T Nation

Broken Neck

Hey gang,
It’s been a long time since I’ve been on the forum. Some crazy shit has happenend in my life since my last post. I’m sure most of you remember my original post concerning my girlfriend which branded me as an asshole. Well about two months ago I broke it off with her, (the really hot columbian chic.) I never told her what happened, but just had to convince her that she would be better off with someone else. To this day she is still hanging on to what she can salvage of what was a good relationship. It’s killing her and breaking me down as well because I still love her, but like many had told me, my guilt began to eat away at me to point where I couldn’t sleep if we were in the same bed. What a freakin’ mess. Anyway, on April 7th I was headed home from a day at work I thought would never end. It was around 1:00am and I was headed home, nearly there too. Well that’s when I nodded off just long enough to go off the beltway and roll my SUV “den of iniquity” down an embankment at 70mph. Luckily there was a state trooper behind me who witnessed the whole thing. He said it flipped about seven times before it slammed into the trees. I was tossed out the truck on final impact and I took a nice slide through the grass on my face. I jumped right up and climed the embankment. Against the troppers advice I darted across the beltway to stand near him. I was all kinds of fucked up at this point. He asked me to sit in his car until help arrived. Once I sat down the shock wore off and I was completely immobilized. I was flown to shock trauma where I spent the next ten days. I broke my neck right at the hinge between my “c6” and “c7” vertibrates for everyone who knows what that means. They are basically the last two vertibrates in your neck where your neck and back connect. They operated on me on the 8th, taking a bone graph from my hip and placing it in my neck along with two titanium rods and 4 bolts and fused it all back together. I am in a neck brace, a “J-collar” which is basically hard plastic with padding. I must where this 24-7 until July 1st. It is not a halo by any means, but I cannot shave or get a haircut because of it, I even shower in it. Its is driving me crazy, and sleeping in it is next to impossible. I am taking no pain meds beacause they were destroying my stomach and I couldn’t hold down any food. My other injuries were a tear in my liver, a small tear in my left ACL which does not require surgery, some stitches in my face and head, and few hemotosis (blood clots between the skin and the muscle is how the doctor explained them to me.) very badly bruised ribs, and badly pulled right pec, lat and all muscles in the right arm. The broken hinge in my neck left bone splinters and spurs in a main nerve so I do not have feeling in my right hand, and I get bad pain between my shoulder blades if I stand too long. I cannot as much as flex any of the muscles that I had listed as pulled. Its not so much about pain, they just don’t really respond. It seems as if the make no attempt to flex.(One of the weirdest feelings in the world.)

Anyway, I’m lucky to be alive and no one can believe how fast I am recovering. I was out of shock trauma for two days and was going stir crazy, (go from working three jobs and going to school to sitting in a bed 24 hours a day.) so I had a friend take me to the harbor where I walked around for 5 hours before I even felt fatigue. My surgeon told me when the brace comes off in twelve weeks I can go to life as normal including driving and weight lifting with no real limitations. He assured me I’d be 100% in 6months. After my last evaluation (tues. april 30th, 3 weeks post op.) he told me I was recovering so fast I could go back to working out in three more weeks, which would only be 6weeks after breaking my neck. That is what I want more than anything in this world. I feel like complete shit. The day I was admitted to the the hospital, I weighed 227 lbs. (at 6% bf), and I currently weigh 194lbs (at 7 or 8% bf). I’m 22, and I have not been below 200lbs since I was 17 or 18. I have atrophied so much. I lost nearly 20 lbs during my stay in shock trauma, being fed via I.V. And the when I returned home the pain meds wouldn’t allow me to keep food down. So I continued to shrink. I have my appetite back now and I am dying to hit the gym, but everybody besides my surgeon is telling me not to. Especially people who have had the same injury, they are telling me to do no nothing for at LEAST 6 months, then take it easy for the next YEAR. There’s no fucking way. I have also been told by many people that I’ll never be 100% again, and that I’d never be able to squat over 300lbs again, if I could EVER do that much again. I’m glad to be alive and all, but bodybuilding is such a big part of my life, that if I could not continue, and not continue at my previous intensity, that part of me might as well be dead.

So I guess that the point of this HUGE post, (my apologies but I had a story to share,) has anyone had this injury, or do you know anyone with this injury? How long before they were whole again? Any serious advice or words of wisdom? Any expert advice from anyone familiar with the injury of sports medicine? Bill please chime in here. Or even just some encouraging words. This is the most difficult time I’ve ever faced in my life, and I could use all the help I can get. I am back to work at SSA, (returned after two and a half weeks.) I am also back in school attempting to save my classes, but I cannot work any part time jobs and I am with out the income of my ex-girlfriend so I can barely pay my mortgage. My hospital bills are in excess of $140,000 and climbing, and I have no health insurace. (I know, what a fucking idiot…I am young and dumb, and thought I was indestructable.) My personal injury protection on my car insurance covered $2,500. And that’s it. Social Services, Medicare, and medicaid won’t help me unless I am out of work for 12 months. So if anyone has a ny serious advice on that matter as well I am all ears. I know some people are gonna rip on my post anyway, but any serious advice is greatly appreciated.

Sorry to hear about your accident Rookie. Sounds like some nasty injuries. I wouldn’t fool around with a neck injury though. I would do what the Doc says and follow his time schedule. You can always gain back what you lose and it will come back a lot quicker than getting it the first time. Stay loose! BTW, sounds like you may not have had your seatbelt on Dummy.

It’s good to hear that you made it out alright. You said that you are “lucky”, but I know that the God was definitely on your side.

Glad you are alive… glad you didn’t lose the drive to workout… bro I feel this needs to be said… most likely someone else said this already that is part of your family or friends… but don’t freakin work 3 jobs, and go to school and workout. 1 job is fine but 3? learn from this… living at an insane rate eventually catches up to you then you lose all you gained and then some.

Dumbass, sleeping at the wheel and no seatbelt ehhh, maybie youll learn to be a little more carefull.

So the doc says you’re good to go in a few weeks? Make sure he understands the intensity with which you lift. He may be ignorant of the fact that some of us don’t lift plastic Weider weights anymore (not a slam, I’m sure those of us in the know would understand that you lift seriously from your physique alone, but some old school doctors may not). Good luck, and take care.

Well, Rookie, you’re alive for A REASON – meaning, you have some purpose in your life that hasn’t been accomplished yet. But I do want to caution you to take it easy and VERY conservative. Remember that the brain-supply for the rest of your body goes through the neck, and if you screw that up… Well, I’ll put it this way: I know a few guys in wheelchairs that would GLADLY trade places with you, even now, and wouldn’t squander away another chance due to impatience or vanity. Demo’s advice is well said, and I echo that. Make sure the doc konws just how much you want to lift, and let the doc tell you how long to wait (and consider waiting another few weeks even after that). Dude, you have the rest of your life to lift. Don’t throw it away because you want to lift today.

look into claiming backruptcy (spelling bigtime…lol). it’s alot less stressful to have bad credit than to owe $140,000.

I had back surgery at the S1/L5. And lost thirty some lbs like you. It does take some time to come back and perform all lifts regualry again. However your muscle will come back fast. As example… A much older Poliquin had heart surgery and afterwards he gained something like 15 lbs of muscle in 2 weeks. As far as feeling 100% , i do, in fact i feel better then i ever did. I Deadlift 405lbs in strict form, not bad for 195lbs and once having had back surgery. Heavy Squating did take the longest time to come back from for me, but your legs can get a beating from alot of other exersices in the meantime. Being at your age, you will recover very fast, and in a couple years it will seem like you never even had back surgery… I cant tell i ever did… good luck and look forward to the new challenge.

The fact that you were already muscular and in-shape very well could have saved your life… or at least your ability to walk. A skinny 160 pounder might not have been so lucky. However, as others have said, a seatbelt could have even spared you from what you’re going through now. I hope you never make that mistake again. Very glad, though, to hear you’re recovering so quickly and I’m sorry for what you’re going through.

Oh, and I wouldn’t even consider placing a loaded barbell on that neck of yours for a very long time. Consider front squats or just deads for at least several months. You probably already know this, but thought I’d mention it anyway. :wink:

I’m not going to harp on your mistakes…just wish you a full and quick recovery. Good luck, bro.

Guys, don’t be mean to Rookie. How would you feel when you come to someone for advice, but all they tell you is “yer dumb…you make dumb mistakes”?

I'm glad you're alive and well...at least given what you went through I think you're doing rather well. I also had a scary accident last year. My poor lil Corolla spun out of the road, but I only messed up my already messed up knees more (banged them against something while the car was spinning, and both of them got badly bruised and swollen painfully), but I was wearing my seat belt, so I was fine otherwise.

If you injured ACL due to the accident, I'd be very careful about putting any stress on your knees. Knees are fragile thing. I heard that guys recover much better than girls from knee injuries, but do take care of them.

I'd definitely consult w/ the surgeon. I'd show him your typical routine (weight, set/rep, duration, etc.) so that he can tell you what to do. Sometimes surgeons do not realize that T-men lifts hundreds of pounds of iron when they work out!

As for your financial obligations -- someone suggested bankruptcy. But bankruptcy will stay on your credit history for at least TEN YEARS. You'll have a very hard time getting leases for apt, buying a brand new car, etc. (cuz you can't get financed easily, and bad credit means you're not a trustworthy person -- basically a person who are irresponsible regardless of the circumstance -- cuz they don't really know what you went through). Also some employers have a very strict credit requirement, such as brokerage or other financial services or professional services firms. If you EVER think you MIGHT work there or think about working there (cuz pay's real good there), then do not file for bankruptcy. And even if you MUST file for bankruptcy, I'd not file for Chapter 13...or was it 11? Sorry, it's been a while since I took commercial law.

Basically there are two forms of bankruptcy. One is all-or-nothing: you either pay all or don't have to pay all depending on what the judge says. The other is your debt amount is reduced by some percentage depending on your ability to pay back and you can come up w/ some kind of structured plans to pay back your creditors. The second one (structured pay-back) is considered more favorably on your credit history since it means you REALLY tried to be responsible and pay back as much as possible.

But seriously -- is there anyone you can talk to? To possibly consolidate your debt/loans? Do you have siblings or parents who can help out?

I know it's a great blessing to be alive and walking again, but financial problems can be very stressful. You might also want to utilize government agencies or other non-profit orgs that are established to help people in a situation like you -- to help you understand your financial options and pros and cons of each option.

Good luck and if you have any more questions, etc. post away.

WOW! What a story. But your spirit is obviously strong. Be patient with your body. You can get back to where you want to be, in time. Some advice about the pain meds: Docs frequently overlook the nausea they cause. Ask him to prescribe promethazine/“phenergan” for the nausea. Works great. Good luck!

I recently went through a similar experiecnce. I too was in a car accident. I didn’t have my seatblet on, and got thrown all around the car, fucking up my body. I fractured my back(l2) and my femur bone(my thigh) shattered into five peices. I’m still recovering, still go to physical theropy, and I still have a limp. But I’m finally off of crutches after 3 months. While in the hospital I lost about 30 pounds also, but trust me it comes back quicker than you think. I have a fucking rod in my leg, and it’ll be there for a couple of years. I’m not allowed to lift legs for another year. But atleast I’m alive. I totally know how it feels though, so I wish you the best of luck. May we both recover quickly and completely! :wink:

Hey Rookie. From a recent injury (torn spinal capsule) I’ve found that when getting back into training, while keeping to what the docs and physio told me, a large part of progress is simply listening to your body. These guys time lines for getting back into the gym were roughly about right, but sometimes I felt I could speed it up a bit or had to slow down. Sometimes I overdid it and felt it the next few days… I’m at about 80% of lifting capacity now, and it’s slowly climbing. My point is to REALLY listen to your body - all of it! As a side note, I’ve started a program recently published in the online T-Mag, called something like “100 reps to hyertrophy” (correct me if I’m wrong folks). It virtually zero strain but should yield some/faster results in the long-term, plus it’s about the only constructive thing I can do at the moment. Just keep that spirit up and keep on kickin’ man, you’ll win out in the end!

No flames from me…best of luck, and I wish you a speedy recovery. peace.

Rookie, glad to hear you’re alive and recovering ahead of schedule. I would’nt worry about the weight you lost, it will come back quick. My training partner incurred almost the exact same injury as you, playing football, which ended his short professional career. That was four years ago. He can now squat 5 plates a side for rock bottom reps. Be patient and don’t push your workouts too hard too quick. You’re still young and you have lots of time to accomplish your physique goals. It sounds like you have a pretty positive attitude, and that may be your most powerful asset to a quick recovery. Listen to your doctor and keep up the quick recovery. Keep us posted on your progress.

I’m very confused to how you would not have health insurance since you have said what it is that you do, work 3 jobs and +40 hours a week. I’ve noticed you are a faily smart individual and I remember you stating that you are the youngest person to ever hold your job position but how come you weren’t intelligent enough to have health coverage? I seriously feel for you Rookie. I don’t mean to be condescending but I am perplexed about your situation. I am very happy to hear you are recovering from your accident and wish you well. This might just be a sign from the man upstairs, not to mention that common sense tells you not to work as hard as you were. That’s the reason I didn’t believe you in the first place. I knew that eventually working that hard would burn you out. I hope you learn from your experience. Good luck man!

Rookie,
Oh hell yeh, I’ve got words of wisdom for you. First, don’t listen to these “people” who are telling you to do nothing for 6 months. Bullshit!!! I’m 49 years old, had my first neck surgery 2 1/2 years ago (October 1999 - severly ruptured disc at C6-7, and bulging disc at C5-6). Had a double level fusion. Lost about 15-20 lbs, etc. Ten to 12 weeks post-op started back in the gym. Started lifting light weights to get back into shape. Started squating (Smith Machine)after about 6 months (just being cautious at the time). Went to free weight squats after 7-8 months. Bottom line I got back to squatting over 400 lbs to parallel (not ass to the floor), bench press around 300 lbs, incline dumbell press w/ 95lb dbs (15 reps)-- all these lifts topped my previous personal bests. And all this time people were telling me to take it easy except my surgeon (one of the best spine surgeons in the country who told me the same thing your doctor is telling you). So listen to him! His timelines sound reasonable to me.
Then, last year, November, 2001 another disc ruptured in my neck at level C4-5. No, it didn’t happen in the gym (happened while I was washing my hair in the shower). Once again, I had neck surgery five weeks later because I had so much weakness in my right arm I barely could lift a fork to my mouth (no shit!). It’s been approx. 6 months since my 2nd surgery and I’m back in the gym lifting again–squatting, benching, dipping, chinning, deadlifting, etc.
My right shoulder is still weak due to the C5 nerve being “crushed” by the ruptured disc but it’s getting stronger every week.
You’ve been through hell and back. Never, ever give up on what you love to do!! Your body will heal and hopefully when you get to be my age you’ll be still “tossing” iron and have a great story tell your kids. Recovery will take time, so listen to your body and be patient. You’ll be back! I know, I’ve been there and back twice!!

How are you managing to type and walk and do all those impossible things if you break your C-6 and C-7 vertibraes (not vertibraTes)? Is it because you are some freak of nature that doesn’t have the same spine as the rest of us? Sorry guys, but this story seems like a big whopping chunk of bullcrap. If it is true, there is no possible way Rookie actually “broke” the hinge between his sixth and seventh cervical vertebra and is walking around and will be working out in a few weeks. Why must you contiue to invent these stories Rookie? Why?