My Injury

On July 8th, 2012 I fell from a third story apartment balcony, landed on my neck and shattered the C5 and C6 vertebrae in my spine causing major trauma to my spinal cord and instantly turning my world upside down. After losing consciousness for a few seconds, I opened my eyes and saw my friend standing above me, telling me not to move and that help was on the way. After being rushed to the nearby trauma hospital, I remember glimpses and flashes of being wheeled around the hospital and seeing different doctors, nurses and hospital staff looking down at me and yelling instructions to each other about my condition. A couple of hours later, I woke up in a hospital bed, unable to feel or move most of my body and knowing full well that intense medications were the only thing numbing the excruciating pain coursing through my body.

In a halo, hours after the fall

In response to the injury, my spinal cord had swollen dramatically and I was told I would need an operation to repair my badly broken spine. Before I could undergo surgery, I was injected with steroids that would control the swelling of my spinal cord and I was told I would wait a couple of days for the broken bones to resettle and for my spinal cord to come out of panic mode. In the meantime, I laid in a special bed that would sway and twist me from side to side, so that my muscles and bones wouldn’t atrophy before the operation. With my head and neck in a halo and lying flat on my moving, twisting bed, I could only lie still and stare at one spot in the ceiling for the next 48 hours as family members and friends would come into view, greet and console me, all the while trying to hide their fear and worry at seeing me in this condition.

Giving a thumbs up heading into 7 hours of surgery

At 11am on July 10th, I was taken to the operating room where the neurosurgeon and his team awaited me. I underwent a 7 hour long surgery that involved cutting me open in the front and back of my neck, removing all the pieces of broken bone, reconstructing my spine by fusing together four vertebrae (C4-C7) with titanium rods and screws, and, in essence, piecing me back together.

Where they cut me open

Shortly after surgery

When I woke up that evening, I was told the surgery had gone well but that I had a long road to recovery, and no one could define what recovery would be. While I still couldn’t see my legs or feet from where I lay, I knew they were there but that was little consolation when I quickly realized I was paralyzed from the chest down. Within a few days, I was assessed by a spine specialist and a rehab doctor, where I was classified with an Incomplete C7 Asia B injury (link to an explanation of Spinal Cord Injury), and told that since no one knew the potential or extent of recovery, I should prepare myself for the very real possibility of never being able to walk again….

How they reconstructed my neck - titanium hardware and a carbon plate

How they reconstructed my neck – C4-C7 vertebra fused together with titanium hardware and a carbon plate 

My reconstructed neck
Side-view of my neck

88 thoughts on “My Injury

  1. I can’t like this, but I can tell you I have immense respect for your courage. Fight like hell Arash and know I would make it all go away, if I could.

  2. Heart and Prayers to you my friend…. you are a brave and wonderful soul. I am so glad you are blogging and that Michael introduced you to me… Will be following your progress ~ and always here for support and understanding. Much Love and Determination – for you Arash
    ~ Robyn Lee

    • Same to you Robyn. I just checked out your blog and love your spirit and energy that so vividly comes out in your writing and photography. Reading your story inspires me on my own quest through my own pain and struggles. -AB

  3. Arash,

    Your courage, your tenacity, your outlook, these are all things I admire in you. It is not the blessings and the joy that challenge the human race, but the calamities — the times of darkness, where we must decide if we will give up and give in, or press on, imbued with the strength of someone more powerful than ourselves.
    Though my situation is not so dire as yours, the doctors recently discovered a mild compression at my C1. I had been having symptoms for 4 months, chronically, and though they cannot determine whether or not my spinal issue is the root cause, it is apparent something is wrong me. Today, I remain undiagnosed, told that a surgery may or may not solve the problem. This in itself is harrowing, but I am not lost and I am not beaten. I pray daily for the courage to endure, to trust that, one day I will be restored to my former self. I will be praying the same for you.

    You are a Light. Please continue to shine.

    Blessings,
    ~ Cara

    • Thank you for sharing your story Cara. I’m sending much positivity your way and hope that you are able to find a way to deal with this perplexing diagnosis of yours. Remember to just dance to your own song and don’t let anyone throw you off your own goals, no matter what they tell you. Best wishes to you and please feel free to stay in touch. -AB

  4. in a split second, our lives can change. though i’ve been lucky with near-miss accidents, my nephew was not so lucky. he inspires me every day of my life. now you will as well.

    http://playamart.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/inspiration-while-the-world-outside-my-window-goes-insane/

    i hope that we’ll be cheering you on and watch you reclaim use of your lower body. sign me up, i’m one of your new cheerleaders!
    lisa/z from ecuador

      • hey
        i moved to the nicoya penisula (playa san miguel, down from Samara or up from mal pais) in the year 2000 and have since migrated to ecuador. i still have ties there. don and his wife dana visited twice in costa rica.. what an amazing time we had, though the tarpon fishing was most rewarding (rio colorado lodge/barro colorado)
        where are you now?

      • Beautiful area! I’ve been there a bunch and love it. I’ve always wanted to make it to Ecuador, someday soon I hope… Are you an ex-pat living down there? What keeps you busy in Ecuador? I’m living in Berkeley now, just outside San Francisco.

      • i chuckle; i’m an artist/free spirit! i can paint wherever i go! when in CR, most anything i bought was made in ecuador. ecuador, ecuador ecuador – hammocks, pottery, balsa carvings.. i wanted to visit the country that was producing so much art/artisenia material.. it continues to capture my heart. it’s like CR was before things got too trendy/too expensive.

  5. When I clicked “like” it was to tell you how amazed I am at your strength and passion. I’m so sorry that you went through that! I look forward to following your blog. Hugs! Shelley

  6. I’m so thankful to find your blog, Arash. It brought back memories of the accident that changed my life in 1998. I broke my C2, shoulder blades, pelvic bone, and half a dozen other bones, in a car crash, and spent four months in bed. My recovery was certainly not as challenging as yours, but I remember the feeling of lying in bed, wondering what’s next. I will keep you in my prayers, and look forward to following your progress.

  7. Wow what a story. It’s great that you have a positive spirit! If you believe that you CAN I believe you WILL. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. My prayers are with you. Blessings!

  8. I know your courage will be an inspiration to so many living with spinal cord injuries. Blessings to you as you begin this next journey to walk again.

  9. Big congratulations on that little toe wiggle, and on being fresh pressed (and alive, for that matter). My husband is a spinal cord injury survivor of many years duration, having fallen in a grain elevator in the late 1980s. He simply would not accept that he would not walk again; the phrase seemed not to be in his vocabulary. “He won because he would not lose.” I hope you will think on that as you continue healing. He had a very long hard road, but this man who should be in a wheelchair is not, and leads a very nearly normal life. I wish you the very best going forward.

    • I will absolutely think of your husband’s words as I continue on this journey of recovery. Many congrats to him as his story is inspirational to say the least. I hope to say the same thing someday. Thanks for your support and I hope you keep reading -AB

  10. Keep fighting everyday! It’s a long road but I know some of what you’re going through. I’m C5 ASIA B myself, as of October 23, 2010. I’m new to wordpress, but I’m glad I found your blog. Sometimes I wish that I had kept a better record of my progress after my injury. I wish you the best of luck and if you have any questions feel free to ask! I might be able to help.

    • I just read your blog and am so inspired by your approach to life post injury. I’ll definitely keep the fight up (as long as you do too!) and I look forward to staying in touch. Best wishes -AB

  11. Hi I hope you are still improving every day And we send our thoughts and wishes for your speedy recovery. Your special angel must have been watching over you after your accident

  12. Hi,
    Coincidental to find your blog today. I’m a yoga teacher in seattle, and I just started reading the book “Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence” by Matthew Sanford, a yoga teacher who had a spinal injury at age 13 and is partially paralyzed. Very inspiring. Interesting perspectives on healing and the mind/body connection. If you haven’t heard of him, check out this link… http://www.matthewsanford.com/
    I am looking forward to following your blog and your recovery, so inspired to read your post today. Please keep writing!

    Love and healing from Seattle,

    Chris

    • Thanks for sharing Chris. I checked out Matthew and he is quite an interesting guy. His perspective from his injury seems to positively affect his yoga practice and beliefs. I’m glad I got to learn about him. Hope you keep reading and thanks again. -AB

  13. You are brave and slowly you will recover. Never give up, move as much as you can, think of moving, think positive, and your body will respond slowly.
    When we are in pain we find in ourselves an incredible force, and that is what happened to you!
    I admire your determination, I work with disabled young people, I know how much effort and strength it takes to walk again, but it can be done, believe it. No matter how long it takes, visualize only tht moment when you will get out of bed on your own,
    Light, blessings and prayer to you Arash!!!
    Ela

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  15. Anyone with the tenacity and strength to stay hopeful is a shining light to me right now. I just know that your attitude will take you far. Prayers and warm thoughts that each day will bring you at least a small success or a note of encouragement. BTW, my mother had polio as a toddler and loss most of the use of one leg. When she wanted to try out for her high school marching band, the director gently tried to talk her out of it, but she would not take “no” for an answer. She not only made the marching band at her school, but went on to make ALL STATE. Determination is a powerful thing!

    • Your mother’s spirit is amazing! I love these stories of determination in the face of challenges. Thank you for your support. I’m doing my best to keep my attitude positive amidst these obstacles I face. Hope you keep reading. Best to you -AB

  16. Very nicely written blog. I can relate to so much of what you have written. I am a recovering T12 paraplegic. I want to encourage to keep up the fight. many times we don’t truly recognize improvement but it is happening. Your spirit will allow you to push the limits. I was injured 12/7/11 and since have put everything into recovery. Do not lower your expectations and continue to pursue your passions. Originally I was diagnosed a complete injury and given no hope to walk ever again. They were wrong. No one knows what your limits are just as they didn’t know mine. I am a fellow High Fives athlete along with Grant Korgan. While I have never met Grant, his story and dedication to his recovery touch me and helped fuel my desire to beat the odds. You an read my story at markflounlacker.blogspot.com if you are interested. Fight to recover, continue to dream and live your life with energy and passion. No regrets.

    • Mark, I read your blog and found it so helpful and inspiring for me. Nice job on the skis! That’s truly incredible that you’ve come so far, especially with a complete injury (by the way, complete and incomplete is something that I think is just total BS…). I’m so impressed with your recovery and would love to swap stories a bit more if you’re into it. I’ll keep reading your blog and look forward to our shared recovery. -AB

  17. No one really knows. They just take an educated guess by what they can determine about your condition. The problem is, that is not what they lead you to believe. Know one tells you that they are just making an educated guess. Thanks AB. I will enjoy following along as you return to your passions. Remember, no matter what, follow your passions and you can’t go wrong. Feel free to ask me about anything. Our injuries are slightly different but the theory is the same.

    • An educated guess is right. You know I’ve spoken to a number of people who were diagnosed one thing and have proven their doctors wrong repeatedly. It’s frustrating that people can put so much weight into what doctors say and I’ve learned that with SCI, they know so little. I will certainly try my best to follow my passions Mark. -AB

  18. Arash – I just learned of your situation through the photos Kelly posted on FB. Needless to say I was astonished and have scoured your blog for information. Wow – you are amazing! You may or may not remember me and our ride together with Tom up and over a big Slovakian hill, but I will never forget your good-natured tenacity which is clearly coming in handy currently. You’re a fun riding partner – I look forward to doing it with you again sometime! I’m wishing you all the best and now following your blog so I can cheer you on!
    -Skye

    • Of course I remember you Skye! And what a ride that was… I’m glad you found the blog and are reading now. You’ll see it’s nothing more than my honest attempt to share my experience through this recovery. I hope this finds you well and look forward to staying in touch -AB

  19. AB- Just watched the video of your walking in the parallel bars. That is great stuff. I have one question for you. Have you tried therapy skates on a powder board to remove gravity and friction. I did this every day and it helped me work my range of motion without distorting my movements. As I improved I was able to add ankle weights to increase the resistance and challenge my muscles as they grew stronger. I know I did not invent this technique, but I have been surprised to find that many folks have not tried this in or out of therapy. I really think it helped me.

    Keep pushing brother!

    • Wow, I’ve never heard of this therapy Mark. I’m definitely curious to know more about it now. So is that something I could do indoors? Do you have any website or info I could check out to see if I can find a place near me that may do this. Thanks for sharing bro -AB

  20. AB- Go to my blog and check out the High Fives Winter Empowerment post. I have a video on there. At the beginning I have some shots of me using the skates. Yes you can do this on your living room floor. It is great when we can bearly move against gravity. You can work a full range of motion because it helps eliminate friction/resistance. They showed it to me while I was at in patient and when I got home, I made my own so I could do it everyday. I got terrible PT when I got back home so I had to be proactive. I basically just rode an FES bike at outpatient and did everything else at home. When you see the video you will get it. Simple but effective.

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  22. Hi Arah,
    I understand you played rugby for BU? Sam Cooley passed on your blog as he wondered if our paths crossed since I’ve been coaching the team for the last nine years. Unfortunately they didn’t which is a shame as I would have loved to work with someone as positive, tenacious and strong-willed as yourself. I am amazed and inspired by your attitude and fortitude.
    Have you heard of the former world boxing champion Vinny Pazienza? He was involved in a bad car accident in the early 90s and was told he may never walk again. Well Mr. Pazienza is a very determined man! Not only did he walk again but he went on to fight for another world title.
    Sounds like you are made of similar stuff. I wish you all the very best. Stay strong,
    Justin

    • Hi Justin. Yes I did play for BU but graduated in 2003 and didn’t overlap. I appreciate the support and positive words you’ve said. I had not heard about Vinny Pazienza but will certainly look him up now. Thanks for sharing his story and for reading the blog. Hope to stay in touch -AB

  23. Sir……i am jaspal my accident on 5/01/10 ….my c7bone is damage i am very poor my age is 24 that day i have loss my leg they have no moment plz some treatment…example….i am very sad….my conect no is 09675342890….i am in…indian state…uttrakhand….plz cont me….

  24. Arash inner strenght is a powerful tool . I had serious fall also and damaged my entire left side and learnt to walk and reuse my side again by myself

  25. I don’t believe in prayers, but I do send you lots of positive energy. May you stand on your feet one day and giving an inspirational talk to everyone. Meanwhile stay strong!

  26. Arash,
    Your words, determination, and positive attitude are inspiring. I just saw the video clip of you using the wearable robot as an alternative to the wheelchair and read your blog. You will overcome this and from this, you will help many many many people. Your parents must certainly be so proud. I know I am. Keep working hard. I will be following your accomplishments along with my fourth graders.
    Best thoughts,
    Alex

    • Those are such touching, kind words and I’m grateful that you found my blog and for your comment. I hope to keep you and your fourth graders interested and please stay in touch. Best to you -AB

  27. Thank you for sharing your story. You are the kind of person that inspires all of us – and having never met you and just come across your blog, I can honestly say you inspired me today as well. Thoughts & prayers for a continued recovery :)

  28. Hey Arash, I came across you and your story on FB this afternoon, my friend posted the video you were featured in. Read your blog and can’t even begin to tell you how in awe of you I am. Please stay strong, you’re a true example of determination, strength, courage, dude, so many including myself would’ve have broken down had we been in your situation. Just thinking about being paralysed makes me feel claustrophobic yet look at you, you remain undefeated by what life threw at you. It’s just amazing. You’re amazing. Sorry for the clumsiness of this message, I haven’t given it much thought, I just felt compelled to let you know what a frickin’ hero you are.

    • I’m happy you felt compelled to write. I’m so glad if I had a good impact on you. I think it’s easy to think that you may break down in this situation, but you’d be surprised how much fighting spirit I think we all have. I’m doing the best I can, as I know many others would… -AB

  29. I just watched a clip of you on Al-Jazeera ‘The Cure’. Proud of you. I will keep you in my thoughts; and I’m glad (and encouraged ) that you are still motivated and loving life.

  30. AB- How’s it? I just saw your link on High Fives. Right on. That is so awesome. High Fives is so positive. No limits. No matter what. Maybe we will cross paths one day. I hope all is well.

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