Brachial Plexus Paralysis, better known as Erb’s Palsy, is a medical condition characterised by loss of motion or muscular weakness in the arms. Though it can occur in adults and infants, it’s more common in children due to medical malpractice during delivery. The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that connects the spinal cord to the arm, hand, and shoulder. Due to traumatic force in the upper arm and shoulder region or as a result of a physical injury during childbirth, the brachial plexus gets injured.
Damage in this region affects the muscular movement of arms, hands, and shoulders. Statistics from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) show that 1 in 1000 babies is affected by Erb’s palsy. Though most children recover through therapy and treatment, it’s still an alarming situation for parents. If you or someone you know is in a similar situation, here are seven ways parents of children with Erb’s palsy can help themselves and their children.
Get acquainted with Erb’s Palsy and its implications
If your child has been diagnosed with Erb’s Palsy, first and foremost, you should try and get acquainted with what it is. Most parents trust a paediatrician or the medical team on board for their child’s condition and treatment. However, as a parent, you should understand what Erb’s Palsy is, how it might have occurred and what to do for recovery. Usually, Erb’s palsy occurs due to incorrect vaginal delivery. The medical team might have exerted excessive force when delivering the baby or failed to position the baby correctly before birth. Though medical treatment should be your priority, as a parent, don’t let the unjust treatment of your child go unnoticed. Most parents contact erbs palsy lawyers as soon as a diagnosis is confirmed to sue the medical team responsible for this act. You can sue the doctor or hospital for medical malpractice and receive the compensation you deserve.
Know the signs and symptoms
Though the symptoms and signs of Erb’s palsy vary depending on the severity and type of the condition, there are some common signs that you should know. These symptoms fall on a broad spectrum, from muscle soreness and weakness to complete paralysis. Symptoms are usually visible at birth, but a certain level of nerve damage may only surface three to six months after birth. Nonetheless, beware of these common symptoms:
- Inward rotation of the wrist and sideways swinging of the arm
- Reduced grip strength
- Lack of motion in the arm
- Complete or partial paralysis of the arm
- Muscle weakness
If your child is displaying any of these symptoms, make sure to see a doctor as soon as possible so treatment can start soon.
Know possible treatment options
One of the best tips for parents of children with Erb’s palsy is knowing your treatment options. Though mild cases resolve soon and often without medical intervention, severe cases may require extensive treatment. Generally, there are three treatment options: physical therapy, which targets immobility and muscle stiffness; occupational therapy, to develop strength and improve muscle tone and joint mobility; and surgery. Often parents become alarmed when surgery is mentioned as a possible treatment for Erb’s palsy. However, surgery is required in severe cases to repair paralysis and nerve damage in the shoulder, arm, elbow, and hands. Therefore, it’s often good to consult a few doctors before settling on one treatment option and determining the severity of your child’s condition.
Try not to feel guilty
As a parent, it’s normal to feel guilty or punish yourself when something goes wrong with your child, regardless of whether it is in your control. However, you must understand that Erb’s Palsy results from medical malpractice in children, especially newborns. There is nothing you could have done to prevent it, knowing you’ve put your trust in the doctor delivering your baby. The medical staff responsible for providing your child is to blame for their negligence, not you, the parent. Putting yourself in guilt for something that happened outside your control is punishing yourself for a mistake you didn’t commit. It’s hard to understand at first, but you will eventually come to terms with it.
Connect with other parents and families affected by Erb’s palsy
It’s important to know that you’re not alone in your fight against Erb’s Palsy. Parents of children diagnosed with Erb’s Palsy often suggest connecting with others in the same situation as you. Build a support system of trusted individuals around you, especially those wronged by the healthcare system in the same way as you. These affected families can offer you advice and help regarding treatment, recovery, and even filing for a lawsuit. Communicating and sharing your concerns is essential, especially if you’re a new parent or just confirmed a diagnosis. The initial phase can be overwhelming, so have a robust support system. You could find plenty of support groups formed by parents of children with Erb’s Palsy or organizations that provide specialist information regarding the condition.
Prepare for your appointments
Once the diagnosis is confirmed, which is usually a few weeks after the delivery, prepare yourself for appointments and frequent visits to the doctor’s office. Ideally, it would help if you made notes about any questions or concerns you may have regarding your child’s treatment, medication, or therapy. Keep track of all your medical tests, treatments, prescriptions, etc., and be ready to throw loads of questions at the doctor. It’s crucial to ask as many questions as you have when visiting the doctor. Don’t let hesitation get in the way. Often parents hesitate to ask questions in the doctor’s office and then come back home and spend hours surfing the web for answers.
In some situations, relying on the internet can do more harm than good. Even if you find the right resource online, your interpretation may differ from that of a doctor or might not even be relevant to your child’s case. Therefore, let the doctors do their job and prepare yourself for the appointments.
Don’t shy away from expressing your emotions
It’s normal to want to hide your emotions and true feelings from your children or your family when dealing with a situation this complex. However, know that your family and friends are here to offer their utmost support, so don’t shy away from letting your emotions surface. If you feel like letting out a good cry, do it. Let your family members and friends know that you need emotional support, or a few words of appreciation would make your day slightly better. Seeing your child struggle with something out of your control is difficult, and feeling down and discouraged is easy. However, surrounding yourself with supportive people and being open about your feelings and emotions would make it easier to make it past the bad days. It’s also important to focus on the positives and not dwell on what you cannot control or something negative. You would be draining yourself emotionally and physically by only focusing on the negatives. Remember to take a deep breath and take one day at a time.
The medical staff in the delivery room receives proper training to deliver babies safely. However, incidents happen, and brachial plexus palsy is avoidable. Know that treatment is possible, and you can file a lawsuit to get compensated for the child’s treatment and emotional damage caused by the medical staff. It’s also important to know that you’re not alone. You can find support groups and online communities to assist you and your child through this challenging journey.
Adam Mulligan did his degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He is interested in mental health and well-being.