No Sweat

Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) is more than what is visually obvious. What most people see are the physically visible aspects ? weakened limbs, clawed hands, spasmodic gaits, atrophied muscles and the ubiquitous wheelchair. SCI does more than paralyse the arms and legs. Depending on the extent and level of the damage to the vertebra and spinal cord, the diaphragm right down to the bladder and bowel may be affected.

In my case, I suffer a partial lesion which means my spinal cord is not totally severed but damaged at the fifth (C5) and sixth (C6) cervical vertebra. A C5 injury affects the diaphragm which in turn affects breathing. This level of damage also affects the wrists and hands. I get breathless easily while doing strenuous tasks. I need suppositories to empty my bowels and drain the urine from my bladder every few hours with a catheter. Those are the least of my problems as I have worked them into a routine which allows me a certain degree of freedom.

Unbeknownst to many, spinal cord injury affects the body’s ability to perspire, too. As my body is unable to regulate temperature properly, any change from the usual range of temperature will make me extremely uncomfortable. This current hot spell has severely constrained my daily activities. Most days, I lounge about with the ceiling fan at full blast and generally feeling languid. The air conditioner looks inviting. On the other hand, cold is one of those factors that will set off spasms in my legs. That is why I try to minimise using it. Additionally, Detrusitol, the medicine that I am taking to alleviate my neurogenic bladder, causes drying of the mouth, eyes and skin. This aggravates the problem further. Yes, I need to be ministered to very delicately. Too much or too little from the norm and bodily discomfort will kick in. Even babies need less attention.

Being bound in lethargy throughout the day everyday is slowly wearing me down. Furthermore, my bladder spasms decided to act up the last few days. This has been a week that I wished would just quickly zip along, right up to the next rainy season. In the meantime, I am continuously hydrating myself by drinking a lot of water and cooling down by sponging throughout the day. We all know what drinking a lot of water will result in. And the cycle continues.

Author: Peter Tan

Peter Gabriel Tan. Penangite residing in the Klang Valley. Blissfully married to Wuan. A LaSallian through and through. Slave to three cats. Wheelchair user since 1984. End-stage renal disease since 2017. Principal Facilitator at Peter Tan Training specialising in Disability Equality Training. Former columnist of Breaking Barriers with The Borneo Post. This blog chronicles my life, thoughts and opinions. Connect with me on Twitter and Facebook.

4 thoughts on “No Sweat”

  1. hmm… this is very good detailed sharing. now i have a better understanding of how you feel and how you manage day by day.

    you are right, peter, i didn’t know that spinal cord injury affect the body’s ability to perspire. don’t worry, i’m sure you’ll know how to take care of yourself well. hot, you have problem; cold, you have problem… that is no difference from us, who likes to grumble when it is too hot and when it is too cold. 🙂

  2. Lucia,
    The physiology of the injury is such that we are are sensitive to more than a sudden change in temperature. A change in diet and environment also affects us in many ways, to me at least. I have some paraplegic friends who are very adaptable. I guess the injury affects us in different ways.

  3. Ohhh Peter…Although I wasn’t aware that your body’s temp. gauge was precarious, I can definitely relate! My immune system disease wreaks havoc with mine, and I sweat ALL the time, very profusely and I have severe cold intolerance …I cannot adjust to any temp. changes either, even very subtle ones and I live in an apartment I have climate controlled (pretty much) so it’s my only refuge really. I must be careful of my potassium & electrolyte balance and I dehydrate rather quickly as well. Sweat RULES my world and yet I am cold all the time! I go thru a multitude of shirts throughout each day as you must, in an attempt to keep your temp. regulated.I really feel for you and wish it were different for you. I had wondered if your breathing was affected…and was sorry to hear that you also have that added burden to contend with! I continue to pray for you and Wuan, for health, happiness and healing. Love Koda

  4. KODA,
    We are people living with disabilities. I see how that has steeled your resolve. God bless you. Truly you are an inspiration.

Comments are closed.