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SCI Awareness Month Featured Writer, Rebecca Koltun: Not all quadriplegics are created equal

Updated: Apr 3

My name is Rebecca Koltun and I suffer from quadriplegia. What really is quadriplegia? Often the lay person does not know the answer to this question. Some people believe it’s when you cannot use your arms or legs. However, it is actually a condition in which any upper limbs are affected by paralysis. Thus, each quadriplegic is different and has different abilities. Not all quadriplegics are created equal.

Quadriplegics can range from having no arm movement to almost full use of their arms and hands. I fall into the former category. Because my injury was so high up in the spinal cord, I cannot move anything below my neck and I require an internal device called a diaphragmatic pacer to respirate for me. It can often be very difficult to witness other quadriplegics be fully independent, participate in competitive sports and operate a vehicle. Meanwhile, I cannot even be left alone. I require 24 hour nursing care. This level of dependence on others is truly heartbreaking and I am unsure if I will ever be fully used to it. I can speak to other quadriplegics about my struggles but often our struggles are vastly different even though we still fall under the umbrella of “quadriplegic”.

I am not writing this piece for sympathy but rather to educate. There is a greater lesson to be learned here. Everybody has their unique struggles and navigates life differently. Labels can only get us so far when trying to understand someone. Not all quadriplegics are created equal. Not all humans are created equal.

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