Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Spiders and Horse's Tails

It has been suggested by a friend that I should give an explanation of my medical condition. Normally I really don't like to make a big deal of my disability (I am not even sure I like the name of this blog; another friend's idea). But the wheelchair is part of me, and Disability is an intrinsic part of my business (see my business website -
I am a wheelchair user, and unable to walk or stand unaided. It is a long (and mostly boring) journey that got me here, but to summarize it (as it could be useful for other people who may be starting out with a new disability or know someone who is):
I managed to fracture 3 vertebrae playing rugby in 1984. It did not hurt much at the time, and I played on to the end of the season in blissful ignorance.
Eventually, it was becoming apparent that all was not well (pain, and a loss of sensation). So I got checked out (another story for another day), and passed from one specialist to another. Eventually they had to operate and I have been really fortunate to always have good surgeon's for this (Mr. Maurice-Williams of the Royal Free Hospital in London), and subsequent operations. I had a fusion (T5-T10) and everything was fine for about 15 years.
Then the fusion collapsed, top and bottom, damaging both my spinal cord, and the bundle of nerves that look like a horse's tail which come out of the bottom of the cord (Cauda Equina).
I had a further 6 operations during 1999 and 2000, which managed to halt further damage (again, with having a fantastic surgical team - led by Dr. Daan Botes). However I was left with some spinal cord damage (T4-T12) and damage to the other nerves which led to a condition called Cauda Equina Syndrome. I also had some weird scarring in one of the protective larges around the spinal cord. This looks like a faint spider's web when it is viewed using a MRI scanner - this appearance gives it its name of (Adhesive, in my case) Arachnoiditis. It may look faint, but it can be really bloody painful! Anyway there is very little available information on either of these conditions, and I think it was searching for information on these that I really discovered the power of the Internet. I will try to collect some of the information I have on these two conditions and post them here sometime.
But I do need to mention one of the vital lifelines that saw me through the rough period. Number I has to be my wife and immediate family, but I also happened upon a fantastic support group - Cauda Equina Syndrome Support Group CESSG. The friends (Vickie, Sandy, Colette, Carlos, Gina, etc, etc) there saved my life on many occasions. I know I have not mentioned everyone there, as the mailing list was very well supported with hundreds of members, and the mutual support was tremendous. I know the mailing list has moved recently, and I shall try to find it again.

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