When I broke my neck at the end of the summer in 1993, little did I know what I was in for in the long upcoming cold season. I soon discovered by October that my body was far from what it used to be when it came to its ability to regulate temperatures. I was screwed. No matter what I did to compensate for my constant coldness – turtlenecks, space heaters, heated blankets – nothing made me feel the blessedness of body warmth again. It was a perpetual Artic Hell.
Fast-forward four years later at the Courage Center (I eventually moved into this independent living facility to learn how to live on my own), and I began to be a social smoker. A lot of my new disabled acquaintances were hardened “crippled” badasses who smoked all kinds of things (grin), had piercings, liked Marilyn Manson, and pretty much broke every rule that was put in place for the residents. I was like Winona Rider and there were like the collective version of Angelina Jolie in the movie, “Girl, Interrupted.” This novel activity of social smoking outside (we couldn’t smoke indoors), unintendedly made me stop feeling the unbearable coldness that my sluggish blood-flowing body had been forcing on me for all these years. I still hold to the fact that the reason for this was simple: The cigarettes not only provided a small amount of visible warmth, which tricked my mind into thinking of the cigarette as if it were a mini-bonfire, the Nicotine also numbed me to the cold.
Now, I don’t recommend that every freezing quad out there should take-up smoking to cure their neverending bout of freezingness. But I must admit, it was the only thing that worked for me; and I eventually quit smoking years ago. I can still zoom outside, sans jacket, in 40 degree weather for 15 minutes and not even feel the cold. It’s crazy to think about (I never thought I’d get to this point), and I’m incredibly grateful. I live in Minnesota and even though we truly are experiencing global warming (no matter what some crazy Evangelicals may say), balmy Florida-like winters are hundreds of years off. And I don’t plan on moving anytime soon. So as you can see, getting used to the several- month-long winters we have is essential for my sanity.
For you folks with SCI out there reading this, it all really boils down to mind over matter. The cigarettes and the Nicotine screwed with my mind, making the permanent chill I was experiencing become nothing more but a very, un-fond memory. I’ve also found a few other tricks, that I’ll share with you now, that have helped me stave off the “cold:” Microwaveable neck warmers and drinking hot water vs. cold water (room temp water also will work). These two seemingly minor things blocked the cold from entering my sensitive quad bod. And there’s no need in saying that I had to discover these things on my own. Rehab OT and PT therapists once again proved useless in providing any real, beneficial help to me. I swear, most of everything that helps me on a day-to-day basis I figured out on my own.
Anyways, enough of that. Stay warm this winter all of you quads out there! The Discovery Channel Store sells really nice microwaveable neck warmers, FYI.