California Spinal Cord Injury Attorneys
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California Spinal Cord Injury Attorneys
Do you have a spinal cord injury? You probably already know, or are finding out, what a toll it can take on you. Your medical bills are astronomical, and they keep piling up. Your wheelchair is incredibly expensive. You may need to pay a personal attendant to dress, bathe, and even feed you. You may need to remodel your home or move to another house to accommodate your wheelchair. That’s to say nothing of how your injury will affect your job or job prospects, or the pain and suffering you endure from what feels like a permanent loss of mobility and independence.
Spinal Cord Injury Statistics and Risk Factors
The American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) states that 17,000 new spinal cord injuries happen throughout the United States each year. Spinal cord injuries happen when the vertebral column suffers trauma, and the most common cause of these injuries is motor vehicle accidents. However, for those over 65 years of age, falls are the most common reason for spinal cord injuries. AANS quotes a report from the Centers for Disease Control that found that people spend $9.7 billion every year on spinal cord injuries.
You might be more at risk for a spinal cord injury if you are male, if you are between 16 and 30 years old or older than 65, and if you participate in risky behavior. If you have a joint or bone disorder, you are more likely to suffer from a spinal cord injury in an accident.
Types of Spinal Cord Injuries
Your brain and spinal cord work together to create your central nervous system. The spinal cord carries messages from your brain to various parts of your body and back again. You also have nerves that branch out from the spinal cord on both sides of your body that go through openings between the vertebrae. This is called the peripheral nervous system, which is the system that carries messages to and from the spinal cord to various parts of your body.
The central and peripheral nervous systems work together to control motor functions—muscles, sensory functions—touch, pain, temperature and pressure, and autonomic functions—body temperature, blood pressure, digestion, heart rate, and urination.
If you have a spinal cord injury, the messages may not get to the peripheral nervous system, which could cause loss of feeling, uncontrolled blood pressure, and loss of muscle control. You might suffer a spinal cord injury from a fall, a vehicle accident, workplace accidents, sports accidents, or because of the intentional actions of another person, such as an assault or a shooting.
Spinal cord injuries are sometimes non-traumatic. You could suffer from a spinal cord injury from arthritis, degenerative disc disease, or cancer.
When you suffer a spinal cord injury, it could be complete or incomplete. Doctors will do tests to determine which type of spinal cord injury you have. A complete injury is when you lose all motor function below the injury. An incomplete spinal cord injury is when you lose partial motor or sensory function below the spinal cord injury.
Paralysis from a spinal cord injury is either tetraplegia or paraplegia. Tetraplegia affects all four of your extremities, your trunk, and pelvic organs. Paraplegia affects part or all of your trunk, your pelvic organs, and legs.
Symptoms of Spinal Cord Injury
When you suffer a spinal cord injury, you could experience widely varied symptoms. Some people may experience just one of the symptoms, while others might experience two or more, depending on the injury and how it happened. Some symptoms of spinal cord injuries include:
- The inability to move;
- The inability to feel sensations, such as hot and cold, pressure and touch;
- You might lose control of your bladder, bowels or both;
- You could feel pain, including nerve pain;
- You might have trouble breathing or coughing;
- You might have exaggerated spasms;
- You might have exaggerated reflexes; and
- You might have changes in sexual function, including fertility and sensitivity.
After an accident, if you feel back pain or it feels as though you have a lot of pressure on your back, your head or your neck, you might have a spinal cord injury. Other indicators include weakness, clumsiness, paralysis, numbness, having a hard time breathing, poor balance when standing and walking, tingling in your extremities, not being able to feel your hands, feet, fingers or toes, and losing control of your bladder or bowel.
If you are in an accident and suspect that you might have a spinal cord injury, do not let anyone move you. Let the emergency medical technicians know that you might have a spinal cord injury and explain what you are feeling or not feeling. You should also try keeping your head and neck still. If someone moves you or if you try to move, you could cause more damage.
Recovery From a Spinal Cord Injury
A spinal cord injury could affect you the rest of your life, or you could recover from the injury expediently; there is no way to predict with certainty the outcome of a spinal cord injury. Some of the changes to your life you might expect could include:
Dealing with an Uncontrollable Bladder or Bowel
Your body still stores urine in your bladder, but your system is not getting the right messages about emptying your bladder and/or bowels. You might have to use a catheter and/or bag throughout recovery or for life. Part of rehabilitation is learning new ways to empty your bladder, so you are less likely to develop bladder stones, kidney stones, kidney infections, and urinary tract infections. You might also have to change your diet to help with bowel function. Doctors might recommend a high-fiber diet to help regulate your bowels.
Circulation problems, including orthostatic hypotension—low blood pressure when you stand up and swelling of your extremities also cause other problems, such as pulmonary embolism and deep vein thrombosis. A spinal cord injury could also cause autonomic hyperreflexia, which is when you have an extreme rise in blood pressure, which could be life-threatening.
If the spinal cord injury affects how your diaphragm and chest wall muscles work, it could affect your breathing or make it difficult or impossible to cough. Certain spinal cord injuries also increase your risk of lung problems, including pneumonia. Therapy helps prevent these issues, and if you should get pneumonia or other lung problems, doctors may treat them with a combination of medication and therapy.
Your skin also sends messages to and from your brain via the peripheral and central nervous systems. You might not be able to feel cold, heat and pressure in areas below the spinal cord injury. If you are forced to stay in bed or in a wheelchair, you have a higher risk of developing pressure sores. Proper skin care and changing positions frequently goes a long way in staving off these problems.
A spinal cord injury could cause your muscles to react in two different ways: Your might experience uncontrolled tightening or muscle movements—spasticity; or your muscles could be soft and limp—flaccidity. Sometimes, physical therapy helps with muscle tone. If your muscles remain flaccid, you could develop atrophy, especially if you remain sedentary. If you are no longer active, your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes increases significantly. Physical therapy and a new diet based on your activity help prevent these secondary issues.
Changes in erection and ejaculation in men and changes in lubrication in women are often issues with spinal cord injuries. In addition to sexual function, spinal cord injuries could affect fertility. If your spinal cord injuries affect your sexual health, you should ask to see a urologist or a fertility doctor.
You could suffer muscle or joint pain if you overuse muscles while compensating for other muscles that do not work because of nerve damage. Additionally, you could experience nerve pain, especially if your spinal cord injury is incomplete. Painkillers do not deaden nerve pain. Instead, your doctor might prescribe an anti-seizure medication designed to handle nerve pain. Regular painkillers and anti-seizure medications are often addictive, causing you to experience side effects if you suddenly stop taking them and other effects if you continue to use them.
Depression, Anxiety, and PTSD
Because spinal cord injuries are often life-changing and could cause long-term pain, you might find yourself dealing with depression. Some people may also experience anxiety and, depending on the circumstances of the accident, post-traumatic stress syndrome.
Depression. If depression overtakes a patient, they may eventually start thinking about suicide. According to WebMD, one in 10 people with depression commit suicide. Understanding the reasons for your depression—the changes in your life forced upon you by a spinal cord injury—and knowing the symptoms of depression allows you to ask your doctor for a referral for therapy to help deal with the depression.
If you notice that you feel fatigued, guilty, worthless, helpless, hopeless, and pessimistic, you might have depression. Other symptoms of depression include:
- Having trouble with remembering details and concentrating;
- Having trouble making decisions;
- Feeling irritable, usually for no good reason;
- Feeling restless;
- Having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much;
- Losing interest in things you liked doing;
- Losing your appetite or eating too much;
- Having suicidal thoughts;
- Feeling empty;
- Feeling sad all the time;
- Having digestive problems; and
- Having headaches, cramps, and other aches and pains that won’t go away.
Anxiety. Most people feel anxious for a brief time throughout their lives, usually when you have to do something new and unusual, when you start a new job, or even when you have to wait for the results of a medical test. These feelings are usually short-lived. However, some people feel anxious for days, weeks or even months. A spinal cord injury might make you feel anxious if you don’t know when you’ll get back to your old self. Learning that you may have to live with the pain and lifestyle changes your spinal cord injury forced on you could exacerbate your anxiety. Knowing what to look for in anxiety will help you ask your doctor for a referral for therapy when you first believe you are suffering from anxiety.
- Feeling nervous;
- Feeling restless;
- Feeling panicky;
- Having a feeling of dread or that your life is in danger;
- Hyperventilating and/or having a fast heart rate;
- You might sweat more;
- Your muscles might twitch or tremble;
- You might feel lethargic and/or weak;
- You might have insomnia, have a hard time focusing or even thinking clearly;
- You might have gastrointestinal problems, including diarrhea, gas, and constipation;
- You might develop obsessive-compulsive disorder;
- You might repeat certain behaviors over and over, such as tapping your leg; and
- You might want to avoid things that you think trigger anxiety, such as getting in a car, if a car accident caused the spinal cord injury.
Post-traumatic stress disorder. People who see or experience a traumatic event might develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The symptoms of PTSD are numerous and affect many parts of your psyche. PTSD symptoms could start as early as a few weeks after the traumatic event, or could start years later. Symptoms include intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in your thinking and/or your mood, and changes in how you physically and emotionally react to situations.
Those with PTSD may also develop depression, anxiety or both. You might notice the symptoms more when you are stressed or if you see a reminder of the traumatic experience. If you put yourself in a similar situation, you might also see increased symptoms of PTSD. The symptoms often get worse over time, so as soon as you or a loved one notices symptoms of PTSD, visit a therapist for help in getting the symptoms under control. As with anxiety and depression, doctors often treat PTSD with a combination of medications and therapy. A California spinal cord injury lawyer can help you secure the funds necessary to pay for these helpful treatments.
Contact Our California Spinal Cord Injury Attorneys Now
Following a spinal cord injury, make certain you protect your rights. Spinal cord injuries can result in life-altering complications, not to mention unaffordable medical bills. If your injury was caused by the negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct by another party, our experienced California spinal cord injury attorneys want to hear from you and see if we can help you obtain compensation through a personal injury claim.
If you suffer from a spinal cord injury, contact Gomez Trial Attorneys or call us at (619) 237-3490 for a free consultation.
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