Thursday, July 27, 2006

Quad : What is a Quadriplegic?

A Quad ATV? No, not that kind of quad!

Definitions of quadriplegic on the Web:

* a person who is paralyzed in both arms and both legs;
* Quadriplegia is caused by damage to the spinal cord at a high level (e.g. cervical spine). The injury causes the victim to lose either total or partial use of the arms and legs. The condition is also termed tetraplegia; both terms mean "paralysis of four limbs". The loss of sensation and movement may not be complete with some sensation and movement being retained in parts of the arms and legs.

We call ourselves "quads".

[Paraplegics, who are paralyzed from the waist down,involving loss of sensation and movement in the legs and in part or all of the trunk, refer to themselves as "paras"]

Quadriplegics can have high or low injuries, depending on where the injury is on the spinal cord. The higher the injury, generally the less function a person will have. Christopher Reeve was a high quad, for example, and needed assistance to breathe.
If you want a good look at low level quads (for the most part) in action, rent the film Murderball. There is a whole range of variations, from loss of finger function, wrist function, etc. As the guys in the film will tell you, people often mistake low level quads as paras.

That's frustrating when you have trouble doing things because your hands are paralyzed and people think you're just holding them up or , worse yet, being lazy by asking for help you don't need.

However, personally, when that happens, I think of the alternative of being a high quad and that makes me grateful to have the confusion.

In fact, it can be fun to pass as a para. If you're clever, you can fool people some of the time. Until you try to eat in front of them or whatever. Or go in your wallet. Or put a key in a door.

When I get "caught" trying to pass as a para, some people look at me and say "Your arms are affected too?" Sometimes people start to cry. I hate that.

I often suspect that they are crying about other unfair things that have happened to them. Not that they don't care about me, but it makes me wonder where that hurt is springing from in them.

I want to say "Go watch Murderball. Then come back and we'll talk."

This "quad" gig is not about feeling sorry for yourself or being depressed or giving up. It's about figuring out how to do as much as you can for yourself with whatever function you're left with.

It can be fun to be a quad if you make it a challenge. Trust me.

And for God's sake, please don't cry.

1 comment:

wheelie32 said...

When people cry "for"me, I look over my shouldr as if to say who are you cryin for? ALways makes them stop short. I'm not sad, why should they be? would rather they started an interesting conversation with me bout something else than my disability it gets boring. thnks for the blog.