Dealing with the Problems of Paraplegia

This is a very recent photo of me (Oct, 2014). I think I look quite healthy considering I am now 74 and I suffer from a serious paraplegic problem.

I broke my back in climbing accident 16 years ago and since then I have had to suffer the usual problems associated with this condition. Some people might be interested in how I dealt with these various problems. I had a T9 break and it was very complete (I have a lot of metal screwed into my back).
          The various problems are: your bladder is no longer under your control; your bowel is no longer under your control; it is no longer possible to exercise the majority of your body; you must take some medicine for the condition; and occasionally you will need help. I will deal with these problems in this order.

This photo shows me doing my push-ups.

          My Bladder

I now have an indwelling catheter. I tried to use just intermittent catheters for 4 months. Initially this system worked well. But after 2 months I started to leak every night. The situation became impossible. It was a tremendous relief to return to having an indwelling catheter again.
          I connect up to a large bottle every night. But during the day I remain unconnected and I just empty my bladder into a standard drink bottle about every hour. Wearing a leg-bag is messy, expensive and it gets in the way, when I do some forms of exercise. (Besides this, I still like to show my legs). This is the system I vastly prefer.
           Initially I would have a UTI infection about every 2 or 3 months. I then had to take the usual quite-strong antibiotics. But for the last 5 years I have managed to increase this period to slightly more than every 6 months. This is important because UTI infections are the usual form of death for paraplegics. So I thought I should mention the changes I have made to my standard practise, which might have helped to increase this period.
1)          Every night I now allow my bladder to fill substantially. Then, after cleaning the catheter with a “baby wipe”, I push the catheter down into the bladder. This means that the catheter will not remain stuck in the funnel shape near the sphincter. This action stops the bleeding, which a stuck catheter can cause.
2)          I am now more careful about my cleanliness – particularly as regards faeces contamination. I use a toilet bench and this means I can wash my bum very carefully with water after defecating.
3)          I now wrap a clean half face-cloth around my catheter and penis each morning. This helps to stop bugs getting close to the danger area. This system won’t stay in place overnight.
So these three measures could have helped.


          My Bowel

In hospital they suggested a huge number of facilities and remedies to operate the bowel. But an expert in this area, who happened to visit me, said the best thing is to let the bowel operate in its most natural way. But you still need to take out the stuff with your middle finger. Over time you get better at doing this.
          I usually defecate a little before 9 am (after I have had a little exercise and then had breakfast and coffee). This is the closest time to my past normal habit. Most people use light rubber gloves. I don’t – my feeling is better without them and the operation is then simpler. The major non-standard thing I do is to put 2 litres of water into the toilet-seat bowl to begin with. This means I can continuously wash my working hand as the operation progresses. And this means that, when I finally take my hand out, then the hand will not be badly contaminated (and this contamination can get everywhere.) This all needs practise. (I must also use a small amount of personal lubricant in this process – and I now use the same stuff for shaving. I now never use any form of soap at all.)
          Finally I need to adjust the ratio of: the amount of multi-grain brown bread I eat – to – the amount of multi-grain white bread I eat; to prevent my bowel getting either too constipated or too runny. Like all things in life – I have got used to the new situation.

This photo shows me getting ready to descend down to the floor. This is a weekly task I always do, because it means I am always capable of getting back into my wheel-chair (should I have a fall).

          My Exercises

It is now much harder to give my body enough exercise because there is now much less muscle mass that can do this necessary work. So I simply spend more time taking exercise. And now I am quite happy with this new situation. I find my expanded exercise regime now fills the ample spare time in my life quite pleasantly.
            So my exercise regime now is:
            Before breakfast and getting out of bed, on my bed, I do a few stretching exercises and 4×15 push-ups and 2.5x 20 chin-ups (I have a rope system fixed above my bed). This takes nearly half-an-hour.
            Before morning-tea (11 am) and again on my bed, I do more stretching exercises and 5x 20 chin-ups. This also takes nearly half-an-hour.
            After morning tea, I go outside and go up a few small inclines (I find it hard to get much exercise when pushing a wheelchair on flat ground). This also takes about ½ hour.
            Finally in the afternoon I go for a slightly longer outside push.
            All these exercises are quite mild. But I think, taken all together, they are enough to keep me reasonably healthy. So I do slightly more than 2 hours of mild exercise per day. I have got used to this simple exercise regime now.

This photo shows me getting back into my wheel-chair.

On Tuesday night I go to my local climbing gym for an hour. I know many climbers there. This visit keeps me in touch with climbing and I am reminded again what really hard exercise is like.
         On Saturday morning, I play my squeeze-box and recorder for half-an-hour outside Ashfield Mall. And at the same time I try to circulate my written work. This operation also forces my old brain to remember all the many old tunes I know. And this activity is also good for my ego.



 I try to take as little medicine as possible. But I have to take some.
So I take a Baclofen and Ditropan tablets twice a day. This is the minimum I can use to keep my muscles in a relaxed state. Then I must have half-an-aspirin a day to prevent any clotting that could form on a small wire umbrella I have in a vein. Finally it seems safer to also take Vitamin D and iron tablets to keep me healthy.
This is the minimum I can get away with.



This photo shows my cooking bench. This facility means I can look after myself very easily indeed.

I try to do everything for myself. So all my regular cooking and cleaning tasks I do for myself quite easily. (In my webpage called “Easy Compact Home Living” I describe how I do these tasks in detail.) But, when something goes wrong, then life can become really difficult. I usually call on one of my children or a friend to help me. Also one of my brothers lives in Ashfield as well. So he also occasionally gives me help. So I am not too badly off for help

You might now also like to look back at:
either my “Home Page” (which introduces this whole website and lists all my webpages),
or “My Life” (which introduces this major set of webpages).

My next normal webpage is “My Advice to Young People

Updated on 11/11/2016.