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Thread: C1 & C2 Injury

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  1. #1

    C1 & C2 Injury

    Hello, I am new here and in need of some information as my family and I are in complete sadness and really scared.

    My mother was in a car accident. Her heart stopped twice. They opened her chest to restart heart again & repair an organ. She had nonstop seizures 12+ hours. She has a dislocated C1 and C2 because the ligaments snapped and there is also spinal injury. She sometimes reacts to blinking & tears sometimes roll down when she hears us. We feel she still understands. The doctors tell us that they are pretty sure she has no brain activity or awareness. She is not sedated anymore & only is being given pain medicine and seizure medicine.

    My questions are:
    Has anybody experienced someone not being aware for several days and then regained consciousness?
    Does reactions like tears mean she can still hear us?
    She can't move or tries to move any part of her body, is there any chance that she will not be paralyzed completely?

    Thank you,

  2. #2
    So sorry you had to find us. What hospital is she in? If she is at UC Irvine, see if Suzy Kim, MD is available to consult on her case.

    Spinal cord injury at C1-2 does not cause brain damage, unless it causes loss of blood circulation through the two vertebral arteries to the brain stem. These arteries do not supply the higher regions of the brain responsible for cognition or consciousness. They do supply parts of the brain (the brain stem) that control blood pressure, breathing, temperature control and other vital functions, so if occluded, they can cause cardiac arrest and loss of the ability to breathe.

    Amazingly, some people do have little or no damage to the spinal cord even with a serious C1-2 fracture/dislocation. If the cord is seriously damaged, then it would be very unlikely that full return of function (movement or sensation of the arms and legs) would occur. It could take time to determine if that is the case, and without a conscious patient, it is nearly impossible to determine.

    Cardiac arrest and long-lasting seizures, though, esp. in an elderly person, can cause higher cognitive dysfunction and coma and serious brain damage or even death. She should be having tests for brain activity. This is required in order to determine brain death. Has she had these tests? Has a second opinion been obtained from a neurologist who is not currently treating her?

    People do certainly wake up from coma, although this is not as likely in an elderly person as it would be in a child or young adult, and would not be likely if the tests for brain death were positive.

    Tears can occur due to reflex activity, and may not be related to whether or not she can hear you. Does she open her eyes at all? This would not be controlled by the spinal cord nor by the brain stem.

    My heart goes out to you. This is a difficult decision to make for your family. Please be sure that you have requested an Ethics Team consultation to help you and her health care team make the best decision possible. Please come back and ask more questions if you have any.


  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    So. California
    Gabriela, I am so sorry for your mother and your family!! I will keep all of you in my prayers!

  4. #4
    Hello "momsurvive,"

    I just want to welcome you and your family to the Care Cure Community and let you know how very sorry I am that your mother has suffered such a traumatic and serious accident.

    It is difficult for any of us here who are not physicians or nurses to give you any advice about the prospects for your mother's recovery. Listen carefully to the attending physicians and seek outside opinions if you are not comfortable with what you are hearing. I wish all of your well.

    All the best,
    Last edited by gjnl; 10-07-2011 at 06:34 PM.

  5. #5
    I am so sorry to hear this has happened to your family.

  6. #6
    I, too, am so sorry that this has happened and wish you and your family the best. May you be blessed with excellent medical counsel and great wisdom and vision in the days to come. Welcome to the CareCure community, momsurvive.

  7. #7
    Hello Gabriela,

    I just want to say that life CAN still be good, even as a C1-2 quadriplegic (I've been one for over 14 years now). And it sounds like it's too early to determine what her condition is or will be. Prayers for recovery.

    Advice wise, I'd pay close attention to SCI-Nurse KLD's response above.

    God bless!

    Bill Miller
    Wheelchair users -- even high-level quads... WANNA BOWL?

    I'm a C1-2 with a legit 255 high bowling game.

  8. #8
    Thank you for your thoughts. The doctors told us that she may be paralyzed below the eyes down. We have a lot of faith and pray that this will not be the case. We know God has great plans for her. We are very religious, but are in agony mainly because we don't want her to suffer and we have to ask ourselves the questions of what would she want. We feel that as long as she has life; it is not our call to make what quality of life one is given. We will love our mom and will always take care of her regardless of her condition. If you are C1-2 quadriplegic, or have a loved one in this condition can you please tell me how you would feel please if you were a C1-2 quadriplegic and below the eyes as well.

    Thank you,
    Last edited by momsurvive; 10-15-2011 at 03:05 AM.

  9. #9
    Where is she? Has she been seen by a physiatrist? Unless she also has a brain injury that would cause "locked in" syndrome, I don't see how he could decide this. A C1 SCI doesn't cause any facial paralysis or loss of speech by itself. It can result in ventilator dependency and loss of use of the arms and legs. Please request a PM&R consult.


  10. #10
    She is currently at LAC/UCI, but when she is more stable Kaiser wants to transfer her to a Kaiser hospital.

    From what I understand the C1/C2 dislocated and got pushed up to her brain which they say might have cause brain damage. They did say that she has good blood circulation going to her brain. She had seizers for about 12 hours and they say that might have caused damage to her brain along with the no oxygen to her brain when the accident first happened and her heart stopped. They did the EEG and they did see that see has brain activity. They also see in the EEG what they say some type of firing going on in her brain, but they don't know if they are seizers still or what it is so they put her on seizer medicine.

    We have only seen that she was able to understand us the 4th day when they took her off all the medications, but her heart rate went down so they put her back on medications and we haven't seen her able to understand us when she opens her eyes. The day she was able to understand us, she had no facial expressions except her eyes. Her tong keeps moving nonstop.

    They say 14 days is a long time for her to have no other movement except her eyes which is why they think she is in "locked in" syndrome.

    She has not been by a Physiatrist yet, but I will ask.

    Thank you,

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