On the 28th of August 1997, an 8-month-old baby was rushed to their local hospital after becoming floppy and unresponsive. At their local hospital, no cause of these symptoms could be found so the baby was rushed to the major hospital for more scans and tests. After a long wait for the babies family, the doctors finally came to a diagnosis; Transverse Myelitis. It will be no surprise for you but that baby was me (duh it is my blog)!
Transverse Myelitis is a neurological inflammation of the spinal cord. As the spinal cord is surrounded by the vertebrae, it gets crushed often damaging the myelin which protects the neurological cells. This damage leads to scarring on the spinal cord which disrupts the messages being sent between the neurological cells and obviously leads to a spinal cord injury.
Whenever I mention Transverse Myelitis and the fact that it's a virus I often get the same question by someone... "Hey Alex, so it's a virus, does that mean it's contagious?". The answer is NO! Transverse Myelitis itself is often caused by other infections or viruses like herpes simplex, cytomegalovirus, and influenza as well as many more. But transverse myelitis itself is incredibly rare with only 1.34 people per million globally having transverse myelitis.
Now that I have explained what transverse myelitis is I am going to go through how this affects me in my day to day life, but like all spinal injuries they don't all affect people in the same way. My Transverse Myelitis left me with a C6 incomplete injury. But in simple English, this means that my injury occurred at the top of my neck, but wasn't complete so I still have some ability in parts of my body below this. The most obvious way that Transverse Myelitis affects me is that I am unable to walk in any form. So in order for me to get around, I use a manual wheelchair, which without I'd be like a beached whale! Another more obvious way is my weak upper body strength and poor hand function. The most I can lift weight-wise with either arm is 5kg, but this weakened upper body strength doesn't stop me from being able to push my wheelchair. When it comes to my hand function this is also very limited. On my left hand, I can move my thumb, my index finger, and a little bit of my middle finger (unfortunately not enough to flip someone off). Then on my right hand, I am unable to move any of my fingers so it's basically like a club. Yes you might be thinking, but Alex how do you game with the poor hand function, and this is something which I'm going to cover at a later date. The final way Transverse Myelitis affects me is with the number 1's and number 2's. My spinal injury means I have no control of the muscels in my bladder or bowels so I have to manage these differently to everyone else. I use a thing called a catheter to help wee and suppositories to help manage my poops, I will cover these again in a later blog.