I became a quadriplegic on April 13, 2001 as a result of a motor vehicle accident. I was a passenger in the back seat of a vehicle and was thrown from the car. The front of my head came down first on the gravel road and the impact broke my neck and bruised my spinal cord. I had several chipped teeth and lacerations on my forehead. When the ambulance arrived at the scene of the accident, I had to be resuscitated because I was not breathing and my heart had stopped. Even after that, my blood pressure and pulse were extremely low and my body’s internal temperature was 83 degrees. The cold weather helped to slow down my body enough to keep me alive until I could receive much-needed medical attention.

I was airlifted via helicopter to Sandford USD Medical Center in Sioux Falls, SD. I had surgery that used bone from my hip, 2 plates, and several screws to fuse my broken neck. I could not breathe on my own and was kept alive by a ventilator that was connected to a tracheostomy tube. This tube was placed in an opening surgically created through the neck into my trachea. During my stay there, I was fed through a feeding tube that went up my nose, down my throat, and into my stomach. I was not able to eat or breathe on my own for over 5 weeks. I don’t remember most of my stay there.

After 6 weeks in the hospital, I was transferred to Craig Hospital for rehabilitation. Craig is located in Denver, CO and is a Model SCI (spinal cord injury) Center. I was there for 3 months, but I don’t feel I received much benefit physically because I was sick the majority of the time. My feeding tube was pulled upon my arrival and my trach was taken out a month into my stay. Once again, any memories of this time are very hazy. 4 and 1/2 months after my injury I was finally able to go home.

My 4th, 5th, and 6th cervical (found in the neck) vertebrae were broken, resulting in the paralysis of my body below my shoulders/upper chest. My deltoids in my shoulders and biceps in my upper arms are the lowest muscles in my body that are fully functional. I am able to extend both of my wrists slightly, but I have absolutely no movement in my hands or fingers. I use an electric wheelchair for 12 to 14 hours a day.

I have some sensation on parts of my arms and hands. Most of that sensation is not normal, meaning that I can’t tell the difference between hot and cold. The sensation I do have I can only compare to how a hand or foot used to feel when they were numb before my spinal cord injury. I have this not normal sensation on my thumbs and patches of my palms; my index fingers only have light touch sensation – meaning that I can only detect if something slightly wisps across them.

NEUROLOGIC:

Examination reveals the shoulder cap bilaterally to be the last fully intact dermatome to both light touch and pinprick, with patchy asymmetric sparing through the middle finger bilaterally to both light touch and pinprick. There is no sparing below this level.

Tone is slightly increased in both lower extremities. Deltoids and biceps are 4+/5 bilaterally in the supine position. There is a flicker of muscle strength either in the wrist extensors or in the brachioradialis on the right. This is consistently reproducible but not enough to move the joint through space.

DIAGNOSES:

  1. C4 sensory, C5 motor, ASIA Impairment Scale A tetraplegia secondary to C4, C5, and C6 fractures sustained in a motor vehicle crash on 4/13/01.
  2. Status post C4 through C6 anterior and posterior stabilization acutely.

MOTOR:

  • Patient continues to present motor control consistent to C5 motor level to weak C6 in both wrist extensors.
  • Right wrist extensor – 2/5
  • Left wrist extensor – 1/5

SENSORY:

  • Pain: last fully intact dermatome is C5; impaired to absent in C6; absent C7 through T2.
  • Light touch: last fully intact dermatome is C5; impaired to absent in C6; absent C7 through T2.