Editor’s Pick
JULY 26, 2009 8:13PM

Growing Up With A Brachial Plexus Injury

Rate: 23 Flag

I imagine there will be stories that will far outweigh the woes of our story. For those who have been through much, much tougher times, my heart goes out to you.

In the big scheme of things, my son's brachial plexus injury is minor. He can walk, talk, function as a completely normal kid, but his left arm just doesn't work right. From day 1, we were grateful that he was alive. The delivery was horrible. Something I'll never forget, nor will my son's father. I've already written about that in a previous post titled "The Birth of my Son - A Best Day/Worst Day Story". So there's no need to go into the why's and how's here.

 That birth was almost 14 years ago now, and now I'm a veteran at this. But at the time of his birth we didn't have a clue what it really meant to have a BPI (brachial plexus injury). We knew that his arm was flaccid at birth, and were told it might "go away", or it might not. But we didn't know what his recovery would be. No one could tell us. We began to think of all the ways that he might be impacted with this injury. We couldn't conceive of them all at first, but as he grew, it seemed every day there was a reminder of his injury.  

As he lay on his baby "gym" on the floor and batted one-handed at the toys above, we understood. As he began to try to roll over and couldn't get that left arm out from underneath him, we understood. As he struggled to crawl with a flaccid hand, we understood. And as he learned to feed himself, and dress himself and just be a little boy, we understood more and more.

I remember the day when it occured to me that it would be impossible for him to change a tire on his car. Or push a mower. Or sweep with a broom, climb a rope, open a jar, put legos together, dry his hair....drive a car. And where would he put his wedding ring? How could he carry his bride over the threshold?

With many surgeries and lots of therapy, his arm has improved above the elbow. He actually has a pretty nice bicep. But below the elbow, he has very little muscle mass. And while he has very weak movement of his fingers, it doesn't translate to anything functional.

 I've seen him struggle with all these bits and pieces of life. At first, we taught him different ways to get things done. Some things were just impossible and we learned to live with it without a lot of angst. As he grew, he developed his own ways of doing things. It was pretty awesome to see him figure something out.  

Yes, he's "disabled".  But don't tell him that. And he's never been treated as disabled. He's very matter of fact about his arm, so are his friends, and so are we. Well, at least I am on the outside. It's a constant awareness with me. But I'm really not worried about his future. He's smart enough and talented enough to figure this all out. His family provides the support, the encouragement he needs. He knows we're here for him. And he's going to be just fine.

Tyler at Bartlecropped

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the whole shoe tying thing is a bitch... but like you say, we learn to deal
sounds like you are the sort of Mom I wish I had
Good lookin' kid, j lynne. With your love and guidance, and his own resilience, he's gonna be just great.
Thank you for telling your story. I think more people would like to read it. If you tag it "lovely life," it will get pulled up on the open call responses link.
He's lucky to have you. He is a good looking kid and looks content. To suffer with their limitations is a tough role for we parents.
DC - Oh yeah, the shoe tying. Yep, and the bowl. How about trimming one's own nails? Those little every day things. Thanks.

Jane - Exactly. You get it.

Brian - I'm sorry you didn't have a mom that was what you needed. That's a tragedy in and of itself. But I guess we all make do, don't we?

Duane - Thanks. I know he's going to be even better than great.

HellsBells - Thanks for the tip. I did add the tag.

Doc - Thanks. It is a bit tough. Like I said though, I'm a veteran now. It has gotten easier.
He can mow. We have a light, little electric mower that can be used one handed. I suspect as an adult, your son will seek out solutions to common problems. My husband's cousin has an injury that sounds the same. Poor utility in one hand from the elbow. It was a playground accident. He soon will be 50 and as far as I can tell, his less than fully functioning hand hasn't caused him many problems in life even though he lives in a country where there is little accommodation for handicapped, but then, I don't think he's ever considered himself handicapped.
Perhaps he'd have been more sporty, but maybe not.
You've been an awesome mom, and T's one of the best people I kn0w. As you say, he's smart enough and talented enough to figure this all out; over the years I've been struck by all the ways in which he doesn't let the challenges bother him.
And congrats on the well-deserved EP and cover:)
The circumstances behind this have always broken my heart,
but as you note "don't tell him" that he's disabled.

(so cool an EP!)
Excellent story. Easy to get tied up in what someone won't be able to do. Sounds like you're seeing what he can do. A wonderful perspective.
I believe your own story has its own weight. Thank you for sharing this one so well.
Your son looks like a happy, smart kid and I am sure that is largely to do with you.
Jlynne - just read your son's birth story and now this, and I am speechless (almost). Your son's daily struggles are so remarkably similar to those of my own son. What a beautiful young man your son is, and how lucky to have such a thoughtful mother and family behind him. I deeply appreciate your sharing about him here.
j lynne iknow how it is to have a bpi! I also have one too...
I had never heard about BPI until very recently. I only was taught in nursing school about lanmarking this area of the body. I was amazed how much PT and OT can help when there is a serius BPI and helps someone to regain his/her independence. It is sad that there is so little awarness, information and research in this area. It is great that moms like you spread the word and advocate for their childre. Yesterday, I had to tell a mom and a dad that their baby had a blod clot localized in the left side of her brain. Due to the lack of blood flow she currently has weakness on her right arm and leg. But meeting human beings like your son and the fine gentelman that I recently met provide health care professional like me great hope for recovery and a meaningful and fulfilling life.