As a Minnesota resident, no one needs to tell you that our streets and roads can become quite hazardous during the winter months due to snow, ice and sleet. No one likewise needs to tell you that the number of Minnesota car crashes goes up accordingly. Unfortunately, you face a real risk of becoming paralyzed in some or virtually all parts of your body as the result of your car crash.

The extent of your paralysis depends on the location of your spinal cord injury. As you probably know, your spinal cord and the numerous nerves that emanate from it give you the movement of and feeling in your body. What you may not realize, however, is that your spinal cord has 33 vertebrae located in four distinct regions of your back as follows:

  1. Cervical region: the seven vertebrae located between the base of your brain and the base of your neck
  2. Thoracic region: the 12 vertebrae located between the base of your neck and just above your waist
  3. Lumbar region: the five vertebrae located between just above your waist and the bottom of your lumbar curve
  4. Sacral region: the nine vertebrae located between your lower back and your coccyx, popularly known as your tailbone

Paraplegia versus quadriplegia

The most common types of spinal cord injuries caused by car crashes occur in the lumbar region and result in paraplegia, the paralysis of your legs and feet, consigning you to life in a wheelchair. Depending on how high up your lumbar SCI occurs, you could also lose the ability to move your hips and possibly even your abdomen. You will feel little or no sensation below your point of injury, and have little or no control over your bladder and bowel functions.

Should your SCI happen in your thoracic region, this is even more catastrophic in terms of your ability to move and feel. Not only does a thoracic SCI paralyze your feet and legs, it also usually paralyzes your arms, hands, fingers, and a good deal of your trunk, producing quadriplegia, the loss of your ability to move all four of your limbs. In a high thoracic SCI, you may be able to move or feel nothing in your body below your head. Not only will you have to live in a wheelchair, you will require the constant help and care of others to eat, drink, brush your teeth, comb your hair, bathe and get from your bed to your wheelchair in the mornings and back again in the evenings. You may not even be able to breathe without the assistance of a mechanical ventilator.