Maria's Story - Spinal Cord Injury Rehab + Stretching 01 October 2016
This is Maria, @strongerm on Instagram! I'm really excited that you want to share my story, and I thought I'd give you the background info first.
Last March I was traveling in South America, and while in Bolivia me and my friends were doing the famous bike ride down the Yungas Road outside of La Paz, more commonly known as the Death Road. Despite the fact that horrible accidents happen there all the time, it's a very popular place for tourists looking for an extraordinary nature experience and some adrenalin.
While I was biking my back wheel hit a rock of some sort, and it skid really far out so I lost control of my bike. The next thing I know I'm free falling off the edge. I was extremely lucky though, and in the exact area where I fell there was this ledge that caught me after 8-9 meters. I landed on my back and fractured multiple vertebrae, and L2 and L3 were completely crushed into pieces. I was brought to a private clinic in La Paz, where they had to perform the surgery as quick as possible as my sensation and muscle function in my legs was decreasing more and more. The doctors there were absolutely excellent, they managed to save my nervous system and they put in metal rods and screws from L1 to L4 to support the rebuilt fractures as they healed. When I woke up I could move both legs, and after a couple of days it was also clear that I would regain full bowel function.
I seemed to be recovering well, and I started walking again and doing physical therapy. I had reduced strength and motion on my left side, and my sense of touch and sensation in my left leg was totally messed up, but other than that things were really good!
Then, 7 weeks after my accident, an extreme pain started washing over me, radiating out from the area of the metal screws. One of them had been placed in a slight compression fracture, and as the vertebra healed and expanded, the screw was moved into my spinal canal where it hit the nerves there. It was absolutely insane, as if I was fracturing every single bone in my body every second of every minute. The muscles and the connective tissues were contracting like crazy, which would end up damaging them severely. I had another surgery to remove and replace two of the screws. I was able to walk a couple of times after, but it had all been to much for my body, and all the muscles proceeded to collapse completely. I was unable to walk and sit for a month, and my nerve roots had been damaged in a way that made me unable to differ between extreme and light pain.
Once again I started recovering, but this time it was different. My body and my muscles did not want to cooperate with me. I would still have contractions in them from time to time, and the pain would just not improve. I'd try to quit the pain killers, but it seemed impossible.
My physical therapist incorporated a couple of stretches into my routine – nothing I took much notice of at first, but when I tried to them more intensely I noticed that it actually would ease the pain more than anything else. That was when I started googling, and I found you! I read your story, and was so inspired by how you have handled you scoliosis with stretching. I started stretching to your guides every day, and honestly – it was a total game changer. Actually, more of a miracle. After just three weeks I was completely off pain killers in the day time, and started only taking them every five to six nights or so. After a while even less, and more importantly : as I started stretching my muscle function and sensations seemed to improve faster as well. It has been incredible.
I put my trust in the process, and even though I did not get much more flexible (as my muscles would tense back as I was having reactions to the metal), the way it helped with the pain and for how my body felt overall was amazing. When I had my checkup this March, my x-rays showed that everything had healed way better than expected, and my spine was looking strong already. My surgery, which was supposed to be this November, got moved up to June. I'm certain the stretching has played a huge part in this – the way it increases the flow of blood is essential to the healing process.
I had my last surgery 14th of June to remove the metal, and it went SO WELL. Like, extremely well, above all expectations from both the doctors and myself. I'm already feeling way better than I did before, and my stretching sessions have been A M A Z I N G. As I told you, I've been on the verge of happy tears more than once, praising your name haha! My muscles are easing up quickly, and I'm getting more and more flexible. My love for stretching and yoga is getting real serious, and I can't wait until I'm strong enough to start practicing inversions.
So, that's what has happened to this date – and this got reaal long haha, sorry about that.
Anyway. Thank you again. So, so much.