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Jeanne Musgrove, T12


The following story was provided by Jeanne Musgrove to share:

I am most proud of my efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle even with an SCI.   I was diagnosed about 27 years ago with syringomyelia with a syrinx at T-12.  The treatment was to insert a shunt into the syrinx which empties excess spinal fluid into my abdominal cavity.  Fortunately, that has kept my condition stable.  

Unfortunately, because of my leg weakness, I am prone to falls.  I have suffered 3 patella fractures and one pelvic ring fracture and more minor arm and hip injuries.  I am often asked why I don’t use canes or other assistive devices.   The answer is that because of the types of falls I have.   A cane would not break the falls I have and, in fact, may cause my falls.   At times when I have used a cane, it has caused me to trip and fall.  I have dealt with my challenges for a very long time and feel confident I know what works best for me.   I know I may have occasional injuries but for now am satisfied with my lifestyle.   As I age, I am expecting to reconsider and adjust some of my choices.   

After one of my serious injury's years ago, I was fortunate to be referred to physical therapy at Carolinas Rehabilitation where they started teaching me Pilates.   It has been life altering!   They gave me hope!   When I was about to be discharged from their services, one of their physical therapists introduced me to a private Pilates instructor in Charlotte who was willing to take me on as a client.  That was a little over 3 years ago.   I have been going to her twice a week ever since and feel it has changed my life.  Thanks to her guidance and hands on assistance, my pain has virtually vanished, and I’ve been able to remain ambulatory.  I still am not able to climb or run, but I can walk, albeit with an abnormal gait.   I also am prone to falls.   But I continue to maintain a full exercise schedule including not only twice a week Pilates session but also taking walks and cycling on a stationary bike.   I’m not able to maintain balance on a freestanding bike but at least I can cycle.  Since I was a little girl, I’ve been a passionate cyclist so I may not be able to cycle through the countryside like I used to do, but I can still cycle (usually for 45 minutes). And I love listening to podcasts while doing so.   I also walk 3-4 miles most days of the week.   

I also work to maintain my upper body strength since I rely on my arm strength to push myself up out of a seated position or to pull myself up steps using a railing.  

I also focus on diet to maintain my weight, so I don’t overload my legs.   Increasing my body weight could overload my legs, making it impossible to stand.   I eat a high protein organic diet (target=60 grams of protein per day) and keep a food log.  I was vegetarian but found it difficult as a vegetarian to get the 60 grams of protein without also gaining weight.   So, I looked for a less calorie dense way of getting the protein.  I compromised on the vegetarianism by adding a minimal quantity (no more than 2-3 oz) of chicken, salmon, or tuna on most days.   This diet has seemed to work extremely well for me.   But I continue searching for vegetarian alternatives to the protein dense/calorie light chicken and fish.  

I am retired and so am involved in several volunteer opportunities.   I am passionate about both the environment and wildlife conservation so am always looking for opportunities related to those two passions.  I also love to travel.  I have been fortunate to participate in two types of projects that may surprise you.  I have volunteered in Africa (Southern Kenya) on a project to protect big cats and teaching local communities how to coexist with them.  And I have done 2 Global Village Habitat for Humanity builds in Malawi!   Who would have guessed that someone with a T-12 SCI could also be a brick mason in such a remote part of the world?  But never give up!   Where there’s a will, there’s a way!