With this whole paralysis gig, I quickly realized that you actually move around a lot… you just can’t do it yourself. The techs and the nurses were militant about moving my body from side to side every two hours, and for very good reason. This is to avoid pressure sores or bedsores, which can be beyond awful and put your recovery 10 steps backwards. Routine turning of your body is standard operating procedure for a paralyzed person. The nurses would stand on each side of the bed, pick the sheet up from under me and slide my body from one side of the bed to the other. They then would stuff pillows under my body on either side of me. A paralyzed person rarely should lay flat and for the most part should be propped up on their side while in bed. Sleeping in this position definitely was not very desirable. Add on a restrictive plastic J collar on my neck and two nurses waking you up every other hour just when you started to doze off… makes for such a peaceful night.
For the non-paralyzed person during sleep, movement is natural, constantly twisting and turning throughout the night. By moving during sleep, the pressure points, where the skin presses against the mattress, are constantly changing thus avoiding any sort of pressure sores. Unfortunately, this is not the case with a paralyzed person. If you cannot move on your own, the skin that meets the mattress could remain compressed all night long, causing skin damage. Skin damage from pressure usually begins on the body where the bones are close to the skin surface, such as the hip. These bony prominences apply pressure on the skin from within. Sustained pressure on the skin causes the interior blood vessels to collapse, cutting off blood flow, and eventually killing the skin tissue. The result is a pressure sore, which is not something you want and takes a very long time to heal. This is why it is so important that my body gets turned on my side and switched every two hours. Just another gift with purchase that comes with being paralyzed.
There actually is a rhyme and reason as to why I went into this boring procedure so in-depth…this was how I first discovered sensation on my leg. Yes ladies and gentlemen, I could feel something. They had moved me hundreds of times, and I never felt a thing. I couldn’t feel anything since my surgery. One day the nurses were doing their thing, moving me from one side to the other, when I felt the bed sheet grazing under my left hamstring. I have never been so excited feeling the sensation of hospital grade, 200 thread-count sheets on my skin. This was a monumental moment for me and what seemed to be definite progress.
Little by little, and day by day, feeling started to come back to my legs. Every time they moved me I felt everything… the sheets, their hands, the pillows etc. If someone placed their hand on my leg, I would know it was a hand. When someone touched me on my legs with my eyes closed, I knew which leg they were touching and where. Although feeling on my legs started coming back, the sensation was slightly different than I was used to. The best way to describe it would be if you were wearing a pair of Spanx and someone or something touched you. You could feel it, you probably knew what it was, but the feeling was not as strong as it would be if it was just your skin and not the Spanx in between. Sensation was more muted than normal touch. The four basic skin senses are pain, warmth, cold and pressure. What I was feeling was pressure sensation. Dr. Green told me that when you can start feeling temperature (warm and cold) it was even a better sign. I could feel pressure, that’s all that mattered to me this early in the game. I had some real hope to hang on to. When you have hope, you can stay positive. When you stay positive, it just helps your recovery that much more.