Age: 43

Sean Kelley - quadriplegic floating in the poolOccupation: Image Processing

Injury: C3-4 Incomplete Quadriplegic

Special Features:

  • Extra Bone & Metal
  • Two Bellybuttons
  • No Pain Below the Shoulders
  • Scars
I’m not a good writer but hopefully you can get some info and entertainment from this.

How I Use The Computer

I have a 21″ iMac, a 2nd monitor above for extra viewing awesomeness, and two speakers all mounted to custom made stand so I can compute while laying in bed. Instead of a mouse I use a device called a SmartNav to control the cursor and a sip and puff tube to right and left click. I put the reflective sticker on glasses so I don’t have to stick it on my forehead each time. The only other thing needed is my onscreen keyboard.

I have a bundle of Adobe graphic design programs to work with. For vector graphics I use Illustrator, to manipulate images Photoshop, web development Dreamweaver, animation and video Flash, & Premiere Pro. I have a device called a Slingbox on my TV which is wireless so that I’m able to watch TV and control my DVR on my computer. I use a Skype phone number to allow calls to my computer. Technology is GREAT.

My Injury

My 1996 KX 250I injured my spinal cord while riding my dirt bike (’96 Kawasaki KX 250) in 1998 leaving me a quadriplegic without the control of anything below my shoulders. I am able to feel a pressure sensation everywhere on my body. My buddy and I went to a Supercross style track for their practice session. We had been there the week before and had a great time. I hadn’t ridden anything like it before. For the most part I rode the Vegas desert since moving to Henderson and before that Reche Canyon was a favorite from ’95-’97 when I lived in So Cal. I had ridden a couple of tracks that were fun like Starwest and Glen Helen but I was nothing special.

When we got to the track all I remember was having a great time as usual when on my bike. At the track there was a pyramid style jump (or a step up, step down) I hit and can’t tell you anymore about my crash. No one that I had talk to later saw the crash. At some point I died for 66 seconds. I remember hearing somebody telling me to walk towards the light, ha ha, yeah right. They asked me to squeeze their hand, then I was out again. Then I regained consciousness long enough to hear that I was in a helicopter and a lady told me to keep breathing but I became unconscious again. I was never feeling any pain during this part of the incident, just felt really tied and couldn’t keep my eyes open. The pain did come later and continues to this day.

Some things will be a little out of order because morphine and Demerol played a big part in my hospital stay. I don’t know when my family that lives in California or my girlfriend who was visiting people in California got there but I was told that they should hurry cause I might not live. The first thing I remember once in the hospital was my buddy standing at my bedside and I kept shrugging my shoulders mouthing I can’t move. No words could be heard cause I wasn’t able to talk. My injury was so high on the spinal cord that it knocked out the use of my diaphragm. To communicate, somebody would hold an alphabet board, point to a line and I would blink my eyes when they got to the correct row. Then they would slide their finger across the line and I’d blink again when they got to the correct letter. It was a pain in the ass. Some were good at reading lips. I was in traction which meant I had weights that were pulling on my neck taking pressure off the vertebrae, I had tubes down my throat giving me air, a tube in my stomach giving me Ensure drinks, and laid around with a towel over my pecker cause I was burning up with fevers, I tell ya, GOOD TIMES!

spinal cord mapMy first vertebra which is C1 was fractured, and C3 and C4 were subluxated, basically vertebrae shifted sideways and pinched my spinal cord. (click on picture to view the spinal cord map) They took bone from the front and back of my pelvis to fuse my C3, C4 vertebrae together from the front and back of my neck. They even gave me some screws to hold the bones in place. That little surgery cost $770,000, and the bill for it was given to us as fast as they could print it up. Because I fractured my first vertebra they screwed a big piece of metal to my head called a halo. (click on picture) It has six screws tightened to 9lbs of pressure and kept my head and body from being able to move separately. halo, g-tube, ventilatorI now have 6 scars around my head from where the halo was screwed. I think the next big thing was my tracheotomy which is where they put a hole in your neck and attach a tube which is then connected to a breathing machine called a ventilator. Now the tubes are out of my mouth but like I said earlier I still can’t talk because my injury was so high on the spinal cord that it knocked out the use of my diaphragm.

The first month at UMC Las Vegas consisted of pain meds, range of motion, bed baths which suck compared to a warm shower, and a little rehab. I also remember family and friends coming to see me. A lot of people sent cards and their best wishes. I hadn’t realized how much I took for granted till all this happened.

After a month they kicked me out of UMC so I was off to Rancho Los Amigos in Downey, Ca. My dad and I flew in a small jet plane but I don’t remember thanks to my buddy Demerol. Rancho is known for their great rehab center for spinal cord injuries but I have my own opinion. When I got there they removed my halo and put on a soft neck brace. I believe I was still in the urgent care part of the hospital. While there they had me try to get used to sitting up in a wheelchair and that’s all I remember. After they moved me to the rehab floor it got real boring. My days consisted of blood work, range of motion, x-rays, very little physical therapy, sitting in a wheelchair, watching TV, and bitching about pain.

My family and girlfriend’s family were there doing whatever they could to help. I must give my ex-girlfriend much thanks, she was great. She slept on a cot next to me for the 2 months I was there. She learned how to do everything to take care of me. Like cleaning my neck hole, suctioning the fluids out of my lungs, sticking her fingers in my ass to pull my shit out, sticking a tube up my pecker to drain my bladder, and so much more, that’s love. Amber, I love and appreciate everything you sacrificed and did for me, I will never forget.

Not to long after getting to Rancho they put this little valve on my trach called a Passy-Muir valve which allowed me to talk. It was great being able to communicate with my voice again. Dr. Passy who helped design the piece was at Rancho Los Amigos so I was able to thank him personally. For 2 months it was much of the same thing day after day.

The doctors said a lot of negative things and one was that I’d never breath on my own. Towards the end of my stay I asked my dad to turn the vent off because I felt I could breathe on my own, so he did. I stayed off for 45 minutes before they came in and found out what we were doing. They got mad but it opened their eyes and they started weaning me off the vent. I also had to learn how to eat again making sure nothing was making it’s way into my lungs. That wasn’t a big deal but it had to be done. I started out with vanilla ice cream with blue food coloring, then moved on to other soft foods dyed blue, and blue liquids. After each blue food session they would stick the suction tube down my trach into my lungs to make sure nothing was going down that way. Thankfully I never had a problem with that. My first real food test was Pizza Hut with no blue. TASTE, what a great sense.

A couple of weeks before I was released they asked me if I would go out and interact with society, so I did. Another guy and I chose to go to the Long Beach Aquarium. People would stare, kids would ask their parents what was wrong with me but I expected that. I had/have no problem talking to anyone that have questions, so ask. A couple of days before I was released my girlfriend and family stayed in an apartment at the hospital to see if they were ready to take care of me at home in Henderson.

When I was out of Rancho it was back on the little plane home. When I got there I think everything was ready for me in the downstairs room. I had to have a respiratory therapist come see me daily to make sure I was ok and getting enough oxygen. a little taste of what it's like to be paralyzedNot long after I got home a physical and occupational therapist would work on me 3 days a week. I was very optimistic and worked hard to try to improve my broken body. At this point the stomach tube was out but I still had the ventilator and oxygen which sucked but my diaphram was getting stonger so I was able to breathe on my own longer. Seven month later I would get the trach out of my neck. I was able to take a breath through my neck with my mouth closed, it was crazy. The hole sealed up quick. I am so thankful for getting off of the vent and will never take breathing for grated.

Present Day Life

As of now I still don’t have any motor function of anything below my shoulders but I haven’t given up. You can see me driving my chair around with a chin controller. I spend most of my time with my buddy Shawn who I’ve know since we were 16. Five days a week he is my caregiver. I watch a lot of movies, go to concerts, supercross/motocross races, mess around on the computer, chess, Xbox 360 (MX vs ATV, Dirt, GRID) and I love to sit out in the warm sun. When the weather is good (75º to 78º, HA HA) I like to roll around the neighborhood or to the nearby park with Brodie.