How to Live into Your Golden Years with an SCI
There has been a lot of talk about Walt Lawrence from Vancouver, Canada, the longest living quadriplegic on a ventilator. He just hit the 50 year mark of living 50 years on a ventilator. But that hasn't meant he has stayed at home the entire time, being an observer of life. He has shown the world that you can live a long life with a spinal cord injury. He’s 67 years old and that is an age I believe many people with spinal cord injuries would be happy to live to and beyond.
And many would love to live even longer of course. With all of the advances in medicine, many of us could live well into our seventies and eighties. Maybe even our nineties for a few of us. They say we can have regular life-spans with spinal cord injuries, but then there are statistics that say otherwise. Whatever the truth may be, I have lived over 25 years with quadriplegia and I have some tips to share.
From people with spinal cord injuries who’ve passed away (to take warning from), doctors tips and much more, read on for some of the best tips I’ve witnessed on how to live well and long as a person with an SCI.
Get Your Medical Check-Ups
Always see your doctors on a routine basis. This means seeing your psychiatrist (an SCI specialist) every two years, seeing your family medicine doctor every 6-12 months, your urologist every 1 to 2 years. And please do not skip this. Skipping any of these routine appointments can mean skipping important scans and tests that can pick up on important things like bladder cancer, other types of cancer, diabetes, and many other dangerous conditions that can be treated or cured if discovered early. Bladder stones and bladder cancer are top offenders. A low-radiation scan like an ultrasound can check for both.
Drink Crazy Amounts of Water
Drinking copious amounts of water is a must after spinal cord injury. Within a neurogenic bladder, you need to to keep it bacteria free. So many people with spinal cord injuries develop terrible bladder infections that can lead to sepsis; a dangerous blood infection that can lead to death. The continual flushing of your bladder can keep you alive for decades. If you can’t stand the taste, try drinking your water hot or adding fruit juice. Most studies say a person should drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses (or about 2 liters) of water each day.
Avoid Over-Antibiotic Use
Over-antibiotic use is a big problem, especially among people with spinal cord injuries. Many doctors will put people on a daily antibiotic to prevent bladder infections. Do not do this, as it can lead to becoming immune to too many antibiotics. Try to fight as many infections as you can naturally. There are several natural supplements that exist that can help kill some bacteria. Hibiscus flower, for example, is good for preventing bladder infections.
Don’t Ignore Symptoms
Whether you're sick of doctors or are leading a busy life, do not let any circumstance prevent you from going to the doctor if you know there's something going on with you. The longer you wait, you make it harder for doctors to treat you. It can be scary, but if you want to live into your golden years, being pro-active and nipping symptoms in the bud before they become too serious is a must.
Intermittent Catheterize If Possible
For many quadriplegics intermittent catheterizing is impossible, but if you can intermittent catheterize, please do so. Having a catheter inside of you at all times makes you more susceptible to getting bladder cancer. The plastic of the catheter is the likely culprit.
Whatever you call it, eating clean, eating organic, eating natural, or just eating healthy, eating as clean as you can is a great way to keep your body in excellent shape. This means avoiding fast food, consuming as much food in its natural state without processing as possible, eating healthy carbs and eating minimally refined sugar. A paralyzed body needs the fancy gas folks.
TLC Your Skin
Skin issues can plague people with spinal cord injuries. Some pressure sores that can last for years and skin infections can get into the bloodstream. To avoid this all together, try to get a custom seat if possible, do your pressure releases, get off your butt when in bed, moisturize whenever you get out of the shower and do your daily skin checks.
Eats Green Food Daily
There are so many good ingredients in green vegetables, such as Vitamin K, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, fiber, iron, calcium, and Vitamin B6, that doctors know these foods can enhance life-spans. Whether you like kale, brussel sprouts, arugula, broccoli or plain old green peas, eating something green each day from the earth can help alkalize your body and make you less acidic, and therefore less prone to cancer.
Exercise Anyway You Can
Getting in exercise any way you can is a must. For paraplegics this is easy. For quadriplegics, try anything from Zumba to wheelchair aerobics. Do whatever kind of exercise you like 3 to 4 times a week. Getting your heart rate up is essential when you’re not walking anymore. You must keep that very important muscle in shape. Heart disease is a top health offender to be wary of for people with spinal cord injuries.
Stretching deserves its own category as cardio and muscle-building are much different. The good that can come from stretching is astounding and the effects are both instant and long-lasting. Toxins are released from muscles when you stretch and it keeps your joints in good working order, which is essential when you’re reliant on a handful of joints. Consider getting a massage on a regular basis too. Getting your muscle groups un-knotted can help you be independent for years to come.
Your mental health is vital to ensuring a long and happy life. It can be hard to find happiness after a spinal cord injury, but it can be done. Whether you find it in a new artistic outlet, in your family, your job, cooking, or anything on this planet, finding the happiness that makes you want to get out of bed each day is essential in the long life quest. And let go of any anger and anxiety you may have while you’re at it. There are also some online therapy options available that may be helpful.
Please for the love of God be careful, folks. I have seen some crazy situations occur, from people falling out of their wheelchairs to people being stuck in the wilderness. Always be aware of your limitations, but do not let it hold you back. Just be careful and aware. You just never know what may happen when you are living on this planet with paralyzed legs.
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