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Hey guys, I made a post about a bad crash I was in 8 months ago. Today, I’m paralyzed.(r/motorcycles)
Hey there buddy. By chance are the damaged nerves part of your brachial plexus? I severed my left arm in a crash and have gone through much of what you’re going through.
Your post brought a tear to my eye because it echoes everything I thought/felt early after my crash, ~10 years ago. Know that things WILL get better! It’ll only slow you down if you let it!
If you’re in a place like I was for the first year, it might go something like this: you’re in a constant state of highs and lows. No one understands what you’re feeling. No one has the advice to make things easier. Life feels like a dark, depressing tunnel right now, filled with pain, despair, and you’re swimming in “What ifs”constantly… desperately trying to get to the light at the end of the tunnel where life gets easier again. Nothing anyone can say lifts the depression. Fun things aren’t as fun anymore and even when they are, the joy only lasts as long as the activity. Every time you go to a happy place, pain rips you back into misery. Why did this happen to me? All my hopes and dreams are over. I’m broken. I. Am. Not. Who. I. Once. Was…….. but who am I now? I don’t even WANT to know. I want to be who I WAS. Maybe tomorrow will be better? What if it’s worse???
These are ALL things that I thought, felt, feared, or dreamt in the months after breaking every bone on my left side and severing my arm. They are normal. But it still hurts. The best thing you can do for yourself right now is take the next step. Every day, put one foot in front of the other and carry on. Because with every step, it gets microscopically easier. Some days will be backwards steps. But keep moving forward. If you want to do something, figure out a way to do it. Even if it hurts. Every time I ride, I have to strap my arm to my chest and it hurts. A lot. But I do it because I love riding more than I hate the pain. With time, I’ve hit almost every goal I’ve set for myself, even if i missed the mark by YEARS…
I still skydive… and you can too
I still ride… and you can too
The only person telling you that you can’t is you. Prove him wrong. If he’s right, screw him, you’ll prove him wrong eventually. Time is on your side.
The pain will subside. It won’t go away. You will need to learn to focus on life because if you focus on the pain, you may go down a dark path that’s hard to return from. The breakthough pain can stop you mid sentence and hurt so bad you’ll want to scream. Stop, close your eyes. Take deep breaths and calm your mind. SO much of the pain you will continue to feel will be stress related. Something getting on your nerves will have a very literal meaning. If you take a moment to relax and calm yourself, it will help calm the pain down.
Limit your use of drugs like gabapentin and opiates. They’re AWESOME for nerve pain but they make you stupid, angry, depressed, or lethargic. Neurontin (initially 1500mg 3x a day) made me feel like I was in a fog all the time. Opiates make me EXTREMELY short fused and volatile. Recognize these things in yourself when you’re on meds, I lost a lot of friends due to my newfound temper while on the drugs. Once I realized what was causing my anger, it helped me to consciously take a step back and realize that I wasn’t angry with the person/situation, I was just… angry. Drugs are bad. You need to be on the lowest dose that your pain tolerance allows.
I underwent a similar surgery to yours at Stanford. They took nerves from my calves and put them in my brachial plexus. They also spliced my phrenic nerve in half (the nerve that controls your Thoracic diaphragm). My breathing now controls my bicep…. too bad it’s the only muscle at/below my shoulder that works. It’s a neat party trick – though only brought out in close company.
Seriously, get out there again. NOTHING will make you feel better if you don’t start getting out of your comfort zone ASAP. Force yourself to socialize. It’ll be VERY tiring but it’s worth it because, even though it’s physically draining, the mental stimulation will do wonders for your mood and help stave off depression… and that’s what matters right now.
Feel free to PM me. Hell, i’ll give you my phone number so you can talk to someone that’s been there. I know you feel alone in your experience right now but you’re not. There are tons of us out there and it really, really helps to share the experience with someone that truly understands it. We motorcyclists are a rare breed. I think the acknowledgement of our tenuous grip on mortality is why we do the wave and why it’s so easy to strike up a conversation with other riders wherever we see them. Don’t let pride or awkwardness keep you from reaching out to anyone who can help. /r/motorcycles is full of people that care for one another and would be happy to help a complete stranger lean on them when life is heaver than your legs are strong.
EDIT – I don’t know if they told you or not but nerves will heal very slowly… typically 1inch/month. My surgeon at Stanford (Dr Hentz) told me that there’s a 3 year window that nerves can recover within. So you DO have hope! Keep up the PT and don’t skimp on unilateral exercises. Activating the healthy nerves on one side of your body does a little activation of the damaged side of the other. This can CREATE nerve regeneration… albeit to a small degree.
EDIT 2 – If you were a righty, don’t sweat that too much. I was a lefty and lost my left arm. You’ll adapt!
If you keep your limp, noodly arm in a sling full time, like I do, be prepared to have random people ask you about it or comment on it ALL THE TIME. Take it in good stride – it’s a fantastic conversation starter. I have about 7 fake stories I tell people when they ask what happened. It keeps it fun. If I meet someone that I know will becoming a recurring contact, I give them 3 ridiculous stories and make them guess which is the real one. The key to your living a happy life at this point is to keep a sense of humor in you. I’m the butt of my own jokes all the time. “It wasn’t me, it was the no armed man!” or “I’d give you a hand but it’s out of order!”. FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT! Pretend to be happy as often as you can, even if you’re dying on the inside. 10 years ago I’d have called that bit total BS. Now, whenever I start to get into a funk, I try to remember to act like i’m having a good time. Sometimes, you live the lie so well it becomes reality.
EDIT 3 – I see that you’re a gamer. If you game on PC, I strongly suggest trying a Corsair Scimitar. I mapped the WASD keys to the buttons on the side. I also mapped several other macros to perform tasks like Alt+Ctrl+Del or Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V for copy paste. With this mouse, I can now play COD, Battlefield, Starcraft, GTA V, Witcher 3, and many other games with ~90% control functionality. If that mouse isn’t to your liking, just google “MMO mouse”. I used a Razer Naga till I got the Corsair. I was despondent about gaming, too, until I found out that MMO mice were a thing. Now my love of gaming is back, baby!!
EDIT 4 – I know a lot of this is ME focused. I wanted to share my story because it was years until I got to hear/read about someone else with a similar story to my own. I can’t speak to your story because it would take a novel to tell it in the detail that you’re feeling it right now. I just hope that reading my story rings true with you and that it gives you hope that someone else, that’s probably not as strong as you, made it through the worst of it and is living a life to be proud of. I honestly hope you take my story as a challenge. Challenge yourself to do better than me. Be better than me. I want you to keep me/us posted with every damn accomplishment you make. Because every obstacle you hurdle is a big F U to the part of you telling you that you can’t right now. Maybe start by finding another therapist. It took me 3 years to see one. Then it took me 4 therapists to find a good one.