High spinal cord injury

Spinal cord injury levels

The spinal cord acts like a messenger between the brain and the muscles. When the nerves that pass on the messages are damaged in an accident, due to an infection, or because of a hemorrhage, communication between the brain and the muscles is interrupted. In itself, the term spinal cord injury does not indicate the severity of the resulting condition, because that depends on how high up on the spinal cord the damage is done and on the extent of the damage. An injury above the first thoracic vertebra is called a high spinal cord injury, while an injury below that is a low spinal cord injury. The higher up the spinal cord and the more extensive the injury, the more serious the resulting condition.

Complete or incomplete

A spinal cord injury does not necessarily mean that the spinal cord has been severed completely. Smaller injuries to the spinal cord (incomplete spinal cord injury) can also disrupt communications between the brain and muscles. With an incomplete spinal cord injury, there is still a chance of (partial) recovery in the early stages. Often, however, there is remaining damage that leads to loss of control of certain muscles or loss of feeling.

C5 injury

I injured my spinal cord at level C5, meaning that nerves that control my arms and hands are also affected. The following picture shows what that means. Green means that I still have full control of these body parts, while red unfortunately means that I do not.

Luckily, I have learned that psychical impairments have no bearing whatsoever on what you can still achieve in life.