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Spinal Cord Injury and Paralysis

February 3, 2001 began as a clear, sunny Saturday in Miami. As always, I jumped on my Honda Elite scooter at 6:30a.m. and headed to work. I am a hairstylist. At the time, I worked at the salon that I owned with my wife Tamara.

Traffic was light. I noticed several large trucks along the side of the road. As I passed the first truck, the driver unexpectedly pulled out in order to make an illegal turn into the exit of an adjoining park. I realized that he was about to turn directly into my scooter so I tried to veer out of his way. That’s the last thing I remembered.

Eyewitnesses told me that the truck hit me and I flew off the bike, landed on the ground on my back and slid into a pole headfirst. I was, thankfully, wearing a helmet. When I came to on the pavement, I couldn’t move my arms or legs.

At the hospital, it was determined that my neck was broken in three places—-at C3/4, C5/6 and C7. The real problem is at the C/5 level where the disc was nicked at the central cord and created an incomplete spinal cord injury. Most cases like this result in complete paralysis.

I was wheeled into surgery. My neck was fused from C/3 to C/7 with a titanium plate. Later in the recovery room and during the ensuing sleepless days and nights in my hospital room, I started to think. I realized I did not want to ruin my family’s life. My daughter, Bliss, was three and one half at the time. She needed me. My wife needed me. So I made up my mind. I resolved to get well. And I decided that to do so, I couldn’t leave my fate solely in the hands of the doctors. It was up to me to take control. “Remember, as long as you believe something, your brain operates on automatic pilot, filtering out input from the environment and searching for references to validate your belief, regardless of what it is. People with beliefs have such strong levels of certainty they are often closed off to new input.”

Before the accident, I had studied visualization and other complimentary modalities. Before the accident, I had studied visualization and other complimentary modalities. Basically, the idea is that by picturing an outcome in your mind, over and over again, the outcome gradually manifests in real life. So as I lay in my room, I would close my eyes and try to picture my nerve endings as strands of jellyfish moving around in my body, searching for connection. I visualized them making those connections, over and over.

I thought some more. In my line of work I had access to a whole complement of professionals who helped people feel better, people outside of the mainstream. So I contacted everyone I could think of—massage therapists, Reiki practitioners, acupuncturists, aroma therapists—-and asked them to come work with me. I was willing and ready to try anything and everything. I tried Reiki, which involves tapping into your “life force energy” to improve health. I worked with a CranioSacral Therapist who uses 5 grams of weight pressure to improve the flow of the cerebrospinal fluid between the cranium and the sacrum. When I got impatient with one modality, I switched to another. Somebody would mention Feldenkrais Therapy (a way of working with the awareness of one’s body to improve movement) or Pilates and I would give it a try.

I also took advantage of more traditional opportunities. I was fortunate to be treated by gifted neurosurgeons and other physicians. I worked with caring, dedicated physical and occupational therapists. When I felt depressed, or noticed that my daughter was not coping well with the upheaval in her life, I enlisted the aid of a family therapist. It is important to realize the emotional impact such an event has on everyone around you. and that these bouts of depressions don’t get you “stuck”, hindering the healing process. When I got discouraged, I would think about Bliss, who, during a visit to the hospital, crawled into my lap and whispered , “Daddy, you have to come home. It’s your responsibility.”

Over the past two and a half years, I have progressed from a wheelchair, to a walker, to crutches to canes, to one cane, to no cane. Today, I work in the salon four half-days each week. I ride a stationary bicycle with a goal to get back on the road. I’ve taken up the piano to strengthen my hands and my mental acuity. I’m not 100% healed, but I am miles and miles beyond the doctor’s original dire predictions.

I attribute my recovery to two things: First, to the love and support of my family and friends who never gave up and never, ever let me quit, even though the process was often painful and excruciatingly difficult; Second, to an open mind, exploring every possible treatment and modality, (whether traditional or alternative) customizing these treatments and trusting that you will get better.

A combination of a good nutritional plan, acupuncture, Thai massage and especially Cranio/Sacral Therapy during recovery and in maintenance, were most effective for me. By taking control you give yourself power. With power comes change and ultimately healing. Begin with TRUST!

Yours in Service with Soul,

Danny Aruj

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