Thursday, September 29, 2011

What is a Quadriplegic?

What is a Quadriplegic?

Simply, a person who is paralyzed in both arms and both legs.  It's caused very easily, you have damaged your spinal column and cord, by either breaking the cord clean, or as in the case of my father, bruising the cord.  Quadriplegic's will refer to themselves as quads.

There are many conditions that make up a quadriplegic, you may see a Spastic Quadriplegic, Spastic Triplegic (3 limbs go spastic), Spastic Hemiplegic (one whole side of the body goes spastic), Spastic Monoplegic (only one limb is spastic), an upside down quad (has leg movement, possibly can walk, but no upper body strength), a series of injuries and resulting conditions depending on the height of the injury.  My father, much like Christopher Reeve, was a high quad.  Other quads maybe lower, giving them a variety of different capabilities.  This all depends as well on whether this was a clean break or a bruising type injury.

My father was a high quadriplegic, but he suffered bruising of the spinal column, so he had a fighting chance of recover.  In fact, the doctors felt so strongly about his recovery, they sedated him, and caused him to be asleep for 30 days so that he would not move at all. They also gave him a medicine that paralyzed him so that even in his sleep there would be no minor movements.  Of course, as we found out when he woke, this didn't completely work, but we were left with hope that he would become an upside down quad.  Someone that might even be able to walk, but suffer low upper body strength.

The importance with being a quadriplegic, for health and lifestyle reasons, is obviously to have as much of your spinal column and cord work after rehabilitation if rehabilitation is even possible.  My father was lucky and unlucky at the same time.  Due to his upside down nature of being a quad, he was able to feel quite a bit in his extremities and body.  This helped for things like early detection of bed sores - which can kill - as well as circulation issues in his limbs.  However, the tremendously crappy part about this, you feel things you can't fix.  If he hurt or got a charlie horse, or a spasm, he couldn't do anything about it.  If he had an itch he couldn't scratch it.

My father by 6 months into his injury, did get off the breathing tube and recovered quite a bit of movement in his arms.  He stopped progressing in walking, but eventually was able to even feed himself, that is until the spasms of being a Spastic Quadriplegic took over and he lost that too.

Being a quadriplegic, my father made the very best of the life he had for those 10 years.  He very rarely was serious about being a quadriplegic and truly embraced his condition.  He became an extensive volunteer, advocate, and even a pastor.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What is a Spastic Quadriplegic

What is a Spastic Quadriplegic?

A Spastic quadriplegic is a condition that causes quads and other paralyzed individuals to become what is knows as "Spastic".  My father would get into fits of "spastic" episodes all the time, daily in fact.  From my experience working very close with my father daily, weekly, monthly, year after year and becoming very close to so many quad's, this is something that quadriplegics share.  You may also hear this as a spastic tetraplegia condition, this is the same thing, just a different medical term.

Literally a Spastic Quadriplegic becomes "spastic" where specifically all limbs (feet and arms) as well as the entire body in some cases, looks as though they are seizing.  The body is shaking or trembling, depending on the level of spastic quadriplegia the patient may have.  Some patients may see that there is only one side or one half of their body that is effected which is more like Spastic Triplegia (3 lims involved, 1 leg, both arms or 1 arm, both legs), Spastic Hemiplegia (affecting only one half of the body, either the entire left or right side, but not both), or Spastic Monoplegia (affecting only one limb, either just one arm, or just one leg).

My father was a Spastic Quadriplegic and it was very difficult to watch as the treatment is so hit or miss.  In 1999 when he became a quad, there was a new drug out that he started in on, it kept things in line, his spastic quadriplegia down, and it seemed as though he might turn into an upside down quad.  Just as he began to start to walk, while not having much of any movement in the arms, the medicine failed to work and he became very rigid due to the spastic quadriplegia, and this is when the condition became very painful.  This is also when he began his treatment of a series of what seemed to be 10 drug combination to combat the problem.

The frustrating part is that it is painful.  Think of a charlie horse and how hard that is to get rid of and how painful that can be.  If a quad is spastic enough, then these bouts can be very intense and very painful and there is nothing you can do to fix the issue as it is happening, just as in a seizure, you have to let it pass.  The onset is strange as well.  It might be a sneeze or a cough, a nerve or muscle twitch, or in transporting/shifting the quad a muscle movement gone wrong.

My father was always a trooper.  He never complained - well, at least to me - even when our conversations would lead to tears of longing for a different life.  He worked through each spastic bout and was never stopped completely by being a spastic quadriplegic.

For more information on the difficulty in tracking, medicating and resolving spastic quadriplegia: