10 Feet Down & Back Up Again: Rise & Fall of A Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)

Codi Darnell

My Spinal Cord Injury Recovery

Just over a year ago, on March 10, 2016, I fell and broke my back. I fell 10 feet. It doesn’t seem like much…but that was all it took. There was my before; there was 10 feet; then there was my after.

I had always wanted to be a mom. I married my first love and we had our three children by the time I was 27. I devoted myself to being the best mama that I could be and I of course had my ideas of what that looked like. I loved the family that we had grown into. I was happy. Then came that 10 feet…

I never lost consciousness, not even for a second. I could hear my boys’ screams and could see my baby girl in her daddy’s arms up above me. I knew instantly that I didn’t have feeling below my bellybutton. In one swift moment so much was taken from me. But as I lay alone and scared on the ground, I didn’t think about my legs; I thought about my life and it was a life I still wanted to live. And in those thoughts, I found hope and I found purpose.

Once I was through surgery and had heard those fateful words that the spinal cord injury community knows so well, “you will never walk again”, I started my journey to recovery. It’s amazing how quickly the words ‘t-11 paraplegic’ became part of my vocabulary. At first, my only goal was to be ‘mommy’ again. I refused to let my children’s story be that their mom was in an accident and didn’t give her everything to overcome the obstacles. But I discovered that while my initial motivation was my children and being a functioning mom to them again, I also had to learn how to be me again. I leaned fiercely on those early feelings of hope and purpose because the road in front of me was not an easy one.

I spent 8 weeks in the rehabilitation centre. From day 1 I have been determined to do as much as I can to feel like I am still in control of my life. My husband has stepped up in so many ways in order to help me have the time and space to gain back my independence and to help me in the moments that I can’t do something alone. It’s a great feeling whenever I can say “No, I don’t need you for that anymore”. I find so many reasons to smile every day, but there are also still many moments where I struggle…moments of heartache. Allowing myself those moments of grief helps me to reset; they help me catch my breath and remember everything that I still have. 

From Spinal Cord Injury to Redefining Me

I feel like in just over a year, I have done more than I would have initially thought was possible. From driving to a Disneyland vacation to paddle boarding independently on a lake – I am slowly feeling like a whole person yet again and am still working towards more. I've started working with a personal trainer in order to get stronger and more indpendent. I've re-discovered my love of writing and have hopes of using it to create awareness for those with disabilities. 

As for my ‘mommy life’…it’s definitely changed and it has been hard to accept some of the differences. But thankfully kids don’t have a long list of requirements to make them happy. We all still laugh together, we have dance parties, we have movie nights and there is still all of the love in our little family of five that I had ever hoped there would be. Parenting is a daily adventure – paraplegia aside. I know that I will still be there for them in every way that really matters. I needed them to help get me through all of this and I will do my best to be the person they need me to be as they grow up. 

I know a lot of people have faith in a higher power and that is where they turn to give them strength. I believe that if that’s what helps you get through and brings you peace than that is exactly the path you should be taking. I didn’t have that and so I had faith in myself. I had faith in the life I had created. I got (and continue to get) my strength from all of the love that surrounds me here on this earth. I get strength from all of the people who were so happy that they didn’t lose me – so happy that they didn’t lose a mommy, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend. I have hope because all of these people still want their lives to include me regardless of my physical abilities. Love is a powerful tool and I’m incredibly lucky to have so much of it in my life.


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