Although it is not a lot of fun to think about, imagine the following scenes.
- You are driving your car down a freeway and you run into another car.
- You are swooshing down your favorite ski slope and you hit a tree.
- You are walking down the steps and you slip and fall.
When you regain consciousness, you find you are in the hospital. You have broken the bones in your back or neck, and they have damaged your spinal cord. Suddenly you realize that you can't feel or move your arms or legs.
Accidents like these can happen to anyone at any time, and they are actually fairly common. Eighty-two percent of these kinds of accidents happen to males between the ages of 16 and 30.
It is not a pleasant thought, but thousands of people find themselves in this situation every year. If this were to happen to you, how would your life change? What would you do? Where would you go for help? What tools does modern technology offer to people who become paralyzed today?
In this edition of HowStuffWorks, we will visit and explore one of America's leading catastrophic care hospitals, Shepherd Center, based in Atlanta, Georgia. Shepherd Center helps people with spinal cord injuries (as well as acquired brain injuries, multiple sclerosis and other neuromuscular illnesses) to rebuild their lives after an accident or illness. It is a fascinating and distinctly humanistic process that allows people -- people just like you and me -- to make the most of a life-threatening situation.