A cold is no fun for anyone. I recognize that. Who wants to have any portion of their day spent dealing with sniffling, sneezing, coughing, headaches, body aches, or joint aches? But living with a Spinal Cord Injury and having a cold just feels like a cruel joke from the universe. As if things aren’t challenging enough on a daily basis, having to deal with the added stress of even more physical obstacles is debilitating.
Before my accident, I almost didn’t know the meaning of getting sick. I might get a sniffle or two here and there but I can confidently say I pretty much never got sick. The last time I had the flu I was a 6th grader. Fevers were a long forgotten memory from childhood, when there was a bittersweet thrill in staying home from school, drinking endless glasses of orange juice and eating my mother’s home remedies of vegetable soup. Strep throat, mono, bronchitis, and anything that would have had me bedridden for more than a couple hours were completely foreign to me. To be honest, I was a bit unsympathetic towards people who were consistently missing large chunks of time from school or work due to minor sickness. Well, what a difference a traumatic accident makes…
Since I got out of the hospital, I’ve made a huge effort to be as healthy as I always was, if not more, so as to avoid getting sick and compounding my daily challenges with new ones. Thanks to those efforts I’ve been fortunate to avoid any illness despite the fact that I’m constantly working with different people who are around a lot of other sick people. The streak ended yesterday when I came home exhausted, achy and nursing a stubborn cough. Today was the first day of therapy in over eight months that I missed and it’s incredibly frustrating to think that even one day of rehab and exercise has to be compromised from my recovery due to something that’s out of my control. I take my rehab very seriously, and as anyone who knows me should recall, I don’t do anything that I care about half-assed.
So why is it especially challenging to deal with illness with a SCI? I’ll provide just a couple examples. My lung capacity is much less than it used to be before my accident. I remember one night in the hospital just days after my accident when I did not sleep the entire night because I had a tiny bit of phlegm in my chest but I was too weak to cough it up. I’ve gotten some of that lung capacity back but now I have a tiny scratch in my throat and I cough and cough and can’t clear it up. So I have to do the impossible, accept it and just deal with it. The other example is just how hard it is to do anything when my shoulders are achy and sore. I use my shoulders and arms for everything so even shifting positions in bed feels like a monumental task when my shoulders feel like heavy, painful clubs hanging off of my torso.
I realize that everyone gets sick and that my pseudo invincible previous self has to swallow his pride and accept that it’s ok to be under the weather a bit and that it’s temporary. But it doesn’t relieve my frustrations at having to deal with even more obstacles in an already challenging daily life.