Brain and Body: A Unique Couple

When I used to think of the term disability I would think of people in wheelchairs who needed help with their daily lives. Now, experiencing it firsthand, I see that it is not just about how much help is needed, but how much can be done alone. I remember the struggle to regain my own individual freedom, to be able to do for myself what was so abruptly taken from me. It all started with a motorcycle accident that would ultimately test my courage. My journey post-accident has given me a new outlook on life and has strengthened my belief in the power of the brain and its unique connection to the body.

I’ll never forget the first couple of days, lying in that hospital bed, trying to move my arms and legs, my brain all the while knowing its job; my body was simply saying no. I was paralyzed from the neck down. My surgeon would come in every morning and ask me to move my big toe, subliminally reminding me to send the message from my brain to my toe. A few days later, I was able to move my left leg, ever so slightly. This is what I had been working on, what I had thought about and willed myself to do. There was still more work to come.

I remember the first day I was able to sit on the edge of the hospital bed with the help of the therapists; I recall the feeling I got when I was sitting there, much like being inebriated. I had lost most muscle strength in my whole body but the gravity of the situation did not impact me till that moment. I had to teach myself to use an adaptive splint that held my utensils. It was awkward, and I lacked the muscle strength to feed myself efficiently. It was irritating for me because my brain and body knew what to do; it was just missing that connection. The simple things that I took for granted, like going to the bathroom, were now something that I would have to reteach myself. It was as if I was starting from square one, relearning everything I once knew.

The therapy that came over the next few months was anything but easy. I know that when I was working on transfers from my wheelchair to the mat or into bed that I had to force myself mentally and physically to do it; I still needed my brain to tell my muscles, “Do your job.” What seemed like the impossible, happened. My body started waking up and my strength was coming back. One week I was standing, the next week I was walking (assisted), and I was able to move my toes. I was starting to write again, feeding became easier; it was almost unbelievable the way my world was turning around. I had gone from laying immobile in a hospital bed to being able to stand and walk again. This only resulted in me wanting to try harder, to know what else I could do.

Now, almost a year later, to the average passerby I look like a man with a limp. I have worked hard, pushed myself further than I thought was imaginable. Now I can walk unassisted and complete everyday tasks that include cooking, cleaning, laundry, and driving. I have always believed that there is a deep connection between the brain and body, and this experience has more than confirmed it for me. I guess the saying “you can do anything you put your mind to” does hold some truth to it.