Hi. My name is Eric. This is my journey after being paralyzed in an off-road motorcycle accident on January 22, 2011. I suffered a fractured T12 resulting in a ASIA A Complete spinal cord injury. I have no sensation or motor function from my waist down and am in a wheelchair. My wife, two young daughters, family and friends have been supporting me in this journey.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Lake Tahoe and Leg Spasms

It has been 3 weeks since we have returned home from Panama.  The first week back was total chaos going from appointment to appointment and trying to just get caught up on daily activities again.  After that, we spent a week in South Lake Tahoe like we do every summer.  Unfortunately, the place we always stay at was not wheelchair accessible.  Tracy's parents and our 2 girls stayed at the condo in the Keys, while Tracy and I had to book a room at the nearest Motel 6.  It was a pain to have to drive to the motel every night so I could use the bathroom, take a shower and sleep in a super small bed.  We sure missed the California King bed we had at home.  

The kids had a great time riding their bikes without training wheels (finally!), playing at the beach, showing off their climbing skills at the playground, miniature golfing, going on nature hikes, eating ice cream at Camp Richardson and swimming in the indoor pool.  I think I got into the pool 3 times that week.  It took a little effort, but we finally figured out that two people holding my arms and one to guide my legs would make it easy for me to get in and out of the pool.  I had my life jacket on so I could float around and be with the kids in the pool.  It was so nice to be able to swim with the girls again.  

When they decided they had enough of me, I decided to practice walking back and forth across the pool.  I tried to concentrate on moving the muscles that I would normally use for walking.  Being in the pool, I did not have as much gravity working against me.  I was able to lift my legs up enough to get my feet off the bottom.  I am sure most of this was lower abdominal muscles and hips, not necessarily my leg muscles.  Every little bit helps.  I did this for an hour every time I was in the pool and I was really exhausted when it was time to get out of the water.

One of the days we decided to load up the boat and head over to Emerald Bay and hang out for the day.  Normally the ramp from the condo to the boat dock is very steep.  However, with all of the rain we had this year, the ramp was almost flat.  Getting in a boat is easy, getting back out was a challenge.  It still took 3 people to get me out of the boat just like the pool.  I must say that riding in a boat without using your legs to stabilize yourself is quite an experience.  I felt like one of those kids blow up punching bags with the sand at the bottom.  I was constantly rocking back and forth, but I never fell down!

I have had a difficult time sleeping at night.  Ever since leaving Panama, my legs have begun to spasm and twitch a lot.  The right leg seems to spasm on and off all day long while my left leg will occasionally spasm throughout the day.  They never did that before.  I have always had a slight twitch that I could hardly feel in my upper right thigh/hip area.  This is probably because that is my last level of sensation due to my T11-T12 injury.  Now when I sit on the bed with my legs straight out, I can feel the same twitch, but it is 100 times stronger and it makes my whole body shift.  When this happens, I can see my thigh muscles move, my shin muscles move and my foot will a twitch.  Unfortunately, I can’t feel or control any of these leg muscle movements. 

Over the past few days, I have noticed a new sensation on my right leg.  About 6-8 inches down from my hip joint, I can sometimes feel the muscle or skin move when I get a leg spasm.  This sensation is only on the side of the hip/leg.  Not at the front thigh area.  I do not have any touch, pressure or temperature sensation at that part, but my brain thinks it can feel when that muscle spasms.  I am not sure what to think.  Hopefully it is a positive sign that some of my damaged spinal neurons are starting to heal.

Up next…..going back to work, car shopping, intensive physical therapy and participation in a clinical trial for 6 weeks where I get to strap on a pair of Berkley Bionics e-LEGS and go for a walk!!!!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Final Day of Therapy and Injections - July 1, 2011

Today Eric had a very full physical therapy session.  

He began straight into standing exercises.  This time while he was doing sets of standing, Alexis told him to try moving his hips right and left.  This was a new challenge and Eric had to really focus but was able to use his abs to move his hips back and forth.  

For the next set of exercises Eric sat in his wheelchair and sat straight up, not leaning on the backrest.  He held a 24 inch bar in both hands and moved it like he was rowing a boat, then making a large figure 8 and finally up and down at an angle across his body.  This worked his balance, abs and shoulders.  

For the final set of exercises Eric moved to the cushioned table and did his least favorite balancing exercises.  He had to do sets reaching left, right and in front of him to touch a ball then pull himself back with his abs and lower back muscles.  He still struggles but I see a definite improvement from the first time he performed these exercises several weeks ago.  Eric's upper body and core strength has definitely increased through the physical therapy sessions.

The session concluded with the range of motion stretching of Eric's legs.  Then Eric was given a folder with printouts of physiotherapy exercises for people with spinal cord injuries.  Every day Alexis has stressed to Eric the importance of working on core body strength and doing his stretches.  Likewise, the people at the Stem Cell Institute have stressed the importance of continued physical therapy.  We have heard several reasons for this.  
  1. The stem cells go to the inflamed part of the body and exercise will supposedly stress and inflame the injured part of the body.  
  2. As a person with SCI regains functionality, it is critical to have strength to work on recovery therapy.  
  3. Maintaining physical strength, especially core strength, and balance will help a person with SCI perform day to day activities easier.

After saying our final goodbyes, we returned to the hotel then were whisked off to the Stem Cell Institute.  Eric was quickly taken in to get his spinal and IV injections of his bone marrow.  One difference with these IV injections is instead of approximately 6cc's for the umbilical cord injections, the bone marrow vial is approximately 30cc's.  

After 4 weeks, Eric has received injections of approximately 340 million stem cells.  Let's hope that over the next few months Eric begins to see improvements in functionality.  To supplement the stem cells over the next few months patients are recommended to take D3 and Folic Acid vitamins.  The Stem Cell Institute provided a 2 month supply of Stem-Kine D3 vitamin supplements.  We will buy the Folic Acid back home.   A nurse from the Stem Cell Institute will followup with Eric at 30 days and 60 days.  Based on Eric's improvements she will make a determination whether or not to recommend Eric return in 6 months.

Spinal injections team:  Nurse SantaMaria, Dr Herrera  & Dr Bowen with Eric

Samantha, Dr Hernandez (IV injections), & Elena with Eric

Eric with Pablo De La Hoya.  He manages the business side but spends a lot of time talking to patients and getting feedback.