Injury to the nerves in the brachial plexus area can occur as a result of trauma during birth or an accident. The brachial plexus is injured when nerves in the shoulder or neck region are stretched, torn, or ruptured. Symptoms of this injury can include the ability to use fingers but not shoulder or elbow muscles or the use of an arm but not fingers. Amniotic band syndrome can have similar symptoms.
Brachial plexus treatment
Some children will regain function rapidly and require no surgical intervention. Others will need brachial plexus nerve surgery for the best possible outcome.
Early evaluation and intervention is critical to determine the best plan of care.
Pageant-winning patient spreads awareness of brachial plexus injury
One of the best days in 13-year-old Maryann’s life was the day she was crowned 2017 Miss International Grand Latina. It was significant for many reasons, including the scholarships and community service opportunities it provided. These will allow Maryann to continue addressing one of her passions: increasing awareness of a condition called brachial plexus injury and, in turn, reducing the bullying and mockery often endured by those living with this condition.
Facing injury and pain
Maryann’s mother had no complications during her pregnancy until it was time to deliver. Maryann wasn’t in the correct birth position. The physicians were unable to perform a cesarean section and, as a result, Maryann sustained a brachial plexus injury during the process of her delivery.
The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that originate in the neck region and branch off to form most of the other nerves that control movement and sensation in the upper limbs. As a result of her injury, Maryann was left with a motionless right arm and would endure great pain, both physically and emotionally.
“I had a very beautiful childhood thanks to my parents, who always made me feel good,” said Maryann. “But as I grew older, things started changing. It began in fifth grade. Students began to make fun of me. I suffered from jokes, laughter and being compared to an animal. In middle school, they called me ‘dinosaur’ since I have a shorter right hand.” Maryann worked hard during physical therapy to address her condition, but she wasn’t seeing results. She saw many doctors, but was told no treatment or surgery could correct her problem.
Finding hope and healing
Fortunately for Maryann, one of her local physicians suggested contacting Shriners Hospitals for Children — Cincinnati for help. Maryann saw two physicians at the hospital who specialize in brachial plexus treatment. They prescribed Botox injections and surgery to help her gain more range of motion in her affected arm.
“The nurses and entire staff at the Cincinnati Shriners Hospital gave a light of hope to my life,” said Maryann. “Nothing was easy, but they gave me the support and security that I did not have before.”
Maryann entered the Miss International Grand Latina pageant prior to surgery as a source of motivation for recovery. As the winner, she now has the opportunity to learn and grow through her work with the community, sharing her story and helping others with disabilities.
“I want to share my life experience with other people who, just like me, have a physical problem, and be a role model,” said Maryann. “I know my arm has a limit, but my heart and my intelligence don’t.”