Trying to explain to children, during talks that I give in schools around Ireland, that because I broke two bones in my neck I can no longer feel or move my legs is difficult. Then add in the fact the fact that despite not feeling my body from my chest downwards, my brain still “feels” pain but not in the tradtitional sense of the term “feel” like before my accident. Confused yet??!!!!Because I sure know I am even though I have been paralyzed for almost six years now and I can’t fully understand it.
Often it’s that simple, people aren’t aware.
How can breaking two bones in your neck result in no longer being able to feel or move your legs?
A Spinal cord injuries can result from damage not only to the spinal cord itself but to the vertebrae, ligaments or disks of the spinal column. Ultimately, the spinal cord (the nerve fibers relaying electrical signals to and from the brain to every part of the body) is damaged. This may lead to impairment in part or all of the corresponding muscles and nerves below the injury site.
So if you can’t feel anything how do you know you are in pain?
Essentially, any painful, irritating, or even strong stimulus below the level of the injury for example too tight clothing or breaking a leg like one child asked can cause an episode of autonomic dysreflexia. The symptoms include flushing and sweating only above the level of injury, bradycardia, pupillary constriction, anxiety and nasal congestion and below the level of injury, there is pale, cool skin and piloerection. So despite a broken communication network between the body and brain, the body still manages to notify the brain that something is wrong just in a different way than before.
Children ask the most honest, direct, hard hitting questions of all and we should nurture this and respect their honesty through open conversation and allowing exploration of natural curiosities. This will bring about learning about impairments and positive change.
Often it’s that simple, people aren’t aware. Before I began using a wheelchair, I was one of these people.
Frustration, misunderstandings and false perceptions are born out of a lack of education about disabilities. Only through education and the power of knowledge from an early age can we raise awareness and encourage conversation amongst the neuroscientists, software programmers and inventors of potential practical aids of the future. Asking questions, seeing beyond appearances and discovering about the differences that make up the people in our world is essential in redefining the mould and breaking stereotypes.