James’ News & Progress – 24 April 2009

Starting the week with a cannula (a temporary needle inserted to administer antibiotics) hanging out of my left wrist – part of the paraphernalia left over from my visit to North Shore Hospital – was always going to be slightly frustrating from a rehabilitation perspective. However, being back at Moorong was a welcome relief given that I’d spent most of my time in hospital in a non spinal ward where the level of care can be variable to say the least.

Once I received the all clear from the doctors on Tuesday to have the cannula removed it meant that I could now start spending at least half of every day in my manual wheelchair. Given the limited strength in my left arm, progress is very slow and the time taken making my way from appointment to appointment tends to vary.

As previously mentioned, many spinal cord injury sufferers experience spasticity in their muscles which lead to random involuntary spasms to various body parts. These are effectively caused by the brain sending messages which fail to reach their intended muscles and redirect randomly to others. They can obviously be very destructive when trying to complete physiotherapy, both in the larger muscle groups used for balance and control, as well as finer motor skills and coordination. In my case, spasms continue to hinder my progression in physiotherapy and occupational therapy, not to mention damaging sleeping patterns (e.g. legs suddenly flying out of bed in the middle of the night). Currently, the most concerning element is spasticity in the calves which is limiting my ability to balance when standing, as well as trying to make initial forward movements through the legs.

Because of the severity of these spasms, my medical team have suggested that I consider trying a baclofen pump which would be inserted under the skin to administer regular doses of the anti-spasm drug, baclofen, directly into the spine. This is obviously quite a serious procedure which we will be considering in the coming weeks given the ineffectiveness of the current oral alternative.

With the end of the week also came the departure of my committed and highly enthusiastic physiotherapist, Marsha Benn, who has gone on maternity leave. She has been fantastic during my time in Moorong and I wish her and “Rocco” (my nickname for her baby) all the best.