Some car accidents, slip and falls, construction accidents, and other Oklahoma City accidents change lives forever. One type of life-changing injury that lasts a lifetime is paralysis. Patients with full or partial paralysis often must spend most of their life in a wheelchair or confined to their homes. In the best cases, victims can learn to function with the help of assistive devices, extensive occupational therapy, and the support of friends and family. In tragic cases, paralysis can cause painful or fatal complications.
What is paralysis?
According to the prestigious Cleveland Clinic, paralysis is a nervous system disorder. The nervous system sends signals from the brain to the rest of your body. Paralysis occurs when the messages to and from the brain can’t get through to the muscles, causing the body to be unable to make voluntary movements. While some birth defects and diseases such as spina bifida can cause paralysis, many cases result from traumatic injuries.
What types of accidents cause paralysis?
Car accidents, truck accidents, and motorcycle accidents can damage the spinal cord. Other causes of spinal cord injuries that cause paralysis include oil and gas field accidents like explosions, slip and falls, and construction accidents.
How are paralysis injuries categorized?
Paralysis can affect different parts of the body. Bell’s palsy, for example, paralyzes the facial muscles. The paralysis that prevents someone from walking is usually due to a spinal cord injury.
Paralysis can be complete (you cannot control any muscles) or partial (you can control some, but not all, muscles). Paralysis may be flaccid (muscles are flabby and shrink) or spastic (the muscles tighten, causing spasms and jerks).
Generally paralysis, according to the Cleveland Clinic, is classified as:
- This type of paralysis occurs in the same area on both sides of the body. Examples include paralysis of both arms, both legs, or both sides of the face.
- This type of paralysis only affects one side of the body. For example, an arm and a leg on the same side.
- This paralysis affects one limb – an arm or a leg.
- This type of paralysis affects both legs and may also affect the torso.
- Quadriplegia (Tetraplegia). This type of paralysis affects all the limbs. People with quadriplegia “may have little or no movement from the neck down.”
What are the signs and symptoms of paralysis?
Some of the signs and symptoms of paralysis include:
- A loss of sensation in the area where the paralysis occurs
- A steady loss of feeling and muscle control
- Muscle cramps
- A tingling or numbness sensation in the limbs
Paralysis is diagnosed based on an oral examination and a physical examination. The evaluation may be made by an emergency room doctor. In most cases, a neurologist determines whether you or a loved one is paralyzed.
Some of the diagnostic tests used to determine whether a patient is paralyzed include:
- X-rays. This test determines if you have any broken bones that may be causing a nerve injury.
- CT scans and MRIs. These test can help determine if you suffered a stroke, a brain injury, or a spinal cord injury.
- Myelogram. This diagnostic testchecks for spinal cord and nerve injuries.
- Electromyogram(EMG). This test examines the electrical activity of nerves and muscles.
- Spinal tap(lumbar puncture). This test examines the “spinal fluid for infection, inflammation, and disorders like multiple sclerosis (MS).”
What are the complications of Oklahoma City paralysis injuries?
Paralysis often affects more than just muscles and communications with the brain. Other body systems can be affected as well, leading to the need for comprehensive medical care. Complications from paralysis, depending on the type of paralysis and location, include:
- Respiratory difficulties. These disorders include breathing problems, coughing, and a risk of developing pneumonia.
- Blood clotsand deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Blood clots can form in the arteries and veins when blood changes from liquid to partially solid. Some clotting is normal. If clots don’t dissolve on their own, medications or surgery may be required. “Deep vein thrombosis is a blood clot in a vein located deep within your body, usually in your leg.” This condition needs immediate treatment. Patients “may need to take medicine for a few months and wear compression stockings for two years.”
- Dysphagia. Speech or swallowing problems. Dysphagia “can include nervous system and brain disorders, muscle disorders, and physical blockages in the throat.” The treatments may include antibiotics, different eating habits, and surgery.
- Emotional difficulties, including depression and anxiety. Confinement in a wheelchair, being unable to do the things you did before the accident that caused your paralysis, and constant worrying about how your condition is affecting you and your family can be extremely upsetting. Accident victims who have permanent paralysis often need counseling from psychologists and other mental health professionals.
- This condition is very serious. It’s caused by the way a body responds to an infection. Sepsis can be life-threatening.
Other complications include:
- Very high blood pressure (autonomic dysreflexia) or very low blood pressure (orthostatic hypotension) and heart problems.
- Difficulty controlling bowel and urinary functions.
- Pressure injuries (bedsores).
- Erectile dysfunction and other sexual problems.
How is paralysis treated and managed?
There is no cure for permanent paralysis. The spinal cord is not able to heal itself. Some types of temporary paralysis, such as Bell’s palsy, do improve without treatment.
The treatment for paralysis generally consists of work with physical, occupational, and speech therapists. These treatments usually include exercises and learning to use adaptive and assistive devices to improve function. Ideally, the treatments help accident victims live independently and help them enjoy their lives.
Adaptive equipment can help you drive and feed yourself. Common types of assistive devices include wheelchairs, crutches, canes, and scooters. Braces may also help. Today, computer-assistive devices, such as voice-activated technology, can help paralyzed patients communicate with family, co-workers, friends, and the world.
At Cunningham & Mears, our Oklahoma City spinal cord and brain injury lawyers work with your doctors and our experts to fully assess the severity and scope of any injury, including paralysis. We demand full compensation for all your current and future medical bills, your lost income, your daily pain and suffering, and all the other damages Oklahoma law permits. To discuss your personal injury claim, contact us or call 405-232-1212 today for a free initial consultation.
Ryan Y. Cunningham is a founding partner of Cunningham & Mears. Mr. Cunningham devotes his practice to protecting the rights of injured Oklahoma residents. In addition to assisting injured clients, Mr. Cunningham endeavors to improve personal injury representation by speaking on issues related to personal injury law to attorneys in continuing legal education courses and to law students. Learn More