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The Daily Struggles Of A Quadriplegic Part One

Updated on January 2, 2016

The life a quadriplegic is not an easy one. Just getting out of bed is a chore, and day to day activities that many of us take for granted, are not accomplished easily. Things like brushing your teeth, combing your hair, getting up to get a drink of water when you are thirsty, and yes walking. I don’t think many people realize what these men and women have to go through on a daily basis. If you see a quadriplegic or any handicapped person in the store, or on the street, think of all they had to do just to get there.

A quadriplegic is a person who has limited mobility, and is confined to a wheelchair. The most common causes of quadriplegia, is a severe spinal cord injury, in which the spinal cord is severed. This is mainly caused by an accident or some kind of severe trauma. Car accidents are the most common causes of a spinal cord injury, with violence being the second leading cause, mostly due to gunshot wounds, and sports related injuries, especially diving accidents, also account for a large number of spinal cord injuries.

When a person severs or injures their spinal cord, the brain is unable to send signals to the body, below the injured spinal cord, resulting in complete or partial paralysis. A complete break results in permanent paralysis below the area of the injury. Almost every time this happens, the injury is lifelong. An incomplete spinal cord injury is when the spinal cord is damaged but not severed. The results vary depending on the injury, and how bad the injury is. The results can be a complete paralysis for life to making a full recovery. The extent of the injury isn't known until six to eight weeks after the injury, due to swelling.

The amount of mobility, the use of certain limbs, and even breathing depends on where the break occurs. To understand this we have to take a closer look at the spine. Medical professionals have divided the spine into five different areas they are from top to bottom: Cervical, Thoracic, Lumbar, Sacral, and Coccygeal. The result of a complete break of one of the eight Cervical nerves (C1 through C8) (see top of photo), results in quadriplegia.

C1 – C4 complete break

This is the worst case scenario. A complete break of the C1-C4 nerve results in no movement of the arms or legs, and will usually be on a ventilator for a long period of time, with the exception of a C4 break which will usually result in the use of a ventilator only initially, after the injury. Without the use of the arms, the only way a person that sustains this kind of injury can get around is by a special motorized wheelchair that can be powered by the mouth with breath, or with the chin. They can control light switches, TVs, a computer Etc. with the help of similar devices, but will need daily care for most of their needs.

C5 complete break

With a C5 complete break, the bicep and deltoid muscles are functional, and also the shoulders are able to rotate. The wrist may be able to move but not the fingers. C5 patients will still have to rely on other people for the rest of their lives, but will be able to control a motorized wheelchair, and can live independently, with the help of special gadgets that can help them do some things we take for granted, like eating on their own, brushing their teeth, or combing their hair. But things like getting out of bed, getting dressed, getting into their wheelchair, bathing, and bowl care they will have to rely on a personal care attendant.

C6 complete break

People with a C6 break have a little bit more mobility than C5 patients, and can with the help of special devices can dress themselves, get themselves out of bed and do a lot of things we take for granted, but with difficulty, and may need a personal care attendant on a limited time basis

C7 and C8 complete break

C7 complete breaks have function triceps which help them control their elbows, which helps with there day to day functions like getting our of bed, and have limited control of their fingers which also helps in their daily activities. They can use a manual wheelchair, and can cook and clean with limitations, but may still need help with bathing and bowl care.

C8 complete breaks have all arm movement and can do all daily activities with limited help, except for walking. They can groom, bathe, do bowel care, get up on their own, and live fairly normal lives considering their circumstances.

Besides these limitations, a quadriplegic also has many more issues they have to deal with. Thing like bed sores, urinary tract infections, healing issues, low self esteem, and are easily prone to infections. As a first hand observer of what a quadriplegic goes through on a day to day basis, I can say that it is not an easy life. Life's basic freedoms are no longer available to them, and you look at life a little differently through their eyes.

My oldest brother was a quadriplegic (C-5) for 26 years before he passed away in 2008. He was an inspiration because although he had bad days, and sometimes he got depressed, he was independent, he lived on his own, had many friends, and lived his life the best he could. So next time you take a walk, make dinner for yourself, get yourself a drink, or go to the bathroom, think of how lucky you are because you can do these things on your own, and not have to rely on other people to do these things for you.


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    • mattdigiulio profile image

      mattdigiulio 5 years ago

      Fascinating stuff. I had no clue about the differing results from each kind of break. Voting up.