Recovery from paralysis: What does it really look like? We are seeing more and more examples of people with SCI experiencing varying degrees of “recovery,” but almost all of them will still be dependent on wheelchairs. To some degree the improvements we are seeing are due to new rehab protocols made possible by technology — functional electric stimulation, treadmill walking, exoskeleton use, etc. Some proponents of exercise therapy claim that hard work is the key to recovery. But the truth is recovery of function is almost always related to some degree of incompleteness of injury.
Having been paralyzed for more than 52 years, I have met and interacted with hundreds of SCI survivors. I have interviewed and written stories about hundreds more. Add to that nearly 17 years of corresponding with NM readers with SCI on a daily basis and the number is well over 1,000. That constitutes a large sampling of SCI survivors. They all have their unique personal stories, but the one thing they — we — all have in common is damage to our spinal cords. And the key to realizing true recovery potential lies in understanding the incredible complexity of the spinal cord, and how no two injuries are exactly alike.
SCI can best be understood as a continuum. Cord damage ranges from mild and temporary — when survivors spontaneously regain motor and sensory function within weeks or months — to very severe