. . . SA does not. Well, he used to back when he had the ability to regulate his own body temperature and other basic things like, say, sweat. A few weeks ago, in our area of the world, temperatures reached those not experienced since I was a bubba which was, er, a long time ago.
For a lot of us, I reckon, a weekend forecast of sun! sun! sun! is met with anticipation, excitement and a very British rush to buy Pimms, organgey coloured bits of meat on sticks and charcoal briquettes. For SA such forecasts are met with slightly less euphoria.
And this is because getting hot, when one has a spinal cord injury, is not fun, can be extremely uncomfortable and, as if life wasn’t interesting enough, for added drama, it can be dangerous.
(Apologies in advance if I sound like I’m talking to a 6 year old – it’s my default setting). In spinal cord injury (let’s say SCI because it’s less typing), the senses in the skin that recognise being too hot or too cold still work, but the messages cannot reach the brain for interpretation, regulation or adjustment. Typically, because of this, individuals with an SCI will not be able to adjust their body temperature below the level of the injury (in SA’s case, the neck). He cannot sweat or shiver below this point or adjust capillary flow because despite being magnificent, his brain just does not receive the message that a body temperature correction needs to be made.
Those of us without an SCI, in reaction to a rise in temperature, would start to get a bit of a sticky dab on because we sweat to cool down the body. But because of his SCI, SA doesn’t sweat.
I could attempt to explain in medical terms why this is the case but a) I don’t know and b) Google can tell you more if you’re really interested. Basically, he just can’t. My Sexy Beast may now tilt himself back in the sun, aviators on, belly out, marinating in Hawaiian Tropic but he is missing that irresistible all over slick of pure man sweat. (See sausage picture) What a shame. On the plus side, in the last three years SA has saved approximately £73.63 on deodorant and the paint on the ceiling no longer peels when he removes his trainers at the end of the day.
I have also found out that we can cool down just by breathing. Now when I suggested to SA that he stick his head out of the car window, hang his tongue out and pant like a dog to alleviate his discomfort I got one of his “yeah very effing funny” looks. But, I’ve looked into this and apparently moisture is exhaled with every breath which cools the body and breathing in cool air can chill the body from the inside. So there, (once again) I was right. Get panting Fido.
The absence of bodily sensation in response to increased temperatures also means that on days where it is sunny but not blistering, other obvious simple steps may not be taken such as removing clothing or just going somewhere else. The first time SA and I experienced what can happen was in the very early days, before SA had gone back to work. We were out and about on a sunny day. After a while he started to feel generally unwell. We knew that getting hot wasn’t a good idea but it wasn’t until he started to feel REALLY unwell that we realised we probably should’ve come home sooner. We should’ve realised that the feeling unwell bit meant that things had gone farther than they should. Being too hot can lead to heatstroke and our ever-present nemesis, Autonomic Dysreflexia (AD). We came home, he stripped and I spent the next hour covering him from head to toe in icy cold, wet cloths while he crunched ice and chastised himself for being a dick and not knowing better. (One of many times he would chastise himself about something or other, for being a dick and not knowing better.)
On holiday, there’s a swimming pool to catapault him into when it gets too much and of course on the kind of holiday we enjoy there’s not much to be achieved in a day other than eating, drinking and wincing/laughing at the mozzie bites literally COVERING my arse.
(Somehow, the ginger bastard who doesn’t sweat or sunbathe comes home looking like Dale Winton and I look like Morticia Addams (covered in mosquito bites)).
But when we’re not on holiday, SA has a business to run, so the recent hot days took their toll despite us being slightly more prepared. It turned out that he could only work for half a day at a time before the heat became unbearable and he had to return home. He spent the remainder of those crazy hot days wearing little other than a pained expression in front of a number of strategically placed fans, getting the odd wafts of someone else’s bbq. The kids think it’s Christmas come early as they line up with full permission to go at Daddy as mad as they like with their super soakers.
Leading up to the barbecue round a friends that weekend, he can’t get excited about chips, dips and decking because he can’t think of anything other than “how the hell am I going to get through this? And what happens if I can’t and Geesus I feel hot already someone open a window NOW!!!”
I have actually also learned today that once all measures have been taken, the best way to even things out body temperature wise is to simply sleep. But I’m not going to tell him that, he already has industrial strength painkillers and a reclining chair, he doesn’t need additional reasons to nap.