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Thread: How much can I expect to recover?

  1. #1

    How much can I expect to recover?

    I live in Oregon and I'm in my late 60's. A boating accident last year gave me a complete SCI at L1.

    I am having a terrible time recovering from this. I have been a couch potato my entire life. I have been obese for many years. My strength training has been limited to lifting a cup of coffee. That's just been my lifestyle, and I've paid for with a heart attack and bypass surgery five years ago.

    Now I'm paralysed from the waist down. However my upper body is ALSO very weak. With months of work I have gone from bicep curls with 2 pound dumbbells to 5 pound dumbbells.

    But on youtube I see videos of strong young guys doing EVERYTHING independently! Transfering from floor to chair, chair to car, you name it!

    What chance is there that someone like me can ever reach that?? Is it possible? What is realistic?

    PS My physical therapist for whatever reason doesn't believe I'll ever make any major advancements. He seems to see me as an old man who is and will be virtually quadruplegic, however I'm not ready to give up.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2013
    California. Senior C7/T2 incomplete BSS
    Welcome John, congratulations on now being able to lift 5 lbs, that's a great accomplishment. You should celebrate! I'm glad you're not ready to give up.

    I am 67 and I know the fear you speak of. I can only tell you my experience, and encourage you to do what you can when you can. I have learned to look at the tiniest improvement as a positive in my life. Stop looking at strong young guys doing everything, that's not going to happen for you, even without the SCI.

    I'm a C7/t2 incomplete quad with BBS (brown Sequard Syndrome) due to a spinal cord stroke. That makes me a wobbly, walker for very short distances. My main focus is on maintaining function so I can be independent. I encourage you to look at your situation the same way. Think about what you need to be able to do to be as independent as possible, and work toward that goal, one day at a time. Ignore what the PT thinks, his beliefs don't make it so. Keep working toward getting stronger. Make sure that your cardiologist approves your exercise program. Accept the fact that exercise will need to be part of your life if you want to maintain your independence.

    Keep on keepin on

  3. #3
    I guess my dream right now would be to independently tranfer by sliding board. At the present time I can't do it. I'll spend ten minutes trying to drag myself across the board and I'll probably fall in the middle. My aide partly lifts me while I partly slide. That's how it works now.

    Also, aren't there some people in their sixties who are slim, trim, athletic, etc? But do you have to start young to be like that?

  4. #4
    I am a T-10 para since 1970, my wife is also a chair user, we live independently with little help except 2 housekeepers who clean for 2-3 hours every other week. I also hire snow plowing and lawn service. I used to do road races in a race chair, about 15 full marathons and maybe 100 races of lesser distances. Those days are behind me, I can no longer transfer from floor to chair, I use a transfer board for most transfers to conserve my shoulders. I use a full sized van w lift and pwr seats to drive and a hospital bed for sleeping, all to conserve my shoulders. My theory is you have to live as an athlete to gain maximum independence in a wheelchair. You should get some help in developing a healthy diet to help you lose weight while building strength. You will also need a good home conditioning program working out at least an hour daily to build your body to meet the challenge. With an L-1 injury this is certainly possible with the help and encouragement of a good PT/personal trainer and a nutritionist. The old you is history now you have to build a new you, try to have fun with the challenge, it is definitely doable.

  5. #5
    Senior Member TomRL's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    NE Ohio
    Blog Entries
    You can still build muscles, so ignore your therapist's predictions and keep on working toward your goals.

    "Blessed are the pessimists, for they hath made backups." Exasperated 20:12

  6. #6
    I would also recommend that you ask your physician to check your testosterone levels. If you are hypo (low) supplementation up to normal blood levels (not excessive) may be helpful. Low testosterone can interfere with your ability to grow and develop muscle mass, and with endurance.


  7. #7
    Senior Member flying's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Southern Oregon coast
    Hi John I live in Oregon as well. Moving around with your arms, like most of life is all about power versus weight. Getting stronger is part of it, but really try to improve the other part of the equation, weight. Think how much easer it would be to slid along that transfer board if you were a lot lighter. Your arms would not have to have big muscles and your shoulders would love it. Really think about eating a small bit of food, at your meals. Its ok to be hungry every now and then. This will take a long time, so you have to change the way you think about food. Food is there to keep us going, not for the short time pleasure we get as it goes by are taste buds. Different way of thinking, but you can do it, after all now you have more motivation.
    T12L1 Incomplete Still here This is the place to be 58 years old

  8. #8
    Loose weight like your life depended on it, man - you gotta move or next it's bedsores and that's a bad road to go down.

  9. #9
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Just outside of Philly
    I concur with Steve, watch your diet. The SCI will can slow the digestive process and the last thin you want is to get heavy or heavier. I stopped eating meat completely and I make sure I get a good 8 hours of exercise each week (you work up to that number, don't start there). I am about to turn 50 and I am completely independent and very active with skiing, cycling and kayaking. I drive a sweet little Mercedes and can hop in and out of it faster than most people who are walking. Don't let anyone tell you the limits are just because you can't walk.

    Good luck

  10. #10
    Yes it is possible. But you have to be determined, and work hard. You can do it.

    Your weight will be a big issue. Talk with your PT about finding a way to do cardio regularly to help with your general cardiac health and weight loss. Alternating days in which you do cardio/weights works for many. Talk to your cardiologist and primary care doctor about realistic goals for you. And then start small, but a little bit every day.

    You sound like you need a cheerleader. If your PT isn't a good one, change to a different PT. If your PT gives you exercises to do at home, do them. If they don't seem to be enough, ask for more. Show you are motivated, and you often can motivate people around you. Hire a trainer if you can afford one (and if the PT recommends one) for extra help/guidance outside of PT. Or look for cheaper options, like a public gym. Make your own gym at home and exercise. You have probably learned that simple hand weights and bands can give you a great number of options. And then every year... go back and do more PT as your insurance allows. Do as much PT as you can. If your doctors are less enthusiastic to prescribe it, ask another doctor. Staying active and making gains will keep you healthier, so less ER visits and less hospital admissions. This is a good argument to use with insurance companies, and it's true. The older you are, the more important this is.

    You have to start eating well. I recommend an Atikins like diet, with low carbs/low junk, more protein + vegetables + fruits and "healthy" fats. You really can eat well and not be hungry if you make better food choices. Try healthy snacks like fruit, yogurt, nuts, raw vegetables, popcorn. Don't have any truly bad food in the house. But reward yourself every once in awhile.

    You also need a full check up and close follow-up with your primary care to make sure you are as healthy as possible. I completely agree with the nurse that you should check your testosterone and have it supplemented if you are low. That will help your energy level and increase your ability to build muscle mass. Make sure you are getting any vitamin supplements if you need them. Hydrate well. Get your flu shot, pneumonia shot. If you're depressed, get it treated. If you have sleep problems/sleep apnea, get it optimized. You need drive, energy, and a good mood to maximize your chances of reaching your goals.

    My Dad was injured at 65, at about your level and is now 71. He is incomplete, although he was in a wheelchair full time with almost no leg movement when he was at your stage. He worked very hard (although still not as hard as a lot of the athletes on this site!) and he is now what you are hoping to be. It is possible. He focuses on making his upper body very strong. He can curl 35lbs, and I know he has weights that go over 50lbs and I have no idea what he does with those (!). He can transfer easily between common surfaces, but he now uses different techniques than you. But getting off the floor is never easy....

    Your enemies are UTIs, respiratory infections and pressure sores. They will set you back, especially because of your age, and each one is harder to recover from. Good nutrition (high protein, possibly with a vitamin supplement if your doc agrees), religious pressure reliefs, a good drinking/cathing schedule, cardio exercise + weight training, and flu/pneumonia shots are your best bets to keep these enemies away.

    You can do it. But it's hard.

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