What Happens to a Person if Their Spinal Cord Is Damaged in an Accident?
Think of the spinal cord as the body’s main thoroughfare, a freeway connecting the brain with the rest of the body. Motor neurons zip past one another, delivering messages from the brain to the rest of the nervous system and from the nervous system back to the brain. It’s because of the information transmitted through this miraculous central conduit that we can sense, move, and react to stimuli.
However, damage to the spinal cord can disrupt this flow of information, much like a traffic jam or car accident on the interstate at rush hour. Messages from the brain can’t get through to the rest of the nervous system. As a result, a range of bodily functions may be inhibited, and in severe cases, the damage may be irreversible. A spinal cord injury can completely alter a person’s life, affecting everything from their career and relationships to their ability to perform routine tasks.
Impact of a Spinal Cord Injury
Some of the most common symptoms that people experience after suffering a serious spinal cord injury include intense back pain, loss of bladder and bowel control, lack of coordination, numbness and tingling in the extremities, difficulty breathing, muscle weakness, and paralysis in parts of the body. Sometimes, spinal cord injuries aren’t immediately obvious, and symptoms may appear gradually.
Some spinal cord injuries are temporary, and symptoms may improve with time and treatment. Others are permanent. Permanent damage to the spinal cord may result in paralysis, which can take numerous forms:
- Paraplegia – Paralysis occurs in both legs.
- Quadriplegia – All four limbs are paralyzed.
- Monoplegia – Paralysis affects one limb.
- Hemiplegia – Paralysis occurs in one arm and one leg on the same side of the body.
Early treatment for a spinal cord injury focuses on maintaining the patient’s ability to breathe properly, immobilizing the neck so that no further damage occurs, and working to prevent complications, including respiratory and cardiovascular problems. Doctors will often administer pain medication and may recommend surgery to stabilize the spine and remove any objects that are compressing it.
Once the patient is stable, doctors will focus on providing ongoing care to prevent complications, including bowel and bladder impairment, lung infections, blood clots, and other issues. Depending on the severity of the injury, the patient might have to remain in the hospital for an extended period, or doctors may recommend that they continue treatment at a rehabilitation facility.
Many people with spinal cord injuries need ongoing rehabilitative care. As part of their recovery, the patient may work with physical therapists, occupational therapists, psychologists, dieticians, and other healthcare professionals. Depending on the nature of their injury, patients might need to relearn certain motor skills or adapt to a permanent disability.
The goal of rehabilitation is to help spinal cord injury patients improve their quality of life and return to a sense of normalcy. Many patients with damaged spinal cords learn to use adaptive devices and assistive technologies to regain their independence. Modern medical innovations are making it easier than ever for individuals with spinal cord damage to rebuild their lives.
For example, modern electric wheelchairs allow people with spinal cord injuries or paralysis to get around without assistance from others. Some wheelchairs are even capable of going up and down stairs. Voice-activated technologies are also making it possible for individuals with limited arm or hand functions to operate computers and other devices remotely.
It can take months or even years to recover from a spinal cord injury, and many people never make a full recovery. But thanks to modern medicine and developing technologies, even people with permanent spinal cord damage can still live a fulfilling life.
Contact a New York Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer
If you suffered a spinal cord injury in an accident that someone else caused, contact a New York spinal cord injury attorney from The Mandel Law Firm to schedule a consultation. We can help you seek compensation for your medical expenses, physical rehabilitation costs, pain and suffering, and lost quality of life. You can reach us by phone at (646) 770-3868.