Londoners’ experiences of life-changing injuries

Nick Z

Male
Age at interview: 49

Brief outline: As a hobby, Nick enjoyed racing motorbikes. He was on a track in Spain when he came off his motorbike and broke his neck. He is now a quadriplegic, paralysed from the chest down.

Background: Nick is married with three children, aged 12, 11 and 5 years old. He worked in business development, but has not returned to work since his injury. Ethnic background' White/English.

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Nick sustained a spinal cord injury after a motorbike accident in Spain. He broke his neck and “quite a lot of bones” and spent days/weeks in hospital in Spain before being flown home. The operation to fix his neck involved securing a ceramic plate to the back of his head and neck but this had to be redone in the UK when he returned home. 
 
The operation was later repeated when it was discovered that the plate had become infected and that he had an ulcer in his oesophagus. Nick experienced several other medical complications, including kidney failure, coronary failure and a collapsed lung. After being discharged from hospital he was readmitted six months later because he had developed pneumonia. 
 
Nick describes how, “I’m paralysed from the chest down and in my fingers. I have no control over any of my muscles below my chest, though my internal organs all work.” There are also “ancillary issues” that come along with spinal cord injury' “You lose control of your bladder and bowels. Your skin becomes very vulnerable because you can’t move and shift your position”. 
 
Another problem that affects people after spinal cord injury is muscle spasm, “involuntary contractions of muscles that occur mainly in the legs, but also in the abdomen”. Nick said that for him, these are most common at the end and beginning of the day. He said they “can be a bit disturbing for people who don’t understand what’s happening”, but, for him, like everything to do with spinal injury “you get used to it”.
 
Nick is helped out by paid carers. He and his wife prefer this as neither of them wanted a relationship in which one was dependent on the other. Since his injury, Nick has not gone back to work. He is planning to start his own business. Because he is at home a lot more now, he has been spending more time with his children than before his injury, which he enjoys. 
 
Nick wants people to know that “injury will have a radical effect on your life”. He is still learning ways of dealing with the challenges he faces. He thinks people will probably initially think about “the impact on your physical abilities”, but he would encourage them to spend time “thinking about the impact on relationships”. 

 

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