Shannon tells her story. “Your daughter will never walk again.” When my mother heard those words from the neurologist at Maine Medical Center, she fainted. Nothing could have prepared her. She still mourned the death of her beloved husband, Bob, who had died two months earlier after a long battle with colon cancer. I broke my neck in the summer of 1995 in a swimming pool accident. When I regained consciousness, I found I would never walk again.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, author of On Death and Dying, describes the five stages of grief when we face a terminal illness or experience a major life change. We can experience these stages in order, out of order, a few of them, or all of them.
Denial - This isn’t happening.
Anger - Why me? It’s not fair.
Bargaining –Give me just a little more time.
Depression - Why bother with anything?
Acceptance - It’s going to be Okay.
Shannon continues. I went through the typical stages of grief after such a life-changing event, at first denial, then anger - mostly with myself, and finally depression and resignation to my new life as a quadriplegic.
The neck supports the head. It connects the head, symbolic of the Spiritual plane, to the body, symbolic of the Material Plane. Therefore, it represents the need for balance between the two. Michael Schwartz, author, Health & Disease/Symbology Handbook
I know for sure I lacked balance in a big way at the time of my accident. I experienced confusion about some decisions I had made and sadness about a relationship that had just ended.
Before the accident, I experienced an identity crisis. I wanted a change in the course of my life. Unknown to me, I sent forth a desperate plea on an inner level. I never expected the change meant breaking my neck.
If I never had the accident, I would probably be married with children. I always wanted to be a mom. I still do. I would love to adopt or have foster children.
Emotionally distraught for some time after my accident, I went from an active twenty-four-year-old to a wheelchair-bound quadriplegic.
A quadriplegic normally losessensation and movement in all four limbs and the trunk. This generally results from a spinal cord injury to the neck. The loss of sensation and movement, however, may be incomplete with some sensation and movement being retained in parts of the arms and legs.
Shannon continues. After coming to terms with my accident, I had a few years of relatively good health with no complications typical of people in my condition. Then I began experiencing severe health problems in late 1999. Chronic pain and depression became my constant companions for about six years. Throughout these years doctors prescribed many different pain medications and anti-depressants with side effects horrible beyond words. Barely able to function, I felt constant dizziness, tiredness, and nausea.
I also developed recurrent bladder infections and severe lower-back pain. Tired of my constant visits to the emergency room, and following my doctor's advice, I had bladder surgery in 2001.
I would love to say that ended my health problems, except nothing could be further from the truth. The infections stopped, yet the pain persisted, including severe back pain, to where within months I could no longer get up in my wheelchair. I became completely bedridden and suffered deep depression.
My body, unable to handle pain like a regular person, goes into a state of dysreflexia – an autonomic reflex with spinal cord injury at T6 - mid back - and above. My blood pressure goes sky high, my head feels like it's going to explode, and my heart threatens to jump out of my chest.
I had been prescribed pain medication after pain medication, even Botox injections to paralyze my back muscles that shot off pain. Nothing worked.
My doctor, a spinal cord specialist, finally said, “Nothing more can be done. Learn to live with your pain.”
Talk about a life sentence! With this final blow, emotionally and physically exhausted, I gave up all hope.
Before her life sentence, Shannon had kept putting faith in the next magic pill, and the next one, and the next one. Have you done this too? With the final blow from her doctor, she dipped back into another stage of Elisabeth Kubler Ross’s stage of grief, depression/apathy, It’s hopeless; Why bother?
In my experience if we want, we can heal ourselves. See Shannon’s continuing journey of healing in chapter 7, Learn Techniques to Heal Yourself.
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