How do I Get Dressed – Spinal Cord Injury?

Getting dressed while having a complete spinal cord injury took a little while to get used to. After years of doing it, it’s second nature now.

During the years spent feeding my legs through the trouser of my jeans, I decided that the term ‘get dressed’ doesn’t apply to me. I don’t reallyget dressed, but I ‘get in my jeans‘. Sometimes it feels like I wrestle to get them on.

The battle begins – the lower level

Encouraging my legs to be covered by the cloth of my attire means I have to hold a foot or ankle, place it in my jeans and then feed the fabric over the length of my skinny limb of a leg. This involves having a leg bent at the knee so I can reach the foot.

After both feet are in, the battle to get my pelvis into the butt of the garment begins. Rolling from side to side while lying on my back. Each roll allows me to inch the fabric higher each time my weight gets distributed to the side I have rolled to, allowing me to wrench up my jeans on the opposite side. It can take several attempts. The skinnier the jeans, the more difficult and time-consuming they can take to get on.

This struggle and scuffle is after I have fought to get in my pants using the same technique.

How do I get dressed with a spinal cord injury?
How do I get dressed with a spinal cord injury?

Laying on the edge

Considering how close I am to the edge of the bed is essential. The repeated rolling from side to side occasionally results in the leg nearest the edge of the bed falling off. Thankfully it doesn’t fall far due to the tightness of my hips. The knee springs back up after my extremity has made contact with my wheelchair, with a dull thud, sitting next to my bed,

An earlier stage

Before fighting with trousers, I like to put my feet into my socks first. I think wearing socks allows the foot to slide through the trouser leg more manageably and with less risk of catching toes at the hem.

Jumpers, t-shirts and tops – the upper level

Jumpers, t-shirts and tops can be easier to get on. Sat in my wheelchair my balance is pretty good, but I can still lose it and have to quickly grab hold of one of my rear wheels to support myself and prevent ending up on the floor. One arm at a time is the key to being victorious in staying upright.

Where it all began

1993 the National Spinal Injuries Centre Stoke Mandeville

This skilful art of learning to get dressed, after spinal cord injury, started during my time in rehab at the spinal centre; I don’t recall if a Physiotherapist or an Occupational Therapist stood over me explaining what I had to try and do. Over the years, the extended time I need to allow for the process of climbing into my clothes, and for it to be successful and safe, is now just part of my daily routine.

How do I get dressed with a spinal cord injury?
Spinal Injury Levels

The awkward helping hand

I know everyone with a condition that brings more challenges in life does things differently; discovering their own unique methods and techniques for dressing. Sometimes a helping hand can be annoying, especially if they just start grappling to help and don’t listen to instructions – for example when putting on a coat. Albeit this can make getting dressed even more of a battle. Verbal communication is the key, whether help is needed or not.

To be a role model

Unless I start getting up super early, I am usually last up. I find this annoying! I worry I might not present myself as a good role model for my son. My Dad would always be the first up when I was growing up, either waking me up for school or work or being ready for his working day.

But I can be a role model in other ways.

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