I write this at a time when one of our own is struggling to stay alive in a private hospital ICU, and with a very heavy heart, to say the least.

Johan, a C4/5 Quadriplegic, is just 47 years old and should be arm wrestling the World for at least another thirty years. A victim of a motor vehicle accident in his final year as an apprentice electrician, Johan got on with his life by constantly learning and trying new things.

Johan moved to Ashley Village in 2001 and was active from the start. He was elected Chairman of both QAK (to 2011) and Ashley Village (to date). A true man with a huge heart and an easy laugh; a man of integrity; and a man one could trust.

So what has this to do with my title question, “do quadriplegics really know enough to self medicate and treat their own aches and pains?”

We are losing too many quads simply because they think they know everything there is to know about “their” disability (and I count myself amongst them). When the headaches and sweats start, we drink more water, cut down on high protein foods, get a course of antibiotics from a fellow quad or the local pharmacy (without a script), drink some cinnamon & honey tea, or half a glass of colloidal silver; eat grapes; etc., etc., infinitum. Yes, it usually works because UTI is a common occurrence for us Quads, but there comes a time when our bodies are telling us there is something wrong and remain annoyingly unspecific about the source of our discomfort.

Well now it’s time of course to muster all the “knowledge” we have picked up over the years and really clout whatever is bothering us – check for broken skin and pressure areas; have an extra bowel movement; check toe nails; and the rest. Should see us right, yes?

Well, great if it does, but what if it doesn’t? The problem here is that while we have been cocking around with self medication and exhausting all our own “expertise” or advice from those around us, a crap-load of time has gone by and whatever the ailment, it has probably been exacerbated. If you are like me then you will more often than not leave it a few days longer before reluctantly dragging off to a doctor for a sound diagnosis and targeted treatment.

Why do we put ourselves through a self-medication routine? Truth be told, we probably don’t want to know if the ailment is out of our area of control; we definitely don’t want to end up in any hospital, let alone a state one; and of course, most quads who are admitted for the quirky, unusual sods just don’t come out.

I remember speaking to a Doctor at a rural hospital, and he was saying the death rate of admitted patients was far too high because the perception amongst the locals was just that – if you go in, you just don’t come out! Now, this perception was fast becoming reality simply because patients were waiting until the last possible minute before going to the hospital. The reality, however, was that if they had gone for treatment in the early stages of their illness, they would probably have been treated and discharged fit and well.

I have always maintained that quads learn far more from one another than we do from the Medical professionals who haven’t “experienced” quadriplegia. Now, although this is probably true for our every day, practical living (drainage systems, bowel management, assistive devices, etc.), I now know more than ever, it is only true to a point.

We need to choose a Doctor who we can converse with, let him know some of the “signals” that we experience, and ensure he is interested enough to gain a deeper knowledge of quadriplegia and all the baggage that goes with it. We need to take our ailments to him/her on day #1 and submit to early interventions, because that is what is going to offer a better chance at a longer, healthier life.

Let’s face it, when it comes to the slightest complication or deviation from our knowledge base, we are going to shave years off our lives unless we quickly relent and get those early medical interventions.

Now, I wonder if I will be able to take my own advice.