About Me
Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.
  ~ Mother Teresa ~

The Anatomy Of My Spinal Cord Injury

cervical spinal cord injury diagram: 

* The above diagram shows the location of the cervical spine where my injury occurred.

* I suffered a C5-6 vertebral fracture causing damage to the spinal cord which resulted in paralysis from the chest down; also known as quadriplegia.

* Typically the bony vertebrae protect the cord from damage or injury. However, if the bone breaks it could impinge, compress, or bruise the cord.

spinal column diagram:

* The spinal column contains:
     - 7 cervical vertebrae (these are in the neck)
- 12 thoracic vertebrae (these are in the trunk)
    - 5 lumbar vertebrae (these are in the lower back)
    - 5 sacral vertebrae (these are in the pelvis)
 - 4 fused vertebrae that
form the coccyx (tail bone)

spinal cord diagram:

* The spinal cord runs through the oval shaped opening in the vertebra. It
is a bundle of nerves that function in the transmission of neural signals between the brain and the rest of the body.

* The nerves are what control sensory & motor function which become impaired after a spinal cord injury.


Hello, I’m Natalie & I was born & raised in Buffalo, NY & grew up in Cheektowaga. I am 29 yrs old & graduated from Cheektowaga Central in 1998. During high school I was a cheerleader & a member of the track team. After I graduated I decided to go to Canisus College but was unsure of what career path I wanted to take. After a 1 ½ I transferred to Villa Maria College where in 2002 I received an Associate degree & graduated in the Physical Therapist Assistant program. After that I began working as a PTA in an outpatient orthopedic clinic full time while also going to school for Massage Therapy. I received another Associates degree from Trocaire College in 2004 and soon after I passed my state boards I became a licensed Massage Therapist. During the summer after graduation I began working at a different outpatient orthopedic center where I was hoping to utilize my massage skills together with physical therapy.

Immediately after I received my Massage license I began making plans to start my own private massage business. This was a very exciting time of my life because school was finally over & I was entering the career world. I was excited & proud of my achievements while continuing to pursue my future dreams. I wanted to work towards opening my own health center with a variety of different types of therapy together in one center.


It’s amazing how what you envision for you life may not be what happens despite your best efforts. I learned this when just 3 weeks after I received my license tragedy turned my life in unimaginable directions. Everything I worked for was gone in seconds.


On October 22, 2004 while at work a 500# exercise weight machine fell over on top of me pushing me into a counter & pinning me to the floor. It took 4 people to pull the equipment off me & I remember not being able to feel my body on the ground. I have never been so scared in my whole life because in my mind I knew I had suffered an extremely severe life changing injury. I was rushed to ECMC where I was told I had broken cervical vertebrae 5 & 6 and the bones where compressing on my spinal cord causing sensory & motor paralysis. The surgery fused vertebrae C4-7 with rods & a plate.


I was in excruciating pain for a long time & on a ventilator for about a week. Inpatient at ECMC for lasted for a long 2 months but then my family & I decided to transfer to a specialty spinal cord center in Atlanta, GA. This center is called The Shepherd Center & I was inpatient there for 2-3 months where I worked on immediate rehab, healing, coping & education for both me & my family about this type of catastrophic injury.


I finally returned home almost 6 months after the date of injury. I remember wanting so badly to be back in the comforts of my own home, however when I got there I discovered that my familiar life was changed. I became depressed & angry trying to cope & fit back into so called ‘normal’ life. The dynamic between friends & family was different & I no longer felt comfortable going out to even my favorite places. Adjusting was harder than I could have imagined. Family & friends planned a few benefits on my behalf & were very supportive.


I continued my outpatient rehab at ECMC for about a year, WNY Physical & Occupational Therapy for a few months, then I took a non traditional approached & rehabbed at the Pilates Studio & Fitness Institute 2x a week for another year. I gained a lot more strength & was finally getting some relief from my neck pain. Throughout my rehab I was on a waiting list to go back to Atlanta & participate in their Beyond Therapy Program. In February 2008 I returned to The Shepherd Center where I started in the Beyond Therapy 9 hours a week. It’s a demanding & intense strengthening program that works you very hard.


About 1 year after I started Beyond Therapy I discovered another center about 40 min outside Atlanta called Center IMT (Integrative Manual Therapy). This center also specializes on spinal cord injuries with a different philosophy of treatment. At this center I receive a lot of hands on structural healing. They utilize dietary changes, supplements, cold laser therapy, & other techniques to enable the body to be in a self healing mode. They provide the body with the tools it needs to be healthy & focus on healing the spinal cord.


Currently I go to Shepherd Center 6 hours & Center IMT 21 hours per week. I feel that I am receiving the perfect balance of rehab for my physical, emotional, & mental healing. I have more hope now than ever before that I will walk again!


Thanks to God’s amazing love & blessings & my family & friends support I continue to make amazing strides in my journey. One day I will be a therapist again, with new perspectives & start my own center to help others.


Please check out my blog at:
 http://natalie-barnhard.blogspot.com/   Here I will have more detail of the things I’m working on in therapy & how I’m progressing. Also watch for my spinal cord foundation that will be coming soon.

Thanks to everyone for believing in me! I’m working hard everyday & continue to heal & grow!

With Love ~ Natalie


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