(Admin Note: the following excerpts were taken from an email sent by Alexis Noll on August 20th and is being added to help fill the gap between Aaron’s accident and today. This post in no way represents Aaron’s current situation.)
“First about his injury. It is rather difficult to explain. He didn’t actually compress his spine. It’s just that the nature of the dislocation compressed his spinal cord which caused some pretty nasty bruising. To give you a bit of a visual… imagine pulling on a rope to ring a big bell. The rope represents the spinal chord and if you place your hands grasping that rope right on top of each other they represent two vertebrae in your spine. With one hand directly over top of the other you have alignment and the rope (spinal cord) is protected within your hands. What happened when Aaron hit his head is that one of those vertebrae shifted about 50% according to the doctor which caused a severe misalignment (also called subluxation) that is the equivalent of you shifting one of your hands to the right or left an inch or two. What happens to the rope is that bends and gets pinched between the part of your hands that are still overlapping each other. That rope you’re grasping is a lot stronger than your actual spinal cord so you can imagine how easily it’s going to give way and be pinched between those two vertabrae. A complication that occurred with Aaron is that when these vertabrae subluxated they also somehow jammed and got locked like that which is why they had to do surgery to see what was going on in there and how to pull them apart to put them back in alignment. Along with putting the vertabrae back in place and unpinching Aaron’s spinal cord, the doctors also removed the disc between the vertabrae because it had ruptured and became unstable. For those of you with no backround in the anatomy of the spine, the discs between the vertabrae serve as shock absorbers and allow for movement and flexibility of the spine. Since Aaron’s disc was ruptured and the structural integrity of those two vertabrae was compromised, the doctors fused the two vertabrae together to stablized them. The doctor also told us that with spinal cord compression, the first 8 hours are critical. The doctors were able to realign those discs and relieve the compression caused to his spinal cord within that window which they say limits the damage caused. The discs that were affected were C-3 and C-4. Everything below those discs is basically cut off (or there is severe interference) from the messages being sent by the brain which is why Aaron has lost so much function. ..”
“Aaron at this point is only able to move his shoulders and everything above them. He does not have any use of his arms or legs. We did get some encouraging news today. Aaron is having some sensation in his pinky finger. Also Aaron’s girlfriend Jamie is an RN and has been assisting his nurses when she can. While she was helping one of the nurses lift Aaron today, she was rubbing his back and Aaron said that he could feel something. Aaron also said he felt something when Woody was rubbing one of his calf muscles. The staff are trying to exercise his muscles to keep them from atrophying or deteriorating from lack of use. The doctors did caution us that this may or may not be a good sign. These sensations may come and go and they are not necessarily indicative of Aaron regaining function in any of these areas. However, we are very hopeful and encouraged. Aaron is still on a hefty dose of morphine to manage his pain and we are thinking that it is also most likely dulling his senses a bit so we are eager to see if the sensation increases as the dosage of morphine decreases.
Aaron was taken off the ventilator because he didn’t appear to be having too much trouble breathing which is rather miraculous with an injury involving C-3 which is the vertabrae that houses the nerves directly related to lung function. However, the doctor did recommend to put Aaron back on the ventilator for the time being because while he is inhaling enough oxygen, he is not exhaling enough carbon dioxide. This may seem like a step back at first but really what the doctor is trying to do here is make sure that Aaron’s body is less focused on trying to breath normally and focusing more resources on healing itself. They are also inserting a feeding tube for the same reason. Aaron will gain more nourishment from that than he will from an IV drip which will help his body to heal. They are going to insert a trach so that these things will not affect his ability to communicate. They are going to do that tomorrow even though Aaron was ready for them to do it today. Aaron is doing very well mentally despite his circumstances. He’s keeping a positive attitude and seems to be very ready and willing to face the challenges of healing which is good since it may be a long road to recovery. Aaron will remain in NJ for about a week and then be transferred to an inpatient rehab facility somewhere closer to home…”