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, May 31, 2011

Rehab @ VMC - Feb 1-28, 2011

After surgery, I had to wait a few days to see when I would be transferred to Kaiser's rehabilitation center in Vallejo.  Everyday it was the same answer...."we do not know yet."  It was very frustrating not knowing if or when I was going to be transferred.  No one seemed to have any answers.  After 6 days, there was finally a decision to outsource my rehab to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center (VMC).  I was kind of excited because VMC was so much closer to my family and friends compared to Vallejo.  I had heard great things about VMC's spinal center rehabilitation facilities from other family members and friends.

I was not sure what to expect when I arrived at VMC.   After an initial examination by the doctor and  physical therapists, I was put in a wheelchair to explore the facility.   The next day, I was very surprised at how much stuff goes on in a day at rehab.  I was so busy from the time I woke up until the time I went to sleep at night.  Each day started off with a towel bath from the nurses, vital sign checks, medications, getting dressed, breakfast in bed, 1 hour of Occupational Therapy (OT) and then 1 hour of  Physical Therapy (PT).  Lunch was at noon and then back into the rehab gym to work out for an hour.  There was a small break and then it was time for "par course" where one of the PTs would get in a wheelchair and make us do laps around the rehab facility for 30 minutes.  Then we had a class to attend for an hour to learn and cope with all of the issues of spinal cord injuries (SCI).  Then dinner, bowel program, and off to bed.  Whew!!!  Then is started all over again, and again, and again.

Another great thing at VMC was their recreational therapy options.  There were lots of activities planned each night after dinner.  Going out to movies, cooking dinner, adopt-a-pet, arts and crafts, etc.  Every Monday they would bring in some dinner we would have a community discussion with some seasoned wheelchair people.  This was a great time for the newly injured patients to ask some questions about anything we wanted.like how do you go shopping, what kind of vehicle to look for, how do you go to the beach, how do you go back to work, etc.  On Saturdays, the rec therapists would plan a group outing where we sometimes went out to breakfast or lunch, go to the mall or go to watch wheelchair basketball.  They even took us to the swimming pool in the basement where they taught us how to swim, float and just relax.

I also had a few medical issues while I was there.  The doctors and nurses took great care of me and did everything they could to help me get better

On my first day, I could not sit up in bed, I could not balance, nor was I very strong.  The therapists taught me all the skills I needed to return to my home and start living my life again.  They taught me how to be as independent as my injury would let me.  It was a struggle everyday, but I was pushed very hard and I needed it.  I am able to do almost everything by myself now.  Thank you VMC!!!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Surgery - Jan 25, 2011

I took another ambulance ride from Sierra Vista Medical Center to the San Luis Opispo airport. From there I flew to San Jose International airport and was driven to Kaiser San Jose where I was admitted to the ICU.  I was in my room for most of the day and was not sure if I was ever going to get into surgery.  I finally met the surgeon and he said they would try to squeeze me in by the end of the day.  I went down to the basement and had a pre-surgery MRI.  I then was prepped for pre-op around 9 PM.  I had to sign my life away and was very scared after reading the anesthesia waver.  It took about 2 hours to get ready for surgery.  I was rolled into the operating room and it was a very cold, industrial looking room in the basement with high power lights, robotics, joy sticks and other high tech machinery.  I would love to take a tour sometime when not under anesthesia.

Everyone in the room seemed to be actively doing their jobs like a well oiled machine.  They were going over check lists, calling out tasks and double checking the equipment.  It was a very lonely place for a patient undergoing such a major surgery.  I remember being very scared after being moved in.  One of the nurses saw the fear in my eyes and took my right hand. She began squeezing and caressing my hand to help calm me down.  She didn't have to, but it really meant a lot to me.  Sometimes its the little things that make all the difference in helping a patient feel better.  The anesthesia kicked in and then I was out.....

The next day the surgeon came to check on me and give me a run down on what he did.  My spine was dislocated at T11 and T12.  The surgeon had to grind down the bones in my spine to get it to pop back into place.  My spine was re-aligned and fused from T9 to L2 with 2 titanium rods and 10 screws.  He took bone grafts from my right pelvis and slathered the injury site to help form a solid bond. The surgeon said the surgery went as planned and said I had strong bones for the screws to bite into.  He then asked what I was doing lying on my back.  He said he did not have his best crew work on me so I could lay around all day.  He reached down, pushed a button and I began to sit up in bed.  I had been laid out on my back since the accident.

Later, the physical therapist paid me a visit and got me fitted with a Thoraco-Lumbar Sacral Orthosis (TLSO) Brace.  The TLSO is basically a plastic and foam clam shell which covers me from my abdomen to my chest and wraps under my arms.  It is used to keep my back straight after surgery.  It was very uncomfortable and severely limited my range of motion.  After my TLSO was put on, I was transferred into a wheelchair for the first time.  WOW, what a feeling to actually be sitting up again.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Accident - Jan 22, 2011

I really don't know where to start so here it goes.  On January 22, 2011, our lives were turned upside down. 

My family and another family decided to head down to Pismo Beach OHV park for a weekend of  relaxation and some off-road fun.  It was a beautiful weekend in January.  No rain, no wind, just sunshine.  The beach was not very crowded.  The kids wanted to go look for shells on the beach so all of the girls took off.  My buddy Scott and I decided to go out for one more ride in the dunes before we started cooking dinner.  We were having a blast jumping the razor backs, carving dunes and racing up the hill climbs.  We were taking turns video taping and taking pictures of some of our jumps.  We found ourselves fairly far back in the dunes as the fog began to roll in.  We were getting a little tired and wanted to jump a few more dunes before we called it a day.  All was going well until I crashed my motorcycle on a razor back jump that Saturday afternoon.  I recall going up the face of the sand dune and decided to let off of the throttle a little bit.  I launched over the lip of the dune and suddenly I realized my feet were coming off the pegs.  I was approaching the landing in an endo situation where my front wheel was going to land first. "This is not good!" I thought to myself.   I envisioned myself crashing into the handle bars face first.  I decided to bail off the bike at the last second and I hit the ground.  My chest and hands landed first, my feet continued over my back and I felt a cracking sound as my feet landed next to my head.
I was able to roll over on my back where I got my head pointed uphill and my legs down hill.  The pain was excruciating!  I have never felt so much pain in my life.  I reached down to feel what I thought was my stomach and it had a Jell-o like felling.  I thought to myself that I had just ruptured my internals and I that I was bleeding internally.  I thought I was a gonner.  After I removed my gloves to feel again, I was not touching my stomach, but I was feeling the top of the thighs.  I began feeling other parts of my body and I realized I could not feel anything below my waist.  I took off my new Fox helmet so I could look down toward my legs and tried to move them.  Nothing!  I tried to wiggle my toes in my boots.  Nothing!

I leaned my head back against the sand, I closed my eyes and realized that I was paralyzed.  I had just changed my life forever.  I had just changed my family's lives for ever.

The pain was unbearable.  My teeth were clenched tight, my back was throbbing, I was in total agony.  Then I heard Scott come back over the dune to check on me.  He asked if I was OK.  I asked him to call 911 as I was hurt really bad.  Off in the distance I could hear the sirens of the Park Rangers, I could hear a few other people coming near to offer some support.  The pain was so bad I began to let out some screams.  I tried to hold them back, but it was too much to bear.  Then heard more sirens in the distance.  I heard the Park Ranger's H1 hummer pull up to the top of the dune above me.  The rangers came down with their backboard and rescue gear.  One stabilized my neck and put on a c-collar.  The other began asking me questions.  Then he began cutting off my new Fox Racing pants and shirt.  Oh, I finally found a pair of motorcycle pants that fit me perfectly.  Argggggh!  OK, not something to be worried about considering the situation I was in.  But still, did you have to cut my pants and shirt off????

The rangers stabilized me and strapped me to the backboard.  They continued to take my vital signs every few minutes.  They asked me the same questions over and over to make sure I was mentally OK.  The rangers were awesome and they helped calm me down a little.  One ranger asked if I had ever been in a helicopter.  No.  He said now was my chance as  we heard the helicopter approaching.  Then I heard the words over the radio..."It is too foggy for us to land, you will have to wait for the off-road ambulance to take him out."  The ambulance was already on its way.  The paramedics arrived on scene and took over.  They dragged me up the sand dune and loaded me up in their ambulance.  What a bumpy ride all the way our of the dunes!

On the way to Arroyo Grande hospital the paramedics installed an IV in my arm and gave me some morphine for the pain.  I must say it did not help at all.  The pain was still unimaginable.  My whole body began shaking.  When I arrived at AG hospital, they gave me a CT scan.  I remember the tech asking me to stay still.  Yeah, OK.  How am I supposed to do that?  The morphine was not helping to lower my pain level.  After the CT scan I was transferred to a spinal center in San Luis Obispo.  When I arrived there, one of the nurses injected me with some dilauded.  I remember him saying that I should put on some Pink Floyd and get ready to hallucinate.  Within 15 minutes, I felt my entire body start to feel numb.  The pain was instantly reduced from 10 to about 5.  What a relief!

View from Eric's wife:  Hi, I am Tracy, Eric's wife.  I thought I would share with you my experience on the day of the accident.  As Eric stated, it was a beautiful day, one of the nicest we ever experienced at Pismo.  We brought our 4 and 6 year old daughters and were camping with a family friend who also brought their similar aged daughters.  During the morning we had some fun motorcycle rides through the dunes.  Back at camp the girls had fun riding their ATVs.  Later in the afternoon, Eric and his friend went out for another ride and Jenn and I took the girls for a long walk up the beach looking for shells.

The walk started out with the still beautiful weather, but on the way back an eerie heavy fog suddenly came in an overtook us.  It was like the scene from the first "Pirates" movie when the fog came in right before the pirates showed up.  We could only see a few feet in front of us but eventually we found our way back to camp.  I was surprised the guys were not back because this was longer than Eric was normally out for.  Soon we heard the sirens of the ranger then followed by the ambulance.  This is not unusual at Pismo.  But I had a bad feeling since Eric was not back.  So I jumped in Eric's Landcruiser and took off slowly after the sound of the sirens.  Way back in the park, the ambulance passed me going back out.  I wondered who was in there.  I kept driving around carefully in the fog and about 10 minutes later I got a call from my friend and she said Scott was back.  At first I was relieved.  Then she handed the phone to him and he said Eric was hurt really badly and was taken out in the ambulance.  Eric could not feel his legs.  I think I might have stopped breathing for a moment as I tried to let the news sink in.

When I got back to camp, Jenn packed Scott and I sandwiches and snacks and then Scott drove me to the hospital emergency room.  When we got there, the doctor pulled me aside and said Eric was hurt really badly and he showed me an xray of his broken spine.  I think that is when I began crying.  Next we got to see Eric and he was obviously in a lot of pain.  An hour later Eric was loaded into a ambulance and I accompanied him to a different hospital with a spinal clinic.  On the way out, the doctor mentioned to me that we should look into stem cell trials....

In the ICU of the new hospital, Eric was put on a new medication which made him a lot more comfortable.  While the doctors did their initial checks, I had to wait in the waiting room with Scott.  It had now been about 2 hours since the accident, though it seemed like an eternity.  I realized it was time to make some phone calls.  It seem appropriate to start with Eric's parents.  It was the hardest phone call I have ever had to make.  I got up the courage to call, then was a wreck afterwards.  That started the phone tree.  They called his sister, who then called my parents, all within minutes of that call and I started gettings calls.