spinal-cord injury

The march of a pressure sore

I’ve spent four of the last eight weeks in bed.

In early September, my support workers discovered a small pressure mark on my bottom. Likely the consequence of a problem with the cushioning on my wheelchair seat, it didn’t seem too bad at first, and I wasn’t all that worried. In retrospect, I waited a day too long to get off it. But it quickly became clear I couldn’t ignore the issue. Protocol for pressure demands you stay off it. If you don’t, it gets worse, bigger, uglier (Google spinal cord injury pressure sores if you want nightmares). So bedrest it was.

The trial of healing a pressure sore is not just being stuck in bed. To remove pressure, I need to get my bum in the air, and that means twisting my body so my derrière is raised from the mattress. It’s damnably uncomfortable. And the healing is slow.

For the first week, it felt like nothing was changing. I woke. Care workers photographed my bum. I inspected the photo. Nothing much changed. I sent the photo to my OT (pity her camera feed). “I know it’s hard” she said “but stay in bed”.

Murphy’s Law meant that my stint in bed coincided with the start of my new job at the University of Sydney. They were understanding. It was the School of Health Sciences, after all, and I was working with occupational therapists. I could work from bed. But it was disappointing. And difficult. It’s no mean feat to read and write lying on your side, tangential to the screen. I’m inefficient, and feel like I’m failing.

My friends, meaning the best, offered cures. Creams, vitamins, supplements. My doctors and therapists were firm — time off it is the only cure.

A week in I earned myself a second pressure mark on the other hip. I’d stuffed up. To heal as quickly as possible, I’d kept my right cheek in the air but hadn’t worried about the left. With two cheeks damaged, my days were doubly twisty and uncomfortable.

After three weeks in bed, I emerged, a little dizzy but hopeful.

I went to work. I had dinner with family and friends. Life seemed rosy (cheeked). Two weeks up and all was clear. I’d been smart, listened to my OT, and played the game conservatively. Hell was behind me, I was sure. I spent Thursday at Prince of Wales seating clinic, mapping pressure, checking my posture, adjusting the chair. Everyone was confident.

Saturday, the sore returned. It looked like a small pimple, nothing to be worried about, except it was in the same spot as the original. The next day it looked a little worse, so I got back into bed. In the days that followed it darkened. Day to day I seemed to make no progress.

It’s been a week (my fourth in total) and I’m still in bed. I try to imagine the mark looks lighter and smaller. “It looks better” my OT says, “Hang in there”.

I hope it won’t be too long now. But what then? Will I have solved it? Is the issue chronic?

I don’t know.

About Author

Shane is an ethicist and theologian, Honorary Associate for the Centre of Disability Research and Policy, the University of Sydney, and Assistant Director, Policy, at the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation against People with Disability. Shane is proudly disabled, and an occasional blogger on

1 Comment

  • Blue Jean
    November 8, 2023 at 1:02 pm

    it’s a work of art this bum of yours, day upon day upon another day and then, a day.
    a protusion of flesh that eats itself and is eating you.
    soul on fire with the shock of it all which we thought had long passed, now returning to say
    “live long by looking long.”


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