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New injury and many questions

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    New injury and many questions

    Hi All,

    I've been a lurker here for the last three months getting information and inspiration - this is an awesome site. I decided to finally register since I see this as a valuable resource.

    On Sept. 28th, my Dad fell off a horse and sustained a SCI at C4 and was diagnosed complete. My family and I never imagined we'd know so much about spinal cord injury but still have a lot to learn.

    I have some medical questions that I'll address later but the most pressing concern I have right now is my Dad's attitude. He is a 68 year old man who was extrememly active prior to the accident. Biking, golfing, hunting, and just being outdoors was his passion. Understandably, this has been devasting to him and we don't think he's handling the injury or the loss very well. The fighter I once knew is gone. This is saddening and frustrating and I feel like he's given up. He doesn't want to listen to a counselor or therapist, he doesn't want to be encouraged by inspirational stories of others, he refuses to do peer counseling, he prefers to focus on the things he no longer can do instead of the things he still CAN do. He has a wonderful support system of friends and family that he basically has shut out. He won't talk on the phone to anyone. He doesn't want to learn how to work on the computer, he doesn't want to eat, drink or work hard on his recovery. He did finally wean off the vent last week and although we were all thrilled, he acted as if it was nothing to celebrate. He's on 2 anti-depressents that haven't made a bit of difference. He and my Mom go home next week and I fear that he (and everyone around him) will be miserable.

    My question: Is this part of the normal process? Are these signs that he hasn't gotten past the anger? Is he scared? Is it self pity? All of these are charactoristics that my Dad has never displayed. We don't know this man. Can we expect his attitude to eventually come around and if so, how long could it take? How does the family cope when the patient is so negative? I know attitude is SO important in the recovery process. Any advice? Thank you so much!

    Sorry you had to find CC, KT. Hope somebody can give you some answers. I personally think that your dad has to work some things out for himself. SCI is a life change--give him a chance to adjust.


      Hi KT:

      My husband Don is a lower injury than your dad but we experienced similar problems. Don is an outdoor person and all-around handyman and prided himself on the many things he did before being injured. His level is T11 complete... and he was angry, sad, scared... he went through the grieving process and finally has come to accept his injury and work with it. It's been a long, hard road for him. He is 62. We literally had to hide his gun collection from him when he came home for fear that he would kill himself...
      Therapy really has helped along with antidepressants... I asked for a psychiatric consult during his rehab and that helped as well.
      I think making sure that his docs know (really know) about his state of mind is essential.
      Where is he in rehab?



        This is a situational depression - I would consider it natural, although my experience is very limited. Like Dan says, his life has suddenly changed in a most horrible way. It's only been 3 months. I would expect anger, fright and "why me?" along with the depression. Like Sieg says, it will take a while to get over the worst of it. And it may never completely disperse.
        Do a search for the threads that Orangejello has started - they will help one to at least partially understand some of the many ways a serious SCI will spin the mind. For example, this thread and Still trying to figure things out and Relatively New C1-C2 Injury are enlightening threads. Although there are no two identical cases, even in the cases of a 68 year old man and a 25 year old woman, many similarities can be found.
        Counseling has helped my wife (T-5, aged 65) somewhat, but time seems to be a major healer of the mind. Like Sieg says, do make sure the docs know what's happening.
        I'm presently experiencing a somewhat similar situation, where my 94 year-old dad had a stroke. After 3 months, depression is probably the most disabling of his symptoms. The persistence of family and friends, without pushing themselves on him, is slowly helping.
        On a slightly different note - what are the preparations at home? Is personal care arranged? A bed with a good mattress that will prevent pressure sores? Many find out about these things too late. The people here on Carecure - the SCI'd, the nurses and Dr. Wise - can provide you with a wealth of information from different viewpoints that you cannot always rely on obtaining from the rehab center.
        Best wishes to your dad and family.
        - Richard


          Thanks for the responses. I know this will take time and I do keep telling myself that it's still "early" in the game even though the last 3 months have felt like an eternity.

          We are in the midwest so his acute care hospital stay was in Omaha, Ne and now his rehab has been in Lincoln Ne. The rehab center has set up everything for my parents for when they go home so I pray that it is all up to par. My mother was formerly a nurse and has been with Dad every minute of the last 3 months (I know....that is yet another separate issue that may need to be dealt with) so she's very knowledgable about what his needs are and what has to be watched very closely.

          I hope that getting home, although it will be bittersweet, will be helpful once they are settled in. We do plan on having regular visits from a therapist as well as visits from our family priest. I hope my mom stays strong (been doing tough love) and encourages visitors otherwise I worry that they will both become "shut-ins".

          Thanks for your advice and if anyone else knows more, please let me know!


            I think what you describe is pretty common. I always tell people that SCI is not something you “get-over” in a few weeks or even months. It takes years to figure out how to live again. My husband is at a very similar level to your dad. He is a C3-C4 complete. Like your dad he had little motivation in rehab. He remained on a vent for 7 months, but by some miracle he managed to get off. He tended to focus on what he couldn’t do rather than think of new ways to look at things. If something couldn’t be accomplished “the old way” then he just gave up and didn’t think outside of the box. Let me give you an example. A few months after we came home from rehab, a tree blew over in the yard. Before, he just would have gone out there and sawed it up and hauled it off. So now he can’t do that anymore so his opinion is that he can’t do anything about this problem. It never occurred to him that he could call a tree removal company and arrange to have the tree removed. Both ways accomplish the same outcome; the tree is out of our yard. He would just stop his thinking process if he couldn’t handle something in the old way. After almost 4 years now, he is starting to think out of the box more to get things accomplished. It takes a long time to begin to accept this type of injury. I think that your dad needs some time to grieve his loss and find his motivation. After about a year I resorted to a little tough love to push my husband some. We still have 2 young sons to raise, and I just couldn’t sit back any longer and watch him be a spectator in their lives instead of getting involved in some ways. I ultimately told him that I was as sorry as I could be about his accident and that I understood that this was all so unfair, but that even a SCI didn’t relieve him from his responsibilities and duties as a father and husband. I think hearing that gave him something to think about.

            Give your dad some time. He needs to find his way with all of you supporting him. Welcome to CareCure.




              yes everything your dad is going through is common to the adjustment phase to sci. which can take up to a year. (and i think i speak for everyone on this board when i say "boy, what wouldn't i give to have been injured at 68?")

              you tend to want to take out your anger on those closest to you and the only control he has right now is to refuse to do certain things. it may appear to him that these are the only choices he still has left.

              give him time and don't take his attitude personally because it has nothing to do with you. and it's important that his close support sticks by him. when he's ready you can show him some ways that he can still enjoy some of the things he used to do. some are gone. that's a fact. but not all of them.


                I just want to say that I'm praying for your dad and your entire family. My 12 year old nephew became a C5 complete on October 1, and he is going through the same thing. He's most definitely not the boy that he was. At first, after the accident when he finally became coherent enough to understand his diagnosis, he seemed to take it extremely well. Even through rehab he had a good attitude most of the time. But now that he has been home for a few weeks, the worst of it seems to be settling in. He's always quiet now, and he gets mad a lot, too. He doesn't seem to have any desire to help himself much, and he cries alot. I just figure that as long as I am there for him, no matter what, he'll be okay. His doctor took him off of the Zoloft because it was making him terribly sick, and I don't know if they're going to give him anything else. But I always let him know how much we all love him and need him around. And we are there for him no matter what, through the good and the bad. Like the others have said, hopefully it's a normal stage and hopefully it won't take too long to pass because I know just how hard it is to see your loved one go through this. Please know that you're not alone.


                  Originally posted by wheelz99

                  yes everything your dad is going through is common to the adjustment phase to sci. which can take up to a year. (and i think i speak for everyone on this board when i say "boy, what wouldn't i give to have been injured at 68?")
                  It only takes a year to get adjusted to sci?



                    usually about a year to get the hint that this is the way it's going to be and you start to think more about life as a disabled person. just going on the few hundred people i've known over the past 20 years of working at a rehab. these aren't hard & fast rules here.


                      getting hurt at 12 years old is a tragedy. pyro, get him out to do as much stuff as you can. that's the best medicine. get him interested in something.