The View From Here (23-09)

justine sitting in her car smiling wearing a black dress

“Our reality is an infinite battle between what happened and what we want to remember.” – Haruki Murakami, best-selling Japanese author

Since my injury in September 2014, I struggle each year with how to properly commemorate the anniversary of my Spinal Cord Injury. Many survivors living with SCI, refer to this day as their “life day.” A celebration of a day when their new life began. For me, the approach of September 20th brings up memories that I just don’t want to recall.

As much as I’ve progressed in my journey living with SCI, battled paralysis, fought with everything I possibly could to walk once again, and as much as I am grateful for this new life that has given me tremendous perspective and an outlook of gratitude, the likes of which I’d never known before; the memory of this day, the day I fell, the year that followed and how my life changed in an instant, brings up a lot of emotions for me. And a ton of tears.

I find it fitting that the anniversary of my injury falls in September, which is also Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month. In 2013, the U.S. Senate passed U.S. Senate Resolution 533, which designated September as National Spinal Cord Injury Month. The spinal cord injury awareness campaign is to raise awareness of the severity of spinal cord injuries and the ongoing need for research about the injury and a cure for paralysis. Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month is an opportunity to recognize and celebrate multiple important facts and share knowledge with others about life with a spinal cord injury.

According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center’s “Facts and Figures at a Glance”, there is estimated to be between 247,000 and 358,000 people living with a spinal cord injury and more than 17,900 new spinal cord injuries every year. An SCI often represents a shocking, overwhelming, isolating and traumatic event, not only for an individual but also for their family, friends, loved ones and community.

The United Spinal Association refers to spinal cord injury as, “any damage to the spinal cord, whether from trauma, disease, or a degenerative disorder. The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves that transmits messages between the brain and the rest of the body. It is protected by the spinal column, consisting of cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral and coccygeal vertebrae. Thirty-one pairs of spinal nerves emerge segmentally from the spinal cord and extend to the various parts of the body. After a spinal cord injury, nerves above the level of injury keep working as they did before. But below the level of injury, messages from the brain to the body may become fully or partially blocked. The higher the level at which the spinal cord damage occurs, the greater the degree of impairment.”

Throughout this month, I see many of my fellow SCI survivors sharing the details of their injuries, their personal journeys, and the knowledge they’ve gained along the way. This is a wonderful thing for our community, to be able to share what we’ve learned, so that others within the SCI community and beyond can learn and hopefully be more understanding as we go forward. It’s been so helpful to me during this 9th anniversary of my injury to know there are others who have gone through something similar and continue to remain positive and share their knowledge. It’s honestly still a struggle for me at times, but knowing I can share that with my community truly makes all the difference.