Randee Seevers was born with a paralyzed arm due to a brachial plexus injury. Fortunately, her injury was mild, and she regained most of her arm function within the first year of her life. Although her arm still had some limited range of motion, Randee was able to compensate by adapting her own style of using her arm and became a talented athlete.
Adapting to a Brachial Plexus Injury
When Randee Seevers was born after a difficult delivery that required the use of forceps, her parents, Eric and Keri, immediately noticed that her right arm didn't move. Their physician explained that the paralysis was the result of damage to the brachial plexus, which is a network of nerves that sends signals to the muscles of her arm and hand. Fortunately, the damage to her nerves was not severe and after a year of physical and occupational therapy, Randee had approximately 90% function in her arm.
As she continued to grow, Randee was able to use her arm well in everyday tasks and as a talented athlete. However, she still had limited range of motion and had to make adaptations in order to do many things, including feeding herself and shooting a basketball.
Looking for Treatment Options
Keri found information about the Brachial Plexus Center at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center on the United Brachial Plexus Network web site. The Seevers decided it was worth the four-hour drive from their home in Marietta, Ohio, to be seen by experts at the center. One of their goals was to give Randee more external rotation, which is the ability to turn the arm outward.
After being examined by the team of brachial plexus specialists, Randee had an MRI and EMG to gain additional information about her shoulder function. Following these tests, the family met with the team again to discuss treatment options and agreed that Randee could benefit from surgery.
Randee Has Surgery
Randee underwent an arthroscopic anterior capsule and subscapularis release performed by Charles T. Mehlman DO, MPH, Co-Director of the Brachial Plexus Center. During this procedure the stronger muscle that controls Randee's ability to rotate her arm inward at the shoulder was released, allowing her weaker external rotator muscles to work.
Randee's family described the care they received at Cincinnati Children's as "first class." Randee was appreciative when the nurses showed her a book that explained everything that was going to happen before and after the procedure. "That calmed me down a lot," she said. Randee also liked that they administered the IV after she received her anesthesia and that her parents were able to spend the night in her room with her.
A Positive Recovery
Randee said that the surgery was not as painful as she thought it would be and was surprised that she did not even need pain medication for the ride home. She was able to eat and enjoy Thanksgiving dinner, only two days after the surgery. She joked that she didn't even get any time off from school and went back to school the following Monday, "just like everyone else."
Randee's recovery period was a positive experience because of the support of her family, friends and teachers, as well as her upbeat attitude. "My friends help me a lot," she said. "They got food for me at lunch and carried my books." Her family joked that she was "easily recognizable" in class and got called on a lot to answer questions by the priest because she always had her hand in the air. A committed athlete, Randee even played basketball while still wearing her brace. "You just have to adapt to the brace. It goes by really fast," she said. "It only felt like two weeks even though it was really six."
Randee did physical therapy once a week and home exercises daily in order to assist in the healing and strengthening process. Therapy played an important role in regaining some of the internal rotation that was initially diminished following the surgery. One of the greatest challenges was keeping up with home exercises, which Randee overcame by establishing a routine of doing them every night before bed.
The Rewards of the Family's Experience
One of the highlights from her surgery was meeting another girl with a brachial plexus injury at Cincinnati Children's. On the same day Randee had her first visit after surgery, this girl was going to have the same surgery. Randee was able to tell her that the surgery wasn't too scary or painful. Now the two girls are friends and talk about their experiences together. Randee's parents believe that it is important to communicate with other families to learn and share information.
Keri is grateful for the peace of mind she feels from this experience. "As a parent you are always questioning if you are making the right decision for your child," she said. "It feels good to know that we have taken action in a positive way for Randee by coming to Cincinnati Children's and choosing to have surgery."
Randee's parents noticed daily how her arm's range of motion has increased after the surgery. Previously when she ate her elbow would stick out to the side or she would use her other hand to help guide her injured arm. Now when she lifts her hand to her mouth, her elbow stays down at her side and does not require assistance from her other hand. She can also supinate her hand, which means to turn it with the palm facing upward, which she could not completely do before. They noticed that her shoulder blade is not "winged," meaning it does not stick out as much.
Randee continues to be seen by the Brachial Plexus team on a yearly basis to monitor how her growth is affecting her arm. Susan Foad MPH, Outcomes Coordinator, is impressed with Randee's post-surgery results. "Randee's recovery has been remarkable," Susan said. "On our scale measuring improvement, her range of motion has met levels of what you would expect to see from someone who has never had a brachial plexus injury."
The family appreciated everyone on the Brachial Plexus Team, but felt especially close to Allison. "Allison was a big help throughout the whole process," Eric said. "She is a great contact person to go to with any questions." Randee agrees: "She's really nice."
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