Nicholas will be two in less than a week. It’s been nearly two years since Nick was born and nearly two years since he sustained a birth injury.
Before Nicholas was born I enjoyed his constant movement and energy as he spent his days (and nights) kicking and squirming. I thought that he was a boy even before we met him because of his strong, constant movements.
The first time that I saw Nicholas, he was different from the constantly moving baby that I had come to know during the pregnancy. After his birth, our baby was unable to move either arm.
So what happened? Nicholas’ head had been born without any difficulty (well, if you consider 5 hours of transition ‘no difficulty’), but his shoulders had gotten stuck (shoulder dystocia). In her effort to dislodge Nick’s shoulders the midwife caused two injuries.
Nick’s right arm (humerus) was broken, but his left arm had sustained a more serious injury. The nerves (C5 & C6) on the left side of his neck were damaged and his left arm was paralyzed (Brachial Plexus Palsy or Erb’s Palsy).
God created babies to heal quickly and over the next several weeks Nicholas’ broken right arm healed as expected. The injury to his left arm was more complex.
40 second video of Nicholas at one month. (Notice Savannah’s excitement at seeing him move his right (broken) arm.
Because of how quickly babies grow and develop during the first 3 months of life, the lack of nerve impulses to the muscles can cause problems and imbalances later on even if the child regains complete nerve function. The specialists have vastly divergent opinions as to what should be done for these babies.
We immediately got Nicholas into regular physical therapy. Then Nicholas was evaluated by three different specialists (Cincinnati, Texas and Philadelphia) and each had a different opinion. One suggested one type of surgery, the second suggested two different types of surgeries (both surgeries different from the type suggested by the first) and the third wanted us to continue with the PT and wait and see how he would progress on his own. We chose to wait.
So how has the physical therapy/waiting path turned out for Nicholas? Take a look.
While there are some slight differences between his injured (left) and non-injured (right) arm, if you know or were to meet Nicholas you would probably not notice. Also, unless he’s arrested he shouldn’t have any difficulty functioning in the world.
A newborn being able to move their arms is a miracle and a mercy of God. It’s just one of those miracles and mercy’s that most of us take for granted. I still marvel when I see a newborn moving those little arms, it was something I never marveled at before Nicholas, but it is something that I will not take for granted again.
We have been blessed in that Nicholas has had a marvelous recovery (many children don’t and they deal with multiple surgeries, pain and disability their whole life), but before Nicholas’ birth we had never heard of Erb’s Palsy or BPP and with our history, we should have.
If you have experienced a shoulder dystocia, you are at a higher risk for another and some risks, although rare, of shoulder dystocia are Brachail Plexus Palsy, brain damage and infant death. Also, simply because you birth naturally and are active during labor and birth does not mean that you do not carry these same risks. If you’ve experienced a birth with a shoulder dystocia it’s worth doing some research so that you can make informed decisions.
More info on Brachial Plexus Palsy / Erb’s Palsy:
When we were beginning to realize the nature of Nicholas’ injury we discovered this video of Femke’s recovery from BPP. Her father does a great job documenting her progress on video and it is very similar to what we experienced with Nicholas’.
The Brachial Plexus Palsy Foundation offers a lot of useful information for parents as well as a private support forum for parents of BPP kids.
You may be interested in:
- More posts on Nicholas and Brachial Plexus or Erb’s Palsy.
- Our birth history, because I know you’ll pray…
- Birth Story #1
- Birth Story #2
- Birth Story #3