Stephen Has a Spinal Cord Injury
Stephen is a resident of a long-term care facility. He is only forty years old, much younger than many of the residents there. When he was twenty, he was in a serious car accident that caused him to become a paraplegic, meaning his legs and torso are paralyzed from the spinal cord injury caused by the accident. Stephen has moved into the long-term care facility because his parents can no longer care for him in their home.
Spinal cord injuries are usually caused by car accidents, motorcycle accidents, or diving accidents. The spinal cord consists of the nerve tissue inside the spine, also called the backbone. The nerve tissue inside the spinal cord along a person’s back carries messages to and from the brain. When the spinal cord is severely injured, paralysis may occur. When someone’s legs and lower trunk are paralyzed, he is a paraplegic. If the injury is in the upper spinal cord or in the neck, he may become a quadriplegic. In that case, his arms, legs, and lower trunk are paralyzed. Sometimes quadriplegics are unable to breathe without mechanical assistance.
Stephen’s paraplegia means that he is unable to feel any sensation in his legs and lower trunk area of his body. He cannot move his legs, and he cannot control his bladder and bowels. He generally doesn’t need help moving from his bed to his wheelchair, and he can control his wheelchair with hand controls. He receives physical therapy on a regular basis. Stephen has had a spinal cord injury, but his mind is intact. He can think, read, write, and speak like people who have not had a spinal cord injury. He has learned to accept help managing his daily needs, but he appreciates it when the nursing staff allows him to remain as independent as possible. He enjoys reading, working on his computer, and participating in activities with the other residents.