“I could not feel my legs anymore”
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"This upcoming Wednesday, I will finally be released from hospital and can prove myself in the wild as I now like to call it. I am looking forward to this new chapter of my life but have a mixture of feelings. What awaits me in my new everyday life? How do I behave, when I am left without immediate help like I have here? How will I structure each day? Where will my job search take me?”
Marcus Kriegel writes in his personal Blog about the changes in his life and his feelings towards the change. He documents injuries, thoughts and fears. “Talking about my experiences and everything around it as openly as possible helps me to process it in my own mind. In my life I often used to make decisions by myself, which turns out isn’t the best solution. I now have the mindset that I don’t want anything to stand in my way and this is making it much easier for me to deal with my new situation.” Speaking about his situation, Marcus refers to his spinal cord injury. At the beginning of the year, the 42 year old had a fatal accident, where he injured his spinal cord. In our interview, he tells us more about it.
Marcus, can you tell us a bit about you?
I am from Aachen, a German City between Belgium and Netherlands. Following school and A-Levels I worked in a skate shop and then a record shop. I then went on to own my own skate and snowboarding shop with my friend from 2000 to 2017. We put many of our ideas into reality and I loved the contact with the customers that came in.
How did you spend your spare time?
I drove to different locations with my bike, used my skateboard as often as possible, helped building local DIY skate parks, liked snowboarding and DJ’ed on a regular basis. My interests are very versatile, but some are unfortunately no longer possible...
Did you have any plans for the future?
I have never really planned my life, but privately I was ready to take my relationship with my girlfriend to the next step. Professionally, a new direction arose on my agenda. I thought about getting involved in the social sphere, but I was not 100% sure about it.
What happened then?
I had a severe accident on the 29th January 2017. I was snowboarding in the course of the burn tour on the Montafon (Grasjoch) with customers. At first, we tried to get ourselves a little bit warm, but on the third run it happened... I cannot remember exactly what happened, but I probably made a mistake, fell and ended up lying on the slope. I was laying on my belly but could not feel my legs anymore. A helicopter arrived and took me to the University Hospital of Innsbruck.
What was the diagnosis?
Fracture of the 4th and 5th thoracic vertebrae, a complete spinal cord injury.
When were you confronted with the diagnosis?
Nobody talked to me about it in the ‘wake-up room’ of the clinic, but I already had a clue, because I could not feel my body below my chest. The doctor told me the diagnosis the next day relatively relentlessly. After a while, I realized the sheer size of this injury, I started feeling depressed and sad and I did not know how I was going to go on.
How was your rehab?
I have been in the clinic of Duisburg since 5th February. The first days and weeks were hard to get used to. I go into more detail on this in my blog. Some days I didn’t notice any progress; only after a few weeks I became more and more aware that even though I had a serious accident, I could still become independent again. I continued to just focus on the things I had already accomplished instead of things I had not. Thanks to the help of my girlfriend, my family and my friends I have passed the time well, since the end of June I have moved back home into a new wheelchair-friendly apartment.
What new hurdles do you have to face?
I face curbs on the streets and steep stairs every day. Keeping the household clean and tidy is also a challenge.
Which setbacks from the injury do you have to fight?
Bladder and bowle incontinence occasionally occurs which means that I am in need of help with a variety of things. The spasticity is also a problem and limits my mobility hugely.
To what extent, did your spinal cord injury change your life?
It changed everything. My life made a 180° turn and I went from being completely independent to being completely dependent on help. I still have to get used to the fact, that I have to accept the help I’m offered or that I have to ask when I need it.
Are there any thoughts that really concern you?
Yes, they happen quite often…I always think about what I could have done differently or why I did not follow my instinct and drove another mountain that morning. Unfortunately, I have to deal with these thoughts even though I know that I cannot change anything.
Where do you get your optimism?
I get my motivations through talking to my closest friends and from small success stories that strengthen me. I want to make my life as normal as possible. I do not want to stay at home.
What are your dreams?
My dream is to bring back as much normality to my life and to find a new job. I also want to push my recovery further and to use my legs again. Research in spinal cord injury is so important and it is necessary in order to find a breakthrough. If everything were how it was before, I would immediately take my bike and go for a ride with my girlfriend.
My biggest strength: To approach people
My weakness: Not always believing in myself
This makes me laugh: The humor of my girlfriend
This makes me sad: To think about life before my accident
Fate means to me: That there might not be any coincidences
What I am looking forward to: Making progress and allowing changes
What I am scared of: That my situation will remain the same and I won’t feel any change
In ten years I will: Hopefully will have made some progress and the medicine will be more advanced
Hope means: Not giving up and believing in one’s self and the environment around you
Our goal is to find a cure for spinal cord injuries. Here you can help us.