Some of you fellow Milwaukeeans may have seen me rolling around town in my wheelchair, but might be curious about what exactly that means. In my case, I have a spinal cord injury at the C6-C7 level, which classifies me as a quadriplegic. The spinal column/cord has different segments, each one controlling a different area of the body. The higher the injury level in the spinal cord, the impact and loss of function will be greater.
A common misconception of quadriplegia is that it means a person is unable to move their arms and legs. While this is true for some people, it is by no means a hard and fast rule. In my case, I can’t feel much below my chest level. Because arms are affected with quadriplegia, this is why many “quads” use power chairs that steer with a joystick, versus using a manually-propelled wheelchair.
Quadriplegia can be a weird condition, and no two people who are paralyzed are the same! I can feel when I’m hungry or full, or need the bathroom, with occasional flashes of feeling below my injury level but without the ability to sweat and control body temperature.
While quadriplegia can be limiting, with the right adaptations and a good amount of persistence, many of these obstacles can be overcome. Keep an eye out (and watch your toes), because you just might see me rolling through your neighborhood sometime soon!