I love how resilient people with Erbs Palsy are. So many people I talk to will go and achieve amazing things, even when they were told they wouldn't be able to. The following story demonstrates not only resilience, but positive attitude, acceptance and bravery.
My name is Elizabeth and I am 23 years old. I live in Maine, USA and I have had a right brachial plexus injury since birth. The doctor delivering me broke my left arm and pulled 5 major nerves out of my spinal cord. The doctor had lost his license in various other states and ended up running out of the hospital after he realised what he had done to me. No one told my parents that I had this injury, all they knew was that my left arm was broken. I ended up getting rushed to some larger hospital four hours away in critical condition.
A few months later, my mother brought me to an appointment to get my cast removed and while she was looking at my chart she saw “Right Brachial Plexus Injury.” She was very confused and questioned the nurses because all my mother knew was that my left arm was broken. The nurses were shocked that no one told my parents about this other arm injury. Of course, my parents had no idea what a “Brachial Plexus Injury” was, so they did a ton of research.
No doctor wanted to touch me. Other doctors said that I would be “fine.” Now mind you, I had very little movement in my arm. My parents were able to find me physical and occupational therapists. At five years old, I had my first surgery at the Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, Texas. The doctor performed a “Mod Quad” surgery. I went from only being able to raise my arm to my belly button to being able to raise it up to my chin. First surgery was a success! I’m sure I would be able to have more movement in my arm if I would have just done the exercises that I was told to do, but I got annoyed of always having to do exercises.
Fast forward a few years… We were looking at other surgeries that I could get done. Surprise, surprise! Our insurance company didn’t want to pay for any more surgeries in Texas! Now what are we supposed to do? Through God’s graces, we were able to find Shriners Hospitals for Children. I was able to get the rest of my surgeries done at Shriners Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The surgeon that performed my other surgeries was Dr. Scott Kozin. He specializes in brachial plexus injuries amongst other things. I had come to trust and love this doctor and hospital so much! I considered it my second home.
The next surgery I received was called an osteotomy. My hand use to face upward, toward that sky. The doctor broke my bones, positioned in neutral position and placed a couple metal bars and screws to hold it in place. This will remain in my arm for the rest of my life. The third surgery I got was a wrist fusion. I had limited movement in my hand because of the position my wrist was in. Although I lost the movement in my wrist, I gained movement in my fingers which ended up being more beneficial for me.
The fourth surgery I received was a thumb fusion because it was “stuck” in my hand and I couldn’t move it. I have also had a few tendon transfers before the thumb fusion to try to get my thumb to move on its own. I have also done countless hours of occupational therapy and physical therapy until I was 18 years old. I learned how to type one handed. I drive a car one handed (I got my license 5 days after getting my wrist fused). I do many things one handed. I suppose I could use two hands, but it is easier and quicker just to use my left hand.
"Many people have told me that I wouldn’t be able to do certain things because I only had one arm/hand. Of course, this bothered me. If someone told me I couldn’t do something I had to prove them wrong."
Throughout the years, many people have told me that I wouldn’t be able to do certain things because I only had one arm/hand. Of course, this bothered me. If someone told me I couldn’t do something I had to prove them wrong. People told me that I couldn’t play basketball and I proved them wrong. I played basketball for a couple years in high school. I also played volleyball and tennis. In the fifth grade, I started playing trumpet with the school band. I played trumpet all throughout middle school and high school. I did marching band, concert band, and pep band at basketball games. Five years after I graduated high school, I was asked to join the high school band to play at the Presidential Inauguration in Washington DC!
I never want my injury to stop me from doing something. I am a determined individual and extremely stubborn, so when I set my mind to something, watch out. I used to be self-conscious about my arm growing up. I thought that people only saw my arm. I was a cashier at a grocery store for 6 years. People would either stare at my arm or ask questions about it. I would rather have someone ask me questions. It can be frustrating when someone says “Oh, I know how you feel, I have the same thing… arthritis.” First of all, you don’t know how I feel and second of all, I have a birth injury, not arthritis…
I believe when I was a Junior in high school is when I started to gain more self-confidence and started to not care what people thought about me. I am who I am and if you don’t like it then too bad. Life is WAY too short to care what people think about you. The only thing that matters is what YOU think about yourself. Try not worry what people say to you or about you. Know that you are not alone! The remarkable thing about social media is that we can connect with people from all over the world that are going through similar situations.
My arm hurts often, which can be quite annoying, but if I could go back and choose to not have this injury, I wouldn’t change a single thing. This injury has made me the person I am today. I certainly would not be where I am today without going through what I have in life. I thank God every day for giving me the parents I have. They have done so much for me. They have fought for me, loved me, encouraged me, cried with me, laughed with me and they have gone to the moon and back for me.
“Our struggles make us stronger, our experiences make us wiser, and our past makes us realise that we are meant to go through these things in order for our future to be brighter.”
Thank you so much to Elizabeth (@elibea12 - Instagram) for sharing her experiences. It's a truly inspiring story and I'm sure that many of you will connect with what she has said.
Much love x