They say when we’re asleep our skin works overtime, healing all those nicks we’ve accumulated. Skin can heal so much better when it’s given a chance, but that’s kind of hard to do when you’re constantly sitting. No wonder people in wheelchairs constantly have skin problems.
The fear of getting a bed sore has been one of my number one concerns since sustaining a spinal cord injury and so far I’ve managed to prevent a full blown bed sore that’s required best rest or surgery. And at 20 years post-injury, that’s quite the feat. When I look back, I’m actually surprised I managed to pull it off. It was definitely a combination of being over the top vigilant along with finding a few magical products.
Here is how I’ve been able to keep my skin in the best shape possible as a quadriplegic for 20 years straight.
Inflatable toilet seat: When you’re dealing with a lack of sensation AND lowered blood flow, all of this spells bad news for the skin. One of the worst/most common places someone in a wheelchair will get a sore too is on their butt. The one time I had a minor scare in this area was near my tail bone; that bony protrusion that is the bane of so many wheelchair-users existence.
I had gotten a new wheelchair, my knees were raised too high I didn’t notice, and after having my new chair for only a month, I develop the very early stage of a sore on my tail bone, BUT I nipped it in the butt literally by using an inflatable toilet seat in bed each night, healing it in a month.
My doctors had really wanted me to turn every few hours, but I lived alone, which meant doing so would have been impossible. I instead found this inflatable plastic toilet seat online, placed the center of it underneath me where my tailbone issue was so no pressure was on it as I was lying down, and within a month I had healed that area. While some doctors don’t necessarily recommend this, but since I’m lightweight, it worked pretty ok.
Custom seating: After that skin scare, I decided to change the style of seating I was using. Instead of using the traditional Roho as my wheelchair sea, I had my butt pressure mapped to have a custom seat and back made for me by a local custom wheelchair seating clinic, Gillette. While there’s literally a hole underneath my butt where I’m sitting in my wheelchair now, this seating has been one of the best things I’ve ever for my long-term health as a quadriplegic.
Cabot POL cream: Another issue that people with spinal cord injuries can frequently run into is a skin condition called cellulitus. This condition makes the skin swell and turn red from minor skin bacteria that can get under the top layer of flesh (small scratches on the skin is all it takes). If you rub your armor legs on anything from a armrest to a brace often, you increase your chances for this condition, and I have gotten it quite often.
To prevent it, I was referred to this new unheard of arm lotion from someone online. She told me to purchase Cabot POL cream, a body cream with lipids that prevents cellulitus from happening in the first place. What you do is put in on all over your body right after a shower, and the lipids and work to create a barrier on the skin.
Extreme vigilance: And another thing I’ve learned is that you can never be too careful with your skin. If say, your toe is looking like it needs to heal, don’t risk it and instead, do what I do and wear sandals that day. When you have compromised skin, something seemingly small can turn into a really bad sore in a matter of 12 to 24 hours. While some people may think you’re being over the top when it comes to small scratches, they don’t know what it’s like to have to wait months on end for the skin to heal.
Taking care of your skin is without question a second job when you’re paralyzed, and it’s a job you can’t quit. I plan on going 20 more years bed sore-free.
How do you prevent pressure sores? Any secrets?
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