In 1981, I had a motorcycle accident resulting in an L1 incomplete fracture. Four major nerves were crashed, and my L1 was totally embedded in my spinal cord. I had a laminectomy and pelvic graft to build a new L1; Harrington rods were also used.
While I was waiting for my surgery (at the University of Minnesota), a neurologist came to examine me. She asked if I could move any of my toes on my left foot. I was able to move the big toe--it was raised, but just barely, and she thought I would be a walker.
From that moment on I constantly asked the doctors if they agreed. After days of pestering them, I asked my PM&R doctor if he could give me a percentage concerning my chances of walking; he gave me 8%. After much hard work with a wonderful physical therapist, I walked out of rehab using two canes, an AFO (ankle foot orthosis) on each leg, and a body brace.
My right side is the worst, and my paralysis is spotty from the waist down. My quads are intact, and I was able to lose the AFO on my left leg. I also experience foot drop on the right leg and loss of bowel and bladder control. I did self-cathing for 15 years until prostate cancer. I am voiding on my own, but with much leakage.
I have seen many hundreds of SCI folks over the years and almost as many doctors. In 25 years, I have never met another ambulatory incomplete L1. I have asked doctors what category I fit in, and the answer is always the same: "You are a structural anomaly."
Since I have a service-connected rating with VA, they have on occasion flown me to Zablocki VAMC in Milwaukee. Of course, I am the only patient on the unit who is walking, and I would never consider talking about SCI problems with anyone in a chair. I have searched the Internet hoping to find another ambulatory L1. I did find one who said he was not interested in any communication.
I feel blessed every day that I have the use of my legs, but it would be interesting to find someone else with an L1 incomplete injury who can walk.