Living in a Clamshell

Although I can hide it under my clothing, I am currently confined 24/7 to what is called a Total Contact Orthosis Jacket (TCO) which is specially designed to protect my spine while my broken vertebrae heal. In earlier times, accident victims were confined inside body casts, but with new modern materials, I get to wear a “coat of armor” which we have come to refer to in my family as my clamshell. I think we adopted the name because it has two sections front and back, which are held in place with six buckled velcro straps. I am never allowed to completely remove the TCO, so for maintenance one side is slightly opened at a time like a bi-valve shell.
The TCO enables me to sit up and walk around, so I am happy to wear it, although it makes me look a lot heavier– about 20 pounds in the mid-section– then I actually am. The TCO goes from the top of my breast bone down to my hips. I was specially measured for its construction so that it would follow the contours of my body as closely as possible. It is made of hard plastic with a softer layer of plastic inside. Underneath I wear a cotton T- shirt to protect my skin and absorb sweat.
More challenging is that I also have to wear a cervical collar 24/7 to protect my neck because the smallest fracture I suffered was in the cervical area of my spine. The cervical collar restricts my movement so that I cannot turn my neck from side to side nor look directly up or down. Until my present situation, I had no idea how often we turn our heads. Try sitting at a table and talking to the person next to you without turning your head. You need to turn your entire body as one unit, which is what I now do, giving me the sensation of being a robot.
Friends know I am a big devotee of pilates and my pilate training helps reinforce my efforts to sit up with my spine as straight as possible and to keep my hips aligned when I shift over to my side while laying flat. If you are stuck like me wearing a cervical collar, I would highly recommend a swivel chair, which I fortunately have at my computer desk at home. Sometimes the smallest enhancements can make the biggest difference.

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Author: Nadja Maril

Nadja Maril is a communications professional who has over 10 years experience as a magazine editor. A writer and journalist, Maril is the author of several books including: "American Lighting 1840-1940", "Antique Lamp Buyer's Guide", "Me, Molly Midnight; the Artist's Cat", and "Runaway, Molly Midnight; the Artist's Cat". Currently in the Stoneooast MFA writing program (University of Southern Maine), genre literary fiction. Former Editor-in-Chief of What's Up ? Publishing, in charge of three magazines: "What's Up? Annapolis", "What's Up? Eastern Shore", and "What's Up? Weddings", former Editor of Chesapeake Taste Magazine a regional lifestyle magazine based in Annapolis, and former Lighting Editor of Victorian Homes Magazine, Maril has written hundreds of newspaper and magazines articles on a variety of subjects..

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