Why Paralysis Is a Catastrophic Injury

Why Paralysis Is a Catastrophic InjuryParalysis is a life-altering condition that can have profound physical, emotional, and financial consequences. When someone experiences paralysis, it can be the result of various factors, including traumatic accidents, medical conditions, or birth injuries. The impact goes far beyond the loss of mobility; it touches every aspect of a person’s life and their loved ones. If negligence led to your catastrophic paralysis injury, you can and should seek the counsel of an experienced Charlotte injury attorney about your next steps and legal options.

What does catastrophic injury mean?

Any injury that causes you pain, keeps you from working, and requires consistent medical care is serious. There are some injuries, however, which change the entire outcome of your life. These are catastrophic injuries. In many cases, victims never achieve a full recovery of their health, and may have extensive medical needs for the rest of their lives.

Paralysis is this type of injury. Whether it is the result of a vehicle collision, a fall from a great height, trauma to the brain, or trauma during birth, paralysis – especially when it is permanent – will affect every part of your life and the lives of your loved ones.

What is paralysis?

Paralysis is a medical condition characterized by the loss or impairment of muscle function in a part of the body. It typically results in the affected muscles being unable to move voluntarily. Paralysis can be partial or complete, and it can affect a specific region, a single limb, or the entire body, depending on the underlying cause.

The condition often stems from damage to the nervous system, which includes the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves. It disrupts the normal communication between the nervous system and the muscles, leading to a lack of control and sensation in the affected area. The causes of paralysis can vary, including traumatic injuries, medical conditions, infections, or congenital factors.

Paralysis can be categorized into four types, including:

  • Monoplegia. In monoplegia, only one limb or a specific area of the body is affected.
  • Hemiplegia. Hemiplegia affects one side of the body, typically the arm and leg on the same side.
  • Paraplegia. Paraplegia results in the loss of function in the lower half of the body, including both legs.
  • Quadriplegia. Quadriplegia, also known as tetraplegia, leads to the loss of muscle function in both the upper and lower limbs, affecting the arms and legs.

The extent of paralysis can vary as well, ranging from temporary and reversible to permanent and complete, depending on the underlying cause and the effectiveness of treatment. Paralysis can have a significant impact on an individual’s quality of life, mobility, and independence, often requiring specialized medical care, physical therapy, and adaptive devices to assist with daily activities.

What types of injuries can lead to paralysis?

Paralysis can be triggered by a wide range of factors, and can affect any part of the body. It is often the result of a traumatic injury of some kind. Injuries which can lead to paralysis include:

  • Spinal cord injuries (SCIs). Perhaps the most common cause of paralysis is a spinal cord injury. When the spinal cord is damaged due to auto accidents, falls, or sports injuries, it can disrupt the flow of information between the brain and the rest of the body, leading to paralysis.
  • Brain injuries. Injuries to the brain can also trigger paralysis. Whether it’s from a traumatic accident, tumor, or infection, damage to specific areas of the brain can interfere with muscle function.
  • Nerve damage. Sometimes, damage to the peripheral nerves that connect the spinal cord to the rest of the body can result in paralysis.
  • Spinal cord compression. Conditions like herniated discs, tumors, or spinal stenosis can put pressure on the spinal cord, leading to paralysis if not treated.

It’s essential to recognize that paralysis is not a one-size-fits-all condition. Its causes are diverse, and understanding the underlying issue is crucial for effective treatment and management. Moreover, advancements in medical science and rehabilitation techniques have improved the prognosis and quality of life for many individuals living with paralysis. So, while paralysis is a complex and challenging condition, there is hope for better outcomes and improved mobility through proper medical care and therapies.

Understanding the long-term medical challenges of paralysis

A catastrophic injury like paralysis creates immediate burdens: financially, physically, and emotionally. One of the hallmarks of a catastrophic injury, however, is the long-term challenges it creates.

Specifically, the medical burdens of people who are paraplegic or quadriplegic can be substantial. The autonomic nervous system regulates respiration, digestion, blood pressure, and heart rate. If this system is affected, it means a person may require feeding tubes or breathing tubes, and will likely be at greater risk of cardiovascular diseases and heart failure. As the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation explains:

Injury to the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) is the primary cause for cardiac issues after paralysis. […]  Early issues of cardiac concerns include arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats) which can affect blood flow and clotting and bradycardia (slow heartbeat). Cardiac arrest can occur from slow to absent nerve communication. Early evolving but ongoing concerns include orthostatic hypotension (OH) which is low blood pressure especially when changing to an upright position, deep venous thromboembolism (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE) or blood clots, and autonomic dysreflexia (AD) which is an inability to control blood pressure.

Paralysis victims, therefore, must be especially careful when it comes to their diet, and should engage in some level of exercise (often with assistance) To help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

They are also at risk of a condition called autonomic dysreflexia (AD), which causes “a sudden and severe rise in blood pressure.” What happens is the body “senses an unpleasant or noxious stimulus” below the region of the injury. It automatically constructs the blood vessels in response. Normally, the body will self-correct, but for paralysis victims, the response cannot move past the point of injury. This is why paralysis victims experience the blood pressure spike. The consequences of that spike can include seizures, strokes, heart attacks, or even death.

These examples are two of many. Paralysis victims are at greater risk of developing pressure ulcers, which can lead to infection. They often suffer from bowel, bladder, and sexual dysfunction. They are more likely to suffer from pneumonia, pulmonary edema, or collapsed lungs, among many other respiratory conditions. They may be unable to regulate their own body temperature or suffer from skin maladies – conditions they cannot detect because paralysis affects your ability to feel sensations.

In short, the medical treatments for paralysis are enough to categorize this injury as “catastrophic.” When you add in the loss of household income and benefits, the physical pain and psychological trauma, the loss of intimacy and companionship with one’s spouse, and all the ways that family members’ lives will also change because of a paralyzed loved one, you can begin to see just how this type of injury impacts your future.

Paralysis is undeniably a catastrophic injury that reshapes lives, challenging individuals and their families in countless ways. However, it’s important to recognize that when paralysis is a result of someone else’s negligence, seeking compensation can be a crucial step towards alleviating the immense physical, emotional, and financial burdens that arise. Whether it’s a car accident, a workplace incident, or other preventable cause, holding the responsible party accountable through legal means can provide the financial support needed for comprehensive medical care, rehabilitation, adaptive equipment, and more. It can help rebuild shattered lives and offer a glimmer of hope on the path to recovery and adaptation. In such cases, consulting with an experienced Charlotte paralysis attorney is often a pivotal first step in pursuing justice and securing the necessary resources to move forward. While it may not fully reverse the life-altering effects of paralysis, compensation can significantly ease the journey toward a better quality of life and renewed independence.

At Price, Petho & Associates, you are our priority. We know that your life has been irrevocably changed. Paralysis is a serious injury, and we have represented past clients who have suffered from this condition, securing for them millions in compensation. It is not only money that you need to pay for medical treatments and therapy, but it is an award that you deserve for your pain and suffering. To schedule your free consultation, please call our office or complete our contact form today. We have offices in Charlotte, Rockingham, and Rutherfordton for your convenience.