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Likelihood of recovering full hand function with C6/7 incomplete spinal cord injury?

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  • Likelihood of recovering full hand function with C6/7 incomplete spinal cord injury?

    I ask this question on behalf of a fifteen-year-old girl I sort of accidentally met about a month ago (give or take), while I was hospitalized with bone infection. She had sustained spinal cord damage in a two-storey fall, and was in a halo cast. I also met her father a couple of times. He seemed like a basically decent guy at the time. We talked some, and apparently he liked me.

    The reason I bring up the father is that now, he has apparently decided his daughter doesn't really need any further professional care. He's taken her home from the hospital (allegedly against medical advice), and is refusing to pay for any further treatment.

    Before anyone jumps on this, I know that under normal circumstances, there would be ways to work around this. We have socialized health care in this country, and in the event that the father were to prove either unable or manifestly unwilling to cover the copays on her treatments, ways exist to make the insurer pay for everything, including what would normally be covered by the patient. However, the girl and her father are in this country illegally. They're not covered by mandatory health insurance the way most of us are.

    Now, according to the girl herself, the issue is not so much that her father doesn't have the money to pay for treatment out of pocket (I can guess at what he does for a living, but in the interest of keeping this discussion civilized, I won't). It's that he just doesn't think it's worth it. I'm guessing this is a cultural issue, where the father is thinking along the lines that if she's going to spend the rest of her life cooped up at home anyway, as most of her peers who happen to be women do, who cares if she's a miserable excuse for a crip (can you tell I'm kind of angry at this guy?).

    So the father apparently has not been listening to anything medical personnel have been trying to tell him, but his daughter for some reason believes that if I could talk to him, I might be able to get through to him. The problem is, I have no idea what to tell him.

    From what she tells me, she has a C6/7 incomplete injury. I don't know what her ASIA score is. I don't even know if it's commonly used to classify spinal cord injuries around here. She herself seems most worried that if she doesn't get some more therapy now, she will never be able to use her hands in a functional way again. She says that she's able to bend her elbows and turn her palms upwards, but has not had any functional return in her wrists or fingers. She does, however, claim to have felt tingling and 'muscle flutters' in her hands.

    I guess what I'm hoping for here are some stories from people who have a similar injury level: how are you functioning now, how long did it take for you to get there, and was the PT/OT you got of instrumental importance in this? What exactly do I tell this guy, so that he will give his daughter at least a fighting chance?
    Last edited by Saranoya; 04-22-2011, 04:47 AM. Reason: deleted a stray sentence at the end

  • #2
    "She says that she's able to bend her elbows and turn her palms upwards"...

    thats the first real movement i was able to do, roll my hand forearm over so palm is up.....i was 100% paralyzed at 1st..O (ZERO) movement in any part of body for 1 month, then twitches started.....i still couldnt sit without support at 1 yr....she has to do therapy!! injury was at c4 !!.....6 yrs now and i can stand , take steps with a walker and a little help, workout daily, and much more...1 hand returned to 100% normal!!.....i have after sci pics on my profile.....everyone is different but its a no-brainer - if she sits home doing nothing, she will not only NOT get any improvement, she WILL get worse...atrophy will set in and she will deteriate..........F@#%ING @#$HOLE
    is taking away any opportunity for her to have a life
    - Rolling Thru Life -


    • #3
      She definitely will see improvement in her functioning IF her father allows the treatment she needs, which could take months in an out patient setting. I am guessing from what you said that this is not only a non-Belgian, but also a man from a country where women's lives are restricted by culture/religion. In some ways this makes it even more imperative that she gets the help she needs, because some of those cultural norms would make it far tougher on a woman with a disability than a woman without. Is there some social service agency that you could call on her behalf? At the very least tell him you wrote to a group of spinal cord injury survivor's and that everyone said and feels the same thing, which is that his daughter can improve function and have a much higher quality of life, but that she need THERAPY to get to that place. Removing her now condemns her to a much lesser quality of life, and possibly to a shorter one too. It is crucial that he understands this, even if it means having to put aside his bias and his culture. This is his daughter, and maybe needs to be reminded that good fathers take care of their children, helping them to maximize their potential. Good luck to you. You are doing a very good thing by trying to intercede here.


      • #4
        I am a incomplete C5 and my story is similar to roc21. No movement for the first month and things started to come back.
        I spent four months in a rehab hospital with intensive physical therapy. Today, 34 years later, I can move most body parts to some degree and walk with forearm crutches.
        I think physical therapy is very important, especially in the early stages. I think to a small degree, the brain can re-wire nerve impulses early on in the healing process.
        1977 - C5 ambulating Quad


        • #5
          My son is an incomplete C-2 and could only move his left middle finger a little bit when he got to rehab 8 weeks post injury. When he left rehab after 3 months, he was using a computer. Two years out and he is still gaining function in his arms, hands, and legs. PT and OT were critical.

          Is there such a thing as children's services there? I would consider that along the lines of child abuse. I understand that there are probably cultural issues at play here but what parent does not want their child to be able to take care of their own basic needs if it is possible? Who does he plan to have perform her daily care? Where is her mother in all this? Is she in the picture at all?

          One of the good and bad parts of incomplete injuries is that no one knows what the potential is. ASIA score is an important indicator or potential but no two incomplete injuries are the same. There are simply too many variables.--eak
          Elizabeth A. Kephart, PHR
          mom/caregiver to Ryan-age 21
          Incomplete C-2 with TBI since 3/09


          • #6
            To everyone who replied to this thread: thank you for sharing.

            I want you guys to know that I did talk to this girl's father shortly after I posted my question here. I told him there are people like his daughter who have continued to gain function for many years after their injury, sometimes to the point of being able to walk with crutches. He said he didn't care if she ever learned to walk again, especially since (his words) "she wasn't going to be walking unassisted anyway".

            So then I asked him if he wouldn't prefer for his daughter to be able to take care of herself as much as possible. This seemed like a fairly neutral question to me, but it turned into an ugly argument about how we, 'western women', just refuse to let anyone take care of us, and how, especially if we're crippled, we should know better.

            I told a nurse at the hospital about our conversation in some more detail, and she shared my concern, as well as that of some of you here, that leaving this girl with her father might be bordering on abuse by neglect, if nothing else. Based on the fact that the father had been physically intimidating towards me during our conversation (nothing serious, but I did have some bruises on my arms to show for it), we were able to get the police involved. The case has been referred to juvenile court, and as of yesterday, the father no longer has custody over his daughter. She should be getting all the therapy she needs now.


            • #7
              What you did for that girl will probably make a huge difference in her life. Well done.


              • #8
                I wish there were more Saranoya's in the world. In this case, you proved that one person can make a difference. Congratulations! I tip my hat to you...
                ''Life's tough... it's even tougher if you're stupid!'' -- John Wayne


                • #9
                  Much respect for stepping up and making a huge difference in the life of this girl!


                  • #10
                    Great job! It pays to get involved with people!


                    • #11
                      This is such wonderful news! Saranoya, you have done a great thing.
                      MS with cervical and thoracic cord lesions


                      • #12
                        Not only does it sound like you had a huge hand in her hopefully having a productive life, it sounds as though you had a hand in helping save her life. May the universe reward you 10 fold for your benevolence.


                        • #13
                          What a limited view of life! It sounds like he doesn't want his daughter to have contact or be influenced by other people.
                          But great of you to try and help.
                          The SCI-Nurses are advanced practice nurses specializing in SCI/D care. They are available to answer questions, provide education, and make suggestions which you should always discuss with your physician/primary health care provider before implementing. Medical diagnosis is not provided, nor do the SCI-Nurses provide nursing or medical care through their responses on the CareCure forums.