© Roland Defrancesco

Everyday Life with a Spinal Cord Injury


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How do you master everyday life after your injury? What is different and which challenges do you face? In the search for answers, we accompanied Tina Hötzendorfer from Tyrol for one day.

08:00 am
Tina’s alarm clock rings. She is lying on her side, a position she adopts at night to relieve her skin and avoid bruises. Her means of transport – the wheelchair – is always in her immediate vicinity.

 (Roland Defrancesco )
© Roland Defrancesco

08:10 am
First, she reaches for her special leather gloves, which give her traction and support her wrists.

 (Roland Defrancesco )
© Roland Defrancesco

8:15 am
Ever since suffering a severe accident on her snowboard, Tina is unable to move from the sixth cervical vertebra downwards. She needs a lot of energy to leave her bed.

 (Roland Defrancesco )
© Roland Defrancesco

8:35 am
The 30-year-old has been paralysed for more than eight years. She’s now got used to the many changes. However, she often suffers from pain and spasms.

 (Roland Defrancesco )
© Roland Defrancesco

08:40 am
David, her boyfriend, helps her transfer from the bed to the wheelchair. The couple met three years ago, when he was doing his community service in her rehabilitation institute.

 (Roland Defrancesco )
© Roland Defrancesco

09:15 am
Tina can move her arms and hands, if only to a limited extent. So she can change her clothes independently.

 (Roland Defrancesco )
© Roland Defrancesco

Tina is supported by an assistant three times a week. With her help, Tina is able to transfer from the wheelchair to the shower. She is very fortunate that her entire apartment is barrier-free and directly adjoins her parents’ house.

 (Roland Defrancesco )
© Roland Defrancesco

09:35 am
Daily routine: the immobility in her fingers has made Tina creative. She removes the top of her mascara with her mouth.

 (Roland Defrancesco )
© Roland Defrancesco

10:20 am
At breakfast, Tina ponders the day ahead. Being well-prepared is paramount. She used to travel the globe before her accident. This freedom has had to make way for careful planning.

 (Roland Defrancesco )
© Roland Defrancesco

10:45 am
During the morning, Tina works from home; she manages the online shop of her own gallery. In addition, the artist regularly shares her experiences on her blog: www.rollinart.at/blog. She is able to type with the joints of her thumbs.

 (Roland Defrancesco )
© Roland Defrancesco

2:00 pm
David mounts the Swiss Trac on her wheelchair. This special sidecar pulls and brakes. It allows Tina to make small deliveries. She prefers not to drive because of her limited motor skills.

 (Roland Defrancesco )
© Roland Defrancesco

2:15 pm
David accompanies his girlfriend to her studio. It is an uncomplicated route. The couple only face real hurdles when they decide to travel. Then they struggle with paving stones, entrances that are too small, and restrooms.

 (Roland Defrancesco )
© Roland Defrancesco

2:45 pm
When Tina arrives at her studio, her employee removes the Swiss Trac from the wheelchair and helps her to unload the goods.

 (Roland Defrancesco )
© Roland Defrancesco

3:20 pm
Tina has been a freelance painter and artist for two years. She also needs to be creative when opening paint containers.

 (Roland Defrancesco )
© Roland Defrancesco

4:50 pm
Tina also designs jewellery. She draws a design before she moves stones and pendants into place with tweezers. Her employee will thread the respective elements later.

 (Roland Defrancesco )
© Roland Defrancesco

7:55 pm
Tina is back at home. David helps her to transfer to the couch. Right from the start, the couple had no fear of contact. They are now perfectly attuned to each other.

 (Roland Defrancesco )
© Roland Defrancesco

8:30 pm
In the evening, the two are a normal couple who enjoy watching TV series. Tomorrow is a new day, during which Tina will – once again – need a lot of patience. “I lead a fulfilled life,” she says. “I have a lot of support, I am loved and I am happy. Naturally, I miss being able to jump out of bed in the morning. I miss my former lightheartedness and the feeling of damp grass between my toes.”

 (Roland Defrancesco )
© Roland Defrancesco

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