Compounding challenges of a cold

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.

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24 thoughts on “Compounding challenges of a cold

  1. My heart goes out to you — I remember being sick when I was in my brace, and thinking that every violent bout of coughing was going to re-break my neck!

    Give yourself permission to take a couple of days off and rest. And in the meantime, you’ve got a lot of folks wishing you well and sending positive thoughts your way.

  2. So sorry to hear that you are ill! I am also one that never gets or rarely gets sick, thank goodness! I can only imagine the frustration of being sick with a SCI! I get irritated when I am sore from a workout nd it interferes with my work! I will pray that you recovery quickly and are back to physical therapy quickly!

  3. My 27 year old brother was recently diagnosed with conjestive heart failure, and has recently developed gout in one foot. After being healthy all his life, it’s hard to watch him struggle with this. He was given crutches, which he can only go a few steps on before stopping to catch his breath because they put such a strain on his heart. I can only imagine how awful it is when you are already fighting something major to be sidelined with something else. It just doesn’t seem fair! Sending good energy your way for a fast recovery!

    1. Yes it doesn’t seem fair. So much of this situation I face doesn’t seem fair at all and I try not to dwell on that aspect of it because it only brings me down and there’s not much I can do to change an unfair situation. My heart goes out to your brother and I hope his condition improves. I can feel his pain… -AB

  4. Last time I was sick, I was out of action for eight weeks straight. At one point I was on my hands and knees in the kitchen attempting to cough up both lungs thanks to the pharygitis I had come down with. I was starting to think I was never going to get better! I hope you are feeling better really soon. I can imagine that one of the worst things ever would have to be ignoring a tickle in the throat! ARRGH! You would just want to rip your own throat out, only not be able to because your arms wouldn’t move there as your shoulders were aching. See, those aching shoulders are there for a reason! Saving your throat! lol. At least with your healthy diet, you should not be out for the count for too long. Look after yourself, friend.

    1. Yeah you described it pretty well. It does kinda feel like I want to rip my throat out and get rid of those tickle. It just won’t go away. Alas, the healthy diet is indeed in my favor. And this better not last eight months! Thanks for the support -AB

  5. Oh gosh – I know it’s so awful to have any “add-ons” — I used to think there is no way I could get anything else, I have to be “protected” — and learned the hard way I’m still human. Worst was when I was scheduled for the spine fusion and then had annual mammogram at 37 (since family history is ick) – and the call came to say malignant – I remember saying – “no way – I’m in way too much pain to get cancer” … to be honest cancer was easy next the other 😦 ~ still even the sniffles is a whole other thing when you’ve got as much on your plate as you do Arash — hang in dear one, and will pray it passes really fast, and rehab will be waiting right where you left off.
    Love and Blessings ~ Robyn

    1. Your perspective is always so greatly appreciated Robyn. I can’t imagine what it must have felt like to have to confront cancer on top of your spine fusion. I agree with you on the fake sense of being “protected”. It’s definitely humbling to accept that no matter how hard things are, we are not protected from further challenges. For now I just try hard and hope that this passes as soon as possible. Happy to see that Chicago went well for you. Much love -AB

  6. Wow, my heart goes out to you Arash. Makes me really feel sense of perspective; I just posted earlier on healing and sickness as well but my experiences nothing like near this.
    Love, light, peace and healing energies coming your way from Europe 🙂 Ciara

  7. My heart goes out to you too, Arash. Just when you think the whole spinal cord stuff is enough, you get the everyday niggling cough/cold stuff which must have a major impact.

    I do hope you recover quickly and get back to your exercise regime soon. It’s not easy for previously fit, healthy people to suddenly get all these niggling viruses and/or bacterial infections. You probably feel like you’ve suddenly become a ‘wimp’, but we know that’s not the case at all, you’re just having to deal with a new reality and make apropriate adjustments.

    (I used to get every cough, cold, virus for many years whlle still working with chronic illness & in constant pain. But, after a proper diagnosis & some meds for my sleep disorder in May 2006, my immune system magically improved to the point where the final year of office work in 2009 when all my colleagues got the worst flu several times over, I was the only person who DIDN’t get that viral flu. Mind you I did have a little essential oil burner on my desk with anti-viral & ant-bacterial essential oils burning during work hours too. I believe lack of ‘restful sleep’ was, and still sometimes is, a major factor in multiple physical disorders & defective cognitive function for me. It’s essential you reach that deep level of restful sleep where your adrenal glands get replenished and your major body organs get proper rest. Just shutting your eyes for 8 hours in a light sleep is not necessarily ‘restful sleep’. Also if you don’t keep up a certain amount of daily movement to ensure lymphatic flow & regular toxin removal through the eliminative organs, your immune system can’t function at it’s optimal level either. I would assume your restricted movement might possibly also affect your immune system.

    So adequate, deep restful sleep & regular movement of some kind is essential on a daily basis for chronic illness sufferers. Paying extra attention to the hand washing or food preparation can help avoid germs contamination too. Ask family & friends to stay away from you if they have a virus too).

    1. Good words of advice. I can guarantee you I get plenty of movement, especially for someone with my physical challenges. So far sleep hasn’t been much of an issue as I tend to get a good night’s rest and I appreciate the value and healing powers of sleep. I just hope to get back to my regimen soon. You’re right about making the appropriate adjustments to this new reality. Thanks for the help -AB

  8. This will pass Arash and you will even have more lung capacity than before because of it!
    There is a reason for everything .

  9. Oh, Arash…. I’m so sorry. I remember having pneumonia with a terrible cough for weeks after my accident, even after I was home. Compromised lungs nearly killed me. They aren’t something to laugh about. So I feel for you! And I can imagine what it’d be like to depend so much on your upper body! Ugh… I hope you feel better soon. Thinking of you.

    1. Yeah that pneumonia doesn’t sound fun at all… In fact, when I was in the hospital they were super worried about pneumonia because apparently it can kill someone with SCI because of the weakened lung capacity. No laughing matter at all! -AB

      1. Definitely not! I’m glad it sounds like you didn’t get it? My biggest trouble was ARDS. I got it like three times. That’s part of the reason they had to put off my shoulder surgery for so long. Even today I sometimes wonder if my lung capacity is the same as it used to be? Anyway, enough about me. I hope you’re feeling better!

  10. Thank you for sharing what you are going through in such honest, transparent way. As you talk about your frustration, I recall the many conversations we have had about our almost constant healthy state and how we couldn’t conceive being any other way. I have no doubt that your admirable self-awareness with small stuff and bigger things is helping you throughout your entire journey. Te acompano desde la distancia, y te admiro por tu valor. Tu amigo, david

    1. Gracias mi amigo. Me sorpresa un poco que mucho ha cambiado desde nuestros conversaciones de los ultimos anos. Que ahora tu estas en un pais nuevo y yo estoy aqui viviendo un realidad tan diferente, pero pienso de tu siempre. Te acompano tambien mi amigo. Un abrazo fuerte -AB

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