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Healthier at 40 than 30

14 April, 2016

As if I didn’t already have enough concerns, now I have my health to worry about!

Apart from having a disability I am also a man. Honestly it’s often hard to tell, which is a bigger stumbling block. I rarely get sick and being on the smaller side I am actually encouraged to eat more. Physically, I assumed as the years went on I would slowly reduce capacity. If I had the time and money I may be able to improve but it was doubtful. Certainly I didn’t have people telling me that physically my life could be better.

When I turned 35 I decided it was probably time to see what was actually happening with my body. I wanted to know whether there was anything serious going on that may need immediate attention. I was hopeful and optimistic that if there was, something could be done to help me; leading me to have various x-rays and scans.

"When I turned 35 I decided it was probably time to see what was actually happening with my body. I wanted to know whether there was anything serious going on that may need immediate attention."

"While the early physiotherapy sessions were extremely painful, it quickly became clear that I could develop more function. I continue to see the benefits and it has become one of the most important parts of my week."

In the meantime, I also started having weekly physiotherapy sessions. Thankfully I received this from NeuroRehab Allied Health Network who is willing to come to my house; this cannot be underestimated. A quality service that I genuinely need and I don’t have to leave my home to obtain. Putting it into words it still sounds too good to be true! While the early physiotherapy sessions were extremely painful, it quickly became clear that I could develop more function. I continue to see the benefits and it has become one of the most important parts of my week.

Eventually I got the results back from my x-rays and scans. As expected my neck, back and hips were in a bad way. It wasn’t all doom and gloom though. I didn’t need an operation. This was a blessing beyond belief.

From there I was referred to the St. Vincent's Young Adult Complex Disability Service. I could go on all day about how men with disabilities need bossy women around them! When I get a chance I will write about this but here is an example… At the end of my first appointment I left with a prescription for Baclofen. I could see that taking this was the right thing to do but it didn’t do anything for my masculinity. For years I was able to proudly say that I wasn't on any medication; having this taken away from me hurt my pride.

Nevertheless, it didn't take me long to get over this, because physically, I found myself improving immediately. My spasticity reduced, I felt more comfortable being in my wheelchair and I had a faster recovery rate from the effects of always sitting.

"...I found myself improving immediately. My spasticity reduced, I felt more comfortable being in my wheelchair and I had a faster recovery rate from the effects of always sitting."

However, there always seems to be a compromise. For all the positives, Baclofen to me is what Kryptonite is to Superman. I feel weaker, more tired and hotter than ever. It’s like it heightened everything I don’t like about quadriplegia.

And further, this also highlighted that I don’t know enough about my own disability. Therapists and specialists don't either. Given this is to do with the fact that spinal cord injury means the brain and body struggle to get along, I can’t complain. What is great for me is that I am finally starting to notice a difference. My body is starting to react to both the therapy and the treatment. More importantly, my brain is starting to understand what works and what doesn’t.

Being more aware of my body has also led to regular Botox injections in my wrist, which was suggested by my doctor. I also frequently use ice packs and drink lemon juice, which I came up with on my own.

Now all I have to do is work out how to increase my energy levels. That may take some time but I am more focused on being healthier at 40 than I was at 30.  And this is my way of reminding myself and everyone else with disability that we accept too easily. We really do have the ability to improve in all areas of life. We just need more people that not only understand this but are also willing to support us in doing it.

Lachlan McLeod has lived with an SCI his whole life. He is currently writing a blog to demonstrate that people with disability do have fulfilling lives. When he is not doing that, he enjoys watching professional wrestling and listening to heavy metal music.

Tags: Blog, Health & Wellbeing