Transverse Myelitis by Colleen Curran
I am a 28-year-old woman who was recently diagnosed with transverse myelitis, an inflammation of the spinal cord that, in my case, caused paraplegia and loss of vision. I was treated with a variety of corticosteroids, anti-viral medication and chemotherapy, and after about three weeks I began to recover. At this writing, I have recovered to the point where I have fully regained my vision and mobility, for which I am very grateful. Not many people who develop transverse myelitis recover as quickly, or as completely, as I have.
I attribute my speed and degree of recovery to three things: strength, faith, and marijuana. Strength is what allowed me to pull through the ordeal alive; I work (or rather, did work) as a professional fitness trainer, and my doctors tell me that my exceptional level of physical fitness was key to my recovery. Faith is what kept me mentally strong during my illness, and physically determined during my rehabilitation. And marijuana has helped to an extent that even I, a confirmed pot-head, would never have imagined.
I have been a regular marijuana user since the age of 14. I always felt that it helped me focus, and aided in stress reduction. Before my recent illness, I hadn't been ill for seven years (since I quit smoking cigarettes), and I also have always suspected that marijuana played a role in maintaining my health.
The first time I used marijuana after my illness was when I was still undergoing in-patient physical therapy: a friend brought me some in the hospital (of course, he wheeled me outside to smoke). That night, I was able to urinate by my own volition for the first time since my paralysis (up until that point I had been self-catheterizing in order to urinate). As silly as it may sound, one of the most joyful moments of my life was sitting on the commode and gleefully yelling to my nurse, "I'm peeing! I'm peeing!" It was the first indication I had that the nerves governing my bladder, bowel, and sexual function might return to normal.
The next time I smoked marijuana was after I was discharged from the hospital; I was able to smoke once a day for six or seven days. My progress during this time was amazing, due, I think, to the fact that I was able to get past my pain and attempt things that the pain would have kept me from attempting previously (incidentally, after a rough withdrawal from oxycodone (sp?) and a terrible reaction to prednisone, I was wary of taking anything else to manage my pain).
By the time I had my first appointment with my outpatient therapist, she questioned whether I needed more therapy at all.
My last marijuana-related breakthrough was several weeks after I was released from the hospital. I had been trying pretty regularly to induce an orgasm, or some kind of sexual response, just to see if I could. I wasn't ready to engage in intercourse with my partner (which I know would have been painful for me at that time), but I wanted to know if there was any kind of sensation in that area of my body. There was not; until I smoked marijuana. The marijuana halted the painful spasticity that stimulation usually caused, and enhanced my sensation to a point just short of normal ("normal" meaning "pre-illness").
Unfortunately, the symptoms that remain with me are the pain, spasticity, and associated fatigue that I'm told often accompany spinal cord injuries. Marijuana continues to alleviate all of these symptoms (on the rare ocassions when I can actually get my hands on some). I am hoping that, should I be able to return to daily usage, it will enable me to live an almost pain-free life again; something that is unheard of for patients who have suffered through TM.
I hope my story can provide some hope for other people who are battling spinal cord traumas and injuries. Thank you for your compassionate work.