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Thread: Wiggling Toes, C3-C4 Injury for Senior

  1. #1
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2011

    Wiggling Toes, C3-C4 Injury for Senior

    On Sept 30th, my Dad fell and damaged (compressed) his spinal cord at C3-C4.

    Just after his fall and prior to the surgery, he could wiggle his toes but no other feelings or movement below the nipple line. After the surgery (wherein he lost a lot of blood), he could nod, shake his head, shrug his shoulders and wiggle his toes, but was vent dependent. After about 12 days, my Dad became non-responsive (kept his eyes shut and was grimacing) and didn't seem to be able to wiggle his toes when asked, and even stopped shrugging his shoulders and moving his head.

    The doctors are saying that the toe-wiggling is merely "reflective" and that he is "complete" -- the focus was that he is quite elderly and one doctor (6 days after the surgery) even suggested ''pulling the plug" in consideration his age!

    However, in the past 2-3 days, I've been giving him foot massages and trying to move his limbs (he's swollen) -- and he shrugged for me and wiggled the toes on his left foot. He is still vent dependent but has shown some weak puffs of breaths. Any experiences out there regarding recovery?
    Last edited by SCI-Nurse; 10-20-2011 at 02:29 AM.

  2. #2
    Where is your father? How old is he? Have you obtained a second opinion about the extent of his injury (neurology)?

    Loss of consciousness is not associated with spinal cord injury, but could be due to brain injury that also occurred as the result of his injury/fall, or due to complications occurring during surgery.

    Is he sedated? Are you able to get him to repeat movements by verbal command (without touching him)?

    It is likely from what you say that he has some significant injury to the brain and/or spinal cord. Prognosis in an elderly person is much more difficult than in a young person. You should get him seen by an expert neurologist, and may need to move him to a different hospital if you are not getting cooperation in a more extensive evaluation of the severity of his disabilities and prognosis.

    Last edited by SCI-Nurse; 10-25-2011 at 01:22 AM.

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2011

    Wiggling Toes + Swelling Spinal Cord

    Yes – I’ve been able to get him to repeat the movements by verbal command (without touching him).

    My Dad is in California in the ICU. I had called in and they told me that he is getting physical therapy and is constantly being moved – but when I arrived it seemed that for weeks 1 and 2, since he wasn’t moving (except to change his position in bed and perhaps one minute of range of motion was the extent of the physical therapy), his body became completely bloated and the toe movements stopped.

    During week 3, I arrived and started to massage his feet (45-60 min per day) and to move his body a bit more (not much but perhaps, 50-100 circular motions per arm and leg). He could then move the left foot (only bending back the toes) or the right foot when I asked him to.

    Week 4 has begun -- the spasms have started. Now that I know that the toe movements are indicative of ‘incomplete’ status, I believe it’ll be difficult for me to show the doctors that he can move on command. I tell them but they don’t believe me - and have labelled him "complete."

    My Father has indicated to me that he can feel me massaging his feet – though he cannot feel my touching his arms.

    Since I have personally heard a doctor, while standing by my Father's bed, say that my Father will be in this condition for the rest of his life – I am fairly certain that for two weeks, my Father has heard many comments that his condition is permanent. The conclusion via a psychiatrist is that my Father has lost hope – hence the closed eyes and is refusing further care. Also, he is in pain from the vent tubes and perhaps his neck. There is no brain injury - thanks, they checked.

    I have read that 4-6 weeks is needed for the swelling to go down. A woman has told me that it took 3 months for her swelling to go down and to be able to move one elbow.

    My Dad is in his 70's - have you heard any stories of elderly persons who have regained movement after a wait period?

  4. #4
    Where is he in CA?? Is he being seen by experts in SCI?

    In elderly people, incomplete injuries are commonly central cord injuries, where there is more impairment of the arms than legs. Can you be at his bedside when the physicians make rounds so that you can help your father demonstrate his movement? Edema does take several weeks or months to subside in the cord. Is he on medication (steroids) to help with that? Spinal shock is even more important...until that has subsided, it is difficult to determine if the injury is complete or incomplete.

    Are they attempting to wean him from the ventilator?

    Are they talking about moving him to an acute specialty SCI rehabilitation center?

    Is your father by any chance a USA military veteran?


  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2011

    Doctors encourage seniors to terminate

    He is in San Francisco. I don’t know if his doctors are experts.

    The spasms have started, so it’s difficult to show the doctors anything.

    The doctors are encouraging him to choose not to live – I’m devastated! I’ve stated that I've read literature seems to indicate 4-6 weeks and sometimes more – I spoke to a woman who told me that it took three (3) months for the swelling to subside - but they're saying that he's complete and the best case scenario is to be like C Reeve and so, it's best that he choose not to live. He is not being given any medication to help with the swelling – he has only been given pain killers and blood thinners.

    One of the doctors initially spoke about moving him to an acute rehab center, but he also recommended that he choose not to live due to his age. Worse, the doctors are standing by his bedside and saying that he’ll be this way for the remainder of his life – and, now, my Father seems to want to die!

    No, he’s not a vet.

    Please give me your kind advice.

  6. #6
    What hospital? How old is he? Can you get him moved to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center's SCI unit? Personally, I would fire that doctor and get one with a less negative and ageist attitudes.


  7. #7
    Your story has some eerie similarities to the one posted by momsurvive. Check out that thread for some other suggestions. I'm really sorry that you and your dad are having to go through this experience. Situations like these need to be handled with the utmost sensitivity and compassion and it seems as if you've received neither.

    Please keep us informed on your dad's condition.

    I'm sending all the compassion I can with this reply.

  8. #8
    My heart breaks for you as our family is currently in the same position as yours, except my mom's injury is on C1/C2 and brain injury. Doctors are very insensitive sometimes especially when they are older and say things are are way out of line. We don't discuss the topic of life support any more with anyone. If they start mentioning it, we tell them we aren't going to talk about this topic anymore and our decision is final.

    We also don't discuss her condition when we are next to her in case she can hear us.

    My mom has been conscious sometimes and answers with blinking her eyes, but never when the doctors come to see her. They come once a day for like 5 minutes, sometimes 2 if we are lucky. They seem to have given up on her, but our faith is strong.

    I will pray for your father.


  9. #9
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2011

    Apply to Rehab

    Santa Clara rejected my Dad’s application. A hospital rep mentioned that he can reapply if any improvements are shown. The feedback is also that for persons over the age 70, they generally die in a year.

    How can a person re-apply to a rehab center? Any advice on an appeal? Is it a written application or is it generally based on the patient’s condition?

    When I massage his feet, I “knead” it – does it mean anything that he can feel sensation on his feet with a strong touch (a nurse mentioned that when she grabs his toes, he can feel it)? He was briefly given medication for the spasms, but no longer -- if I ask that he be given the medication for the spasms, will this be helpful? Or, does the medication have any side effect?

    It seems that even when a Doctor comes to check his feelings in his neck and shoulder area… she doesn’t even check his feet – because my Dad has already been reclassified. She uses her finger and a sharp stick to check for feeling.

    The insurance company has recommended a LT acute care facility in Marin – in reading what SCI-Nurse wrote, does this mean that he won’t get a lot of therapy?

    His doctors had reclassified him as C1-C2 and complete – one doctor said that his situation is worse than Christopher Reeve - and that the most he can hope for is to be similar to Christopher Reeve. This doc's opinion is that the pulling of the plug is more desirable because in three months, my Dad will hate them for keeping him alive.

    Does anyone know about or have tried electro stimulation? It seems that none of my Dad’s doctors are familiar with this. I heard that John Hopkins was doing something in this area and a clinic in Cleveland.

    Thank you so much for your prayers.

    Momsurvive, I will pray for your Mother – she is very fortunate to have a close-knit family who supports and loves her.

  10. #10
    A friend of my family who was 80 went into the hospital with several different ailments. After a couple of days the docs came back and said he had advanced ALS. Everyone was like, he has ALS?

    They put him on a ventilator and suggested that the family make final arrangements because there was nothing they could do for him. Three weeks later the family final decided to pull the plug. Getting serious rehab at that age seems almost impossible but I would keep trying until there are no options.
    Last edited by Patton57; 11-03-2011 at 04:52 PM.

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