Your neck is broken, your spinal cord is severed and instantly your life has changed dramatically. You are an unwilling prisoner in a body you can see but can no longer move and have no control over.

A C4 complete cervical lesion is the highest-level lesion compatible with the ability to breathe independently.

After the accident, your intellect and personality are intact and you are able to talk, hear, taste, see and breathe. However, you have no sensation or voluntary movement below your clavicles, and no control over all the other bodily functions you previously took for granted.

External help is required to: -

Prepare food and to get it to your mouth.

Wipe your mouth and blow your nose.

Scratch an itch on your head or neck.

Rub an eye that may have a foreign object in it.

Wash, clean your teeth, and comb your hair.

You may require help with coughing at times.

Shouting is nigh impossible.

You cannot reach out and hug someone, they have to hug you.

You need to be lifted regularly in order to relieve pressure on your buttocks or a pressure sore may develop.

You have to be turned every 2 hours during the night to avoid pressure sores.

You suffer from spasms, which are involuntary muscle contractions below the level of the lesion, and these may cause you to fall out of your wheelchair.

You are unable to propel your manual wheelchair other than in a straight line, over a very smooth, level surface and for short distances only. You are unable to turn and move away from anyone who irritates you. You have to be pushed when you are out in public and strangers tend to talk to the person pushing your wheelchair rather than to you.

This is by far the most arduous marathon anyone could attempt. Before this you trained for a marathon with your body. Your mind and determination played a major role. The latter will be put to the test now.

Margaret Thompson
Occupational Therapist
Wits University

“Two Oceans”

I was returning home from participating in the Two Oceans Ultra marathon when the car that I was traveling in burst a tyre and I was flung out of the car. After months in hospital, I returned as a quadriplegic.

I am well rehabilitated and have definitely accepted my condition.

I can now push my wheelchair on even surfaces, but need assistance with some activities of daily living. I feel I am coping well with my impairment and physical disability.

I still have the desire to participate in sport and also some means of employment.

I have faith that I may be able to become more self-reliant.

Tyrone Ruiters
Cheshire Home, Cleary Park
October 2006

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