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Paralysis isn't the only effect an SCI has on your body

When most people think of serious spinal cord injuries, they think of paralysis. While this is often a component of such an injury, an SCI will affect much more than your ability to move or feel anything below the site of the injury.

In the days and weeks following your injury, you could experience total loss of spinal cord reflexes below where you suffered the SCI. This is temporary, untreatable and unpreventable, but probably not entirely unexpected. You may already know that messages from your brain will not get through to the nerves below the injury site.

What else happens to your body?

Your spinal cord represents the connection of your brain to the rest of your body. When damage to this vital conduit occurs, it cannot transmit messages from your brain -- which runs your body -- to the areas below the injury site. This could produce one or more of the following complications, depending on where your SCI occurred:

  • Your body cannot regulate its temperature. You get goose bumps to warm you up and sweat to cool you down, but these bodily responses may not occur with an SCI.
  • You could experience a low heart rate and low blood pressure, which could be dangerous.
  • You could need help breathing or strengthening the muscles you need to breathe.
  • You may not know when you need to urinate or have a bowel movement.
  • You could lose control of your bowels.
  • Your stomach and intestines may shut down temporarily.
  • You may find it difficult to swallow.
  • You may experience pain.
  • You may not know when you are hot or cold.
  • Your skin could break down. Bedsores are common.
  • You could contract an infection or an ingrown toenail.
  • Your muscles and tendons could contract.
  • Your joints and bones could develop bone spurs.

If you do not know that one of these conditions exists because you can't feel it, your body may give you other indications that something is wrong, but by the time it does, you could find yourself in a medical emergency. For this reason, you will probably need help to do what you can to avoid any of the above.

Even if your condition is temporary, you will more than likely spend months recovering. You will need substantial medical and other care during this time and perhaps beyond. At some point, you may begin to wonder how to pay your medical bills, support yourself and your family, and handle other matters. If your SCI resulted from the negligence or recklessness of another, you may have legal options to handle your financial woes.

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