This week is Brachial Plexus Awareness Week.
It’s soon approaching 15 years since my accident, which left me with this tragic injury, and I felt kind of obliged to open up about what Brachial Plexus is. I would say it affected my life but ‘altered’ is a better word.
So, what is Brachial Plexus Injury and how did I get this injury? To explain it simply, the brachial plexus is essentially a junction box of nerves located on both sides of the lower neck. It actively controls your radial nerve, median nerve and auxiliary nerve, plus others, radiating out from your spinal cord which provides the signal in order for you to move your arms, hands, fingers, chest, shoulders etc. They root at C5,6,7,8 and T1 and once avulsed (un-plugged) all signal is lost.
My accident happened less than a hundred yards from my home at the time, and was caused by loosely damaged tarmac around a defected manhole cover. The accident caused such a severe whiplash injury from my head, it avulsed the nerves from my neck at C6, 7 to my right arm further limiting any potential recovery I might get. It has altered my ability to do bizarre things such as the amount I can drink, my tolerance to the cold weather, my ability to sweat in the heat and even how I have to lay in bed.
“So how does it feel?” is something I get asked. Well paralysed means paralysed. There is no miracle operation for this injury yet. Where I’m at now is probably as good as saying I’m at my best considering the struggling and emotional tunnel of recovery I’ve come through to reach such a point in life I never thought was actually possible.
“You still in pain?” All day, all night and ever since waking up from the induced coma. It’s the worst bit about this injury, not the disability, although it can be argued the pain is a form of disability. It doesn’t matter how much pain medication I take, the pain is constant and a reminder of my disability. Intense pins and needles which never stops. Imagine that.
Sadly, I’ve forgotten what it’s like to not be in pain, but on a positive note, I barely take any pain killers now because they rarely work randomly through some months.
Then there’s the hidden disability element of it when struggling with a certain situation, like packing a bag to travel or when people stare at your every move. When asked if I’m ok. how do you quickly respond? “Yes fine, just my right arm is paralysed but I’m OK”.
Other stressful and sometimes emotionally frustrating scenarios include going out shopping (you look able but can’t do everything with one hand), family gatherings or events (impossible with one arm and no table), eating some foods which require cutting, doing up zips, buttons, lacing up my trainers, putting toothpaste on my toothbrush, drying myself with a towel, cooking, driving, writing, the availability of jobs I can apply for, holding a mobile phone, even cutting my nails.
Every element of my life has changed, yet most people wouldn’t ever see because I just get on with it, have a laugh, keep busy and get on with life.
Riding a motorbike that was a ‘ride or die’ choice of machine and is a choice I made which I’ve accepted. That’s not to say I don’t still crave what’s missed, but I am fortunate to still be here to tell the tale.
Disability was never on my agenda, but as with most things in life, It’s the mental strength which drives your physical wellbeing. That strength means I do sometimes get frustrated by the smallest of things, but has also allowed me to endure a few challenges to kick-starting a new journey in life. I’ve been given the opportunity to fulfil a childhood dream in motorsports with an all disabled race team, Team BRIT, founded by the inspiring and driven Dave Player.
I’ll finish off now by saying a massive thank you to everyone that doesn’t question my lifestyle decisions, inspires me with kind words & encouragement, especially my family and close friends.