A Setback and then a Clear Course to Recovery

Editor’s Note: As a Physician, Dr Dale Hull was used to helping patients. When his life literally turned upside down after a fall on a trampoline, Dr. Hull had to re-learn everything. After his recovery, he knew he wanted to continue helping patients, but in a different way. Part 3 of 5 part series. 

I went into rehab thinking I wouldn’t get any function at all back. The only goal that I had was to drive a power chair with a joy stick. At the time, the only way I could control my environment was to use a sip-and-puff tube. If I wanted to sit up in bed, to call the nurse or change the channel on the television, I would use the sip-and-puff tube. Finally, I came up with an idea that if I lay in bed and visualized my arms and legs moving, I would be sending signals down to my spinal cord. Maybe somehow, some way, those signals would put themselves in a path where they were supposed to go, and I could get some function back. I am not sure whether this process was the strivings of a desperate mind to make my body do what it wanted it to do, or if it was a way to keep myself entertained and not think about the things I didn’t want to consider. A couple weeks later, I began to feel light touches all over my body, which was a very good sign that signals were traveling from my spinal cord up to my brain. Once I realized that enough of my spinal cord was intact to carry signals to my brain, I thought, if the signals could travel upward, maybe there was a possibility that the signals could travel down from my brain to my extremities. This idea renewed my sense that maybe by using visualization and seeing my body move mentally that I possibly could get some function back.

The rule of thumb with spinal cord injuries is that you have a possibility of regaining function one or two levels below the injury. Since I was injured at the C4 and C5 level, the best I could hope for in a typical recovery was that I might be able to get some function down to the C7 level. This would allow me to have some bicep function, maybe some wrist extension, and if I was really lucky, maybe have some function in my triceps. If I could gain wrist extension and triceps function, I knew that I would be more independent than I would be with no function below the top of my shoulders. For me, independence was centered on those muscle groups being able to function.

My recovery was really quite odd. I started having movement in my lower extremities first and could wiggle one of my toes. Then, my legs started to twitch. A couple weeks later, my arms began to move. Then I started having bad nerve pain and I developed a cyst and had to have surgery. The doctors went all the way back to my spinal cord to see if they could puncture the cyst, but that procedure was not successful. Ten days later, I developed a large post-surgical abscess in my neck that the doctors were afraid had gotten into the bones of my neck. I had another surgery to drain the abscess. After 3-1/2-months in the hospital, I finally went home. When I finally got home, I had lost all the function that I had worked so hard in the hospital to develop. I could shuffle my way about 20 or 30 feet with a gait belt that supported me but I didn’t have any finger function.

Seven months after my accident, I was getting physical and occupational therapy at my house. When my physical therapist went on vacation, Jan Black took her place for that week. I determined that Jan was going to be the key to help me capitalize on the function that I had before I got sick. Since I kept making progress, my insurance continued to pay for my therapy for a year and half after my accident, which was extraordinary. My classification changed from getting outpatient therapy to getting home health, which allowed my benefits to be a little better, than if I was only getting outpatient therapy. Eventually, I let my occupational therapist go and convinced my insurance company to pay Jan Black, for both physical and occupational therapy. Eventually, we were working 5 to 6 days a week for 5 to 6 hours every day.

For more information on NeuroWorx go to http://www.neuroworx.org/ or go to their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/Neuroworx.

Next: Dr. Dale Hull’s Olympic Dream

About the Author: For the last 12 years, John E. Phillips of Vestavia, Alabama, has been a professional blogger for major companies, corporations and tourism associations throughout the nation. During his 24 years as Outdoor Editor for “The Birmingham Post-Herald” newspaper, he published more than 7,000 newspaper columns and sold more than 100,000 of his photos to newspapers, magazines and internet sites. He also hosted a radio show that was syndicated at 27 radio stations; created, wrote and sold a syndicated newspaper column that ran in 38 newspapers for more than a decade; and wrote and sold more than 30 books. Learn more at http://www.nighthawkpublications.com

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