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What happens in the aftermath of a spinal cord injury?

The human body takes a lot of punishment during a typical lifetime. Muscle strains, broken bones and lacerations may heal, but those parts of the body affected by them are never quite the same again. Therefore, it shouldn't be surprising to know that a serious injury to the spinal cord in a car accident, sporting accident or fall (among other traumas) causes lasting effects that may change your life forever.

The spinal cord is a sensitive bundle of nerves that runs through, and is protected by, the spine. It extends from your brain down through your lower back. Depending where on your spine an injury occurs, you could experience different effects. Similarly, the severity of the injury helps determine the course of your recovery. Some spinal cord injuries never heal, while others do.

Paraplegia

Injuries to the lower parts of the spine can cause paraplegia. You may move the upper parts of your body, but you lose mobility and sensation in your legs. Bodily functions in your lower body could suffer as well.

Quadriplegia

Injuries to the neck and upper parts of the spine can cause quadriplegia. You lose sensation and mobility in your arms, chest and legs. Other bodily functions in those areas also suffer.

Medical treatment in the first hours and days

The first priority after a spinal cord injury is to stabilize you and prevent any further damage. Within those first few hours, the following actions will more than likely take place:

  • Stabilize blood pressure
  • Ensure proper breathing
  • Reduce swelling of and around the spinal cord
  • X-ray your spine
  • Perform a computerized tomography scan
  • Perform a magnetic resonance imaging scan
  • Ultrasound kidneys to assess their function

Doctors often order one or more of these tests periodically to ensure that emergency treatments keep you stable.

Assessing the severity of your injury

Over the first few days, your doctor performs sensation and movement tests to determine the severity of your injury. If your spine can repair itself, you should see the fastest and most significant recovery in the first six months after your injury. Within that time, any lasting effects often become apparent. You might never recover sensation and mobility if the injury was severe enough.

What happens during rehab?

More than likely, you will need rehabilitation as part of your treatment and recovery. Often, this part of your treatment involves the following activities intended to facilitate recovery and teach you how to deal with certain issues:

  • Exercising for muscle strength
  • Learning to prevent pressure sores
  • Eating healthy to manage weight and maintain your health
  • Managing bowel and bladder control
  • Operating a wheelchair and other medical devices

Even if you ultimately recover from your spinal cord injury, you could need some or all of these measures for months or longer.

The emotional and psychological challenges

While adjusting to living with a spinal cord injury, even temporarily, you could feel as though you continuously ride an emotional roller coaster of anger, frustration and depression. Attempting to "power through" these emotions might do more harm than good. Don't feel ashamed if you need professional guidance to adapt; after all, you are only human.

The financial burdens this injury causes

You can still live a full life after a spinal cord injury, just with certain limitations. Those limitations often require costly medical and lifestyle needs. If your injury resulted from the negligence of another party or parties, you could file a personal injury claim in a Texas civil court.

Even though you may be hesitant to pursue compensation from the party or parties responsible for your injuries, you may consider that your ability to care for yourself and your family financially has changed. Your first responsibility remains to you and your family despite your injuries.

In most cases, you will begin by dealing with insurance companies. Don't make the mistake of accepting the first offers you receive. The goal of every insurance company is to keep costs low, not to look out for your best interests. Fortunately, an experienced attorney will look out for you given the chance and will help you obtain the compensation you deserve and need.

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