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When you first see your doctor or nurse after getting paralyzed, your mind is flooding with questions and thoughts.
We’re going to start with a quote to set the mood.
By the way, if you look closely at the featured picture for this post, you’ll see that my doctor and I are matching with turtle necks (also socks but that’s cropped out)
I asked him a lot of questions.
There are a lot of questions you should be asking yourself and the people around you. In this post, we’ll focus on the first few days after your injury and some key questions to ask the nurses or doctors.
Keep in mind that these are not all the questions, but they are questions that I’m glad I asked and some are ones that I really wish I asked.
NOTE: I’m going to say doctor for simplicity of writing, but you could think of it as meaning doctors, nurses, therapists or anyone in the medical profession.
A lot of people will ask “Will I walk again?” and the doctors will avoid a definite answer. They truly don’t know. Sometimes it may seem like you will walk, but your injury might be just enough so that you don’t. Everyone truly is different in regards to their body, injury and how it recovers.
Asking if you have a chance to walk again is not going to get you anywhere, doctors don’t want to give you false hope and then become your outlet for hate. They didn’t do anything other than give you an answer to your question.
Remember that doctors know a lot, you have access to years of experience, research, and schooling. Think of all that they do know. They might not know the future, but here are a few good questions that could give you better answers.
Questions for your journey to recovery
- What can I do to improve the odds of walking again?
- Do you know about any resources I can look into? (books, articles, etc.)
- Are you familiar with any medical devices that might help me recover?
- Do you know anyone else who is? (always get more than one opinion)
- Are you aware of any herbal medicines that could help or resources where I can learn more?
These questions go a lot deeper than the yes/no “will I ever walk?”
Now that you’re in the world of SCI, it’s important to know more than the average bear.
Make sure you know about your injury. Look at the x-rays, ask the doctors to tell you what you should be looking at. You could even have them draw on the paper copies and annotate them.
Questions about your injury
- What was the procedure of my surgery? (a summary of what they did)
- What is my injury level?
- Typically, what does an injury of that level entail?
- From the surgery, what tools were put in? (I have metal rods in my back)
- Is there anything I should watch out for, concerning the tools?
- Is my spinal cord bruised or severed?
- How does the spinal cord heal?
- Where on the spinal cord is the damage?
- Does this area typically relate to a certain function?
- What type of injury is this? (this is meant to be for the vertebrae and spinal cord, it could be a fracture or a burst or something else and the spinal cord might be severed or bruised)
Asking questions like these is only good if you remember the answers.
Personally, I like to take notes in notebooks.
These are some great notebooks for you to document your journey and thoughts:Field Notes Resolution Special Edition Memo Books, 2 Checklist Journals and 1 56-Week Date Book, (3-1/2″ × 5-1/2″) Winter 2017 Rhodia 118669 Webnotebook, 5-1/2 x 8-1/4, Black Cover, Blank Moleskine Classic Notebook, Soft Cover, XL (7.5″ x 9.5″) Ruled/Lined, Myrtle Green, 192 Pages
Another important topic to cover in the early days is considering your health.
Now that you understand the fundamentals of your injury, how the spinal cord works and the options you have that pave the road to recovery, you need to learn about the effects.
What types of changes can you expect in your body? What are the potentially bad things that could happen and how can you reduce the chance of it happening?
It’s important to start considering your health immediately. Your body is going to change in dramatic ways.
This doesn’t mean life is over, it only means that your priorities are going to change. Team Cosmo is known for being able to adapt to new situations and flourish!
Questions about your health and body
- Assuming that I don’t gain any more movement than I have right now, what types of changes are likely to happen to my body?
- When will I know that my body is near finished healing? (Since my spinal cord was bruised, I asked this and was told that the majority of my healing will happen within 5 months)
- What are some changes I should be aware of that might affect me the most?
- What can I do to improve my health and make sure that my body is in its best possible condition? (diet and exercise/stretching)
- What are some things that might arise? (give an example like muscle spasms or nerve pain)
- For that/those issues, how can I best deal with them? (diet, medication, best practices)
Remember that these questions are not all that you can ask. I see these as the bare minimum. There is never a bad time to ask your doctor these questions if you don’t know the answers yet, but I recommend that these types of questions are asked as soon as possible after an injury.
I plan on writing more posts that cover questions to ask in rehab and anywhere else that might help.
Remember to share this post, you never know who could benefit from this. Helping heals the soul.
Immediate actionable items: Write these questions down and brainstorm more of your own. Comment down below some good questions/answers you’ve come across. Most importantly, ask these questions and document the answers. Don’t rely on your memory, this is important information.
Summary: Asking the right questions is important. Here are three categories of questions designed for the early days after your injury. Questions about recovery, injury, and health & body.
Overdeliver: Whenever your doctor does something, either prescribes medication or advise you on something. Remember to ask why, but asking “why” can sometimes come off as if you’re rejecting their expertise and it puts them on the defense, try to phrase the question similar to these, “I’m curious, what’s the reason for that?”, “What is the benefit of ____?”, “Can you explain that?” , “I’m not sure I understand. What is this for?”