Hi, my name is Matthew Debly. I am 21 years old and have had TM since I was 16 months old. Overnight, I was paralyzed from the neck down. My level of injury was C4 to T2. My TM was caused by my MMR immunization.
I don’t remember what it was like to experience the onset of TM, but I can tell you what living with the aftermath has been like.
I live in Windsor, Ontario, Canada but my parents were able to take me to the Shriners Hospital for Children in Chicago where I met some great people and underwent most of my medical treatment through the years. A five hour drive each way for a doctor’s appointment may seem excessive for some people, but Shriners was well worth the travel. I have had several operations over the years. Due to a misdiagnosis of a cancerous growth in my spine, my first surgery was at 17 months when the doctors biopsied the top half of my spinal cord and then did a laminectomy to help with future swelling. I don’t remember the 8 ½ hour surgery, but the zipper-like scar from the base of my skull to the middle of my back is still tender 20 years later. We make sure to keep it out of the sun and for heaven’s sake, don’t forget about it and scratch. I have had tendon transfers, hamstrings lengthened and my lower legs cut off, turned and reattached so that my feet were turned and pointed forward. For a while, it seemed like every time I learned to walk, another procedure would set me back and I would have to start to learn to walk all over again. But I did it, and it was all done for my best interests and health.
Today I can walk in the house unaided. I only use my wheelchair for distance, and I love to drive my Ram 1500 with hand controls. I can get anywhere I want, and some days, I forget that I have a disability.