Thursday, June 22, 2006

Thinking About Paralysis

I'm ashamed to admit that, prior to Robb's accident, most of what I knew about paralysis came from watching movies and television. I never really reflected on the mechanics of paralysis. A character would be described as being "paralyzed from the waist down," and I would have some nebulous idea of a distinct horizontal line bisecting the body, below which the person had no use of their limbs. I just accepted that phrase, without giving it much thought.

Robb and I were talking about this last night, on the way to dinner with our inlaws-in-law, Barbara and Arnold. Robb said that when he thought about paralysis -- if he thought about it at all -- he had a mental picture of a clean boundary between paralyzed and mobile, which was a permanent state of being.

We both have come to realize how overly simplified this image is.

According to the diagnosis of Robb's physiatrist, Robb has "accute paraplegia." When I initally read the doctor's report, I must have skimmed past those words. Robb said them to me yesterday, and the phrase really shook me up. In my naive understanding of this word, paraplegia was a state in which a person has no use of, or sensation in, any part of their legs. I pictured someone without any hope of walking.

Obviously, this isn't the case with Robb.

Not much has changed recently. Robb still has no sensation in the front of his feet, and has a lack of motor control in some areas of his feet. He lacks sensation on the backs of his legs. His pelvic region is still off-limits. But the boundaries between working and not working are rather fuzzy.

This just doesn't conform with my previous imagining of what paraplegia entailed. Parts of his legs work fine. Which is a very good thing, as they are picking up the slack for the parts that aren't currently working.

What's my point in all this? Darned if I know. I'm just thinking out loud.


Lock Wench said...

I don't know if "ashamed" is the word you should use. After all, we humans naturally tend to focus on the things that make sense for our own little world and that often doesn't change unless our world does. The beauty of this blog is that, when your world changed, it allowed the rest of us to get a peek into your everyday reality. Both the physical reality and the emotional reality. Your public thoughts and your innermost private ones. Anyone who takes the time to educate others and help them develop empathy for the physically challenged (while dealing with everything else!) should not be using the word ashamed at any point. So there.

Gothknits said...

It really does make you stop and think for a bit. I know I have been reevaluating such things since my mum's MS diagnosis. Just the ability to grasp and pick something up means so much but how many of us actually think about it. There is so much we take for granted even just in the terms in which we think of them.
I agree you have no need to be ashamed. You have learned and expanded your own world view. The only way you could be ashamed is if you took nothing away from all this...and knowing the two of you, that is not likely to happen.

Anonymous said...

There are some days I can't feel my brain working, so I figure you are in good company, but what do I know, my brain isn't working!

Did you guys see the story about Johns Hopkins and the work they are doing there with spinal cords? That is noting short of amazing. If Robb wants a pair of mouse feet attached to him, I can get you a good deal.

- signed
- your friends in humor,
Annalisa and Gary


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