? I apologize for my ignorance but........... i am just learning.

  4. #4
    sorry to hear about the accident, bro. you've found a good place for info and support here, though. listen, it's a long haul. KEEP THIS GIRL MOTIVATED! i think there are a lot of people here that are, so don't you or you let her give up hope.

    many of us were in awful accidents, some, like i, relatively recently, and are working to get out of a wheelchair. tell her to listen to what they say, but don't take it as an absolute. i was told i'd never walk. i'm making great progress towards that goal, and coming up on my year anniversary.

    keep reading, keep asking questions. i'ma let others answer the more specific ones about damage to the cord. i don't care myself about that, i only care about getting back on my feet.

    it's still early. very early. obviously. one thing i wish i did while i was in the hospital (a month at mass general in boston) was constantly try to move my toes. i'd suggest you get her to do that, and not give up.

    this is gonna be hard work for all of you. good luck...
    working every day to get out of my chair.

  5. #5
    The swelling can compress nerve fibers in the cord, thus killing them. If she received a drug called methyprednisolone within 8 hrs, it is meant to stop some of the swelling and prevent some of that damage.

    Seriously, read that article I linked, it answers much better.

    It's hard to try and give you answers just now, because they are so complex. For this moment, think of "complete" as meaning there is no movement or sensation below the region affected by the impact; "incomplete' means there is some.

    There is much more to it but that will do for now. All you need to know for sure, this minute, is that, unless the doctors SAW the cord severed in two, they can't call her complete at this point in time. Obvs, they saw no such thing, so you simply can't know the outcome yet.

    A complete injury won't walk. An incomplete may. Of greater concern to me is her fingers and arms. This is a matter of opinion but I'd rather have them than the ability to walk.

    C5 means the impact was at the 5th cervical vertabrae, in her neck. Mine was also there. It can take away all legs, abs, back muscles, triceps, fingers. Complete C5 is pretty rough. However, truly complete injuries aren't all that common these days. I only say she may not walk b/cause that is what they told me. I've seen it happen, and I've seen it not happen too.

    The paralysis is because the signals, instructions, from her brain can't get past her injury. The spinal cord transmits all the instructions. It's like a fiber optic cable, kind of, with millions of fibers transmitting those instructions. When you cut the cable, no signals get past. When you mash it, some may get past. Until the swelling goes down, you won't know how many of the fibers are still transmitting. It's been suggested that a person can walk with only 10% of those fibers intact.

    Really, read that article. It's by Dr. Wise Young, and it is just for this situation...for smart people with questions. It's written for people like us to understand. Please don't apologize for asking! None of us knew. We all learned in a hurry, though!

  6. #6
    Thanks for the quick response again. How great it is to talk to friends and family members which such compassion and understanding. IT certainly is a frustrating unknown for many, i do understand that. Keep FAITH!!! I hear that all the way. I will find out if the medicine was given right away. She was picked up by ambulance within 20 minutes of the accident, she went to a local hospital then aromed to a larger hospital for better care (within maybe 2 hours of the accident).

    They heavily sedated her tonight so she would get rest because when she wakes she is getting very stressed about the vent tubes and etc. and being tied down. She keeps trying to talk and has had mobility in her arms. She can move her fingers but not able to make a fist.

    Hopefully more positive things will progress as swelling goes down. At this point she has no feeling or mobility below the injury (c5 - c6)

    betheny, do you have the ability to go to the bathroom on your own?? She was breathing on her own which means she did have some abdominal stregnths, right? That is encouraging, right?

    How long or what are they waiting to see happen before they take her ventalator out?? When do they determine if complete or incompelte??

    ps - thanks for the links too - they are VERY informational

  7. #7
    Had my 2 year anniv. yesterday. Did the exact same thing as your girl right down to the coma/trach/vent. I was chewing over the memories and man - sorry she and all of you have to be going through this.

    Hard to add to the very good above advice, especially being so new, there are so many tangents and you/she will get it figured out along the way. Every injury is unique so don't bog the mind down comparing how others recovered or how long it took. Every little improvement is encouraging and as mentioned, it takes a while for the spinal shock to subside. I wiggled a toe 3 months later and have been getting returns ever since.

    But I digress - one day at a time for now. Get off that vent, eat real food again. This is without rival the best community network for questions/ support/etc.

  8. #8
    I am new on here also, and am very sorry to hear about your girlfriend. The only question you had that I can give some insight to is the ventilator tube. I was in a serious car accident in 2001, 8 years after I was already paralyzed, caused by falling 17'.

    When I woke up in the trauma unit I also had a ventilator tube in my throat. It was very frightening because you feel like you can not breath, because of the size of the tube. Immediately I reached to yank it out, and found out my hands were tied. Panic almost set in because I thought I was going to suffocate, but the nurse convinced me to lie still, and let the vent tube supply the necessary oxygen I needed.

    It was hard to do, but realyzing I had no choice, I did as I was told. The point I am trying to make is that I was not ABLE to breathe on my own, even though I thought I could. In a matter of a few minutes I could feel the air inflating my lungs, and the panic went away.

    Your girlfriend may be experiencing the very same feelings, but I am sure she has also been told to let the vent tube do it's job. Maybe you can assure her that of that too.

    As for your other questions, I think Bethany has answered them much better than I can. I haven't read the link she provided yet because I wanted to address your concern about the vent tube, and hope that I have helped you. Have faith, and support her because she will need that most of all.

    As I was writing this alpentalic was writing also, and I see that his advice is much better than mine. But I sincerely hope for the best for her and you, her family and friends.
    Last edited by Richnotrich; 07-18-2008 at 02:05 AM.

  9. #9
    You've come to the right place, wirth10, and it's good you found it early on. SCI is a terrible blow for both the injured and their loved ones, no matter at what level it occurs. Betheny has been giving you good advice. At this point, there's no way to tell for sure how badly your friend will be affected. It's very possible that there will be improvement as the swelling goes down, and it's conceivable that improvement will continue for a long time, albeit slowly. As for "going to the bathroom," well, damn it, those functions are controlled by quite low levels of the spinal cord, and it's likely that will be a major nuisance for her from now on. Frankly, although it may be the most visible effect of SCI, loss of the ability to walk is by no means the worst part of it. But she will learn to cope with it. It is very likely that breathing will not be a problem; that's controlled by a fairly high level of the cord. I'd expect the breathing tube will be removed several days after surgery.
    After the acute hospitalization phase is over, SCI-nurse on these forums may have advice on where she should go for rehabilitation. Someone will need to act as an advocate for her care until she is able to do that for herself. There are what seems like a huge amount of things for her and the people close to her to learn.
    Ensure that the people caring for her are extremely careful about avoiding pressure sores - decubitis. A pressure sore can easily develop in a few hours in the ICU, or in a hospital where they don't deal with SCI patients on a daily basis. Learn about how your friend needs to be moved periodically. If the nurses caring for her aren't very aware of that problem, don't rest until you see them moving her, say, every 2 hours.
    - Richard

  10. #10
    See the PM I sent you for the identical message you sent to me. No need to duplicate PMs for what is on the forums.

    In addition to the article above about acute SCI, print out this one and share it with family members and other friends.

    Get her family on-line here. We can help answer questions and help her get the most appropriate and expert care.


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