I get asked about my injury constantly, and I really don’t mind sharing! Here I will get into it, in detail and to the best of my knowledge.
Here We Go
It all started 04/08/2009:
I had been working at Walgreens since high school, I’m talking 16 yrs old and braces. Oh, the glory days. Fast forward and it is now 2009, I’m 18 and had graduated from High School in Mesa, AZ the year prior. After turning 18 the following September, I had moved up to Bellevue, Wa to start my adult life, and had transferred to Walgreen’s local branch. I had just been promoted to a Senior Beauty Adviser position, and at the time, that was all that mattered. I had also begun hosting at a high end Italian Eatery. I was working upwards of 80 hrs a week between my two jobs, and honestly, I loved it.
Part of my job description at Walgreens was counting and ordering inventory, then stocking the shelves upon its’ arrival. The day of my injury was ‘truck day,’ which is just what it sounds like. A giant semi truck with, Walgreens printed in giant red letters along the side, would pull up behind the store, where we would then unload the truck, separate the totes by department, and proceed to stock the shelves and store any overflow. For visual factors, the totes were a little larger than a standard mail carrier, with a top close lid and two side handles.
A bit later in my shift that day, after all the sorting from the truck was completed, I had been about midway through stocking the shelves of my department. shampoos/conditioners were next up. I bent down and picked up the tote by the two side handles. It was a bit heavier than I expected, 35-40 lbs if I had to guess. So, I wanted to readjust how I was carrying it.. I used my right leg to bounce the tote in an upward motion, enough so I could move my arms below the tote, catching it on my forearms. As soon as the tote made impact with my arms, my right shoulder immediately dislocated backwards.
Did you know 95% of shoulder dislocations happen anteriorly (forward)? That means that only 5% of all shoulder dislocations happen posteriorly (backwards) like mine did. That is an extreme difference in odds. The majority of posterior shoulder dislocations occur due to stroke or seizures, and I definitely did not just have either of those occur.
Diagnosis and Treatment
My official diagnosis is a combined form of Cervical and Segmental dystonia, Brachial Plexopathy. Cervical dystonia is characterized by involuntary muscle contractions in the neck that cause abnormal movements and postures of the neck and head. Segmental dystonia affects two or more adjacent parts, I:E: the right side of my upper back, right shoulder and right arm. Spasms can be minor or severe, I happen to have a very severe case. I get sharp shooting pains through my arm, starting at my neck, that extend into my fingertips, along with numbness and hypersensitivity to topical touch. Sensory issues are very common with extreme nerve damage. Brachial Plexopathy is an injury to the Brachial Plexus nerve group, usually due to an intense trauma.
I am effected through my C4-7 vertebrae in my spine. One of my vertebrae is protruding out and compressing a nerve sac outside of my spine. These factors cause severe muscle contractions that extend through my shoulder, neck, and arm down to my fingertips. Exclusively on my right side, stemming across my back, stopping at my spine.
We are still trying to pinpoint the exact root of the injury. There is so much going on with overactive nerve and muscle activity, it is very difficult to pinpoint
The cervical spine consists of 7 vertebrae, which are the smallest and uppermost in location within the spinal column. Split into the higher and lower cervical nerves, the collection of these upper vertebrae support the skull, move the spine, and protect the spinal cord. There are a bundle of nerves connected to the brain in these regions, causing high risk if damaged. The “C” accompanying each vertebrae stands for “cervical.”
The Brachial Plexus is a network of nerve fibers that run from the spine, formed by the lower vertebrae (C5-8 and T1). These nerves send signals from your shoulder to your arm and hand.
Over the years, we have tried to treat it surgically, medicinally, with botulinum toxin (botox) shots and different injections. Ongoing physical therapy went on for years to retain any prior muscle control I had previously to being injured. Unfortunately, as my muscles got stronger, so did the spasms. It was deemed that the physical therapy was not “curative” treatment, therefore I am no longer a physical therapy patient, “officially”. I do a lot of the exercises at home daily, I try to constantly push to achieve whatever control I am able.
We are currently towards the tail end of a treatment plan that was believed to be our best and possibly last option: Peripheral Denervation Surgery, or the Betrand Procedure. To date, approximately 2,000 cervical dystonia patients have undergone this procedure. There is a long road that we are on before we actually perform the procedure. Series of tests and temporary nerve blocks are crucial to pinpointing which nerves would be burned off. It is irreversible. While many nerves do have the ability for regrowth in some circumstances, doctors believe mine will not. After a lot of thought and prayer, my husband and I both agree that we would rather wait for another possibility. Medicine is constantly evolving, just in the 10 years since my injury, I have seen so much change. I hold onto hope through prayer that someday, something will become available for me.
It is a very frustrating circumstance. Both physically and emotionally, I can’t lie and say that any part of this is easy. I handle it all by the grace of God alone, as well as the amazing support system I’m blessed to have in my life. This injury has literally turned my life upside down. Stranger Things anyone? But really, there isn’t a single aspect of my life that this has not affected. I feel like the best way to describe it is consistently inconsistent. Everyday is different, and some days are better than others. But let’s be real, it always hurts and it always sucks.
This situation has taught me so many things, patience being at the forefront.
-Constantly waiting on authorizations when you’re dealing with chronic pain is simply infuriating. With that, its okay to get frustrated or have dark moments, just don’t let those feeling linger.
-It is more than okay to ask for help. Those who love you are THERE to help you, and more than willing more often than not. I tend to be very stubborn, so this is something I am constantly working on.
-Don’t ever take ‘stillness’ for granted. Utter stillness, is something I crave so intensely, and I honestly struggle to remember what that feels like. There is a constant vibration radiating through my body, due to my overactive nerves that are constantly firing. So even when I’m just sitting down “relaxing’, I literally feel like I’m getting a workout. I have ice cold water nearby almost 24/7, simply because this causes me to almost always be warm.
To put it simply, it is just exhausting.
My friends, I simply ask you to think about the little things… putting pants on, they can’t be too tight because it is just NOT worth the workout that comes with trying to get those on one handed. Notice my love of hats? Yeahhh… there is a reason for that. I’ve almost chopped my hair off at least a dozen times. I personally love having straight across bangs. One arm life does not quite merit that style. Washing your hair? Yeah, God bless dry shampoo. Ha, but seriously, its a God Send. General everyday tasks just ALL become far more difficult, and typically with more steps that it would general entail.
What about the big things? I was right handed before this injury. It took years for me to instinctively utilize my left arm for everything. For example, for so long I could drop something, but my brain wasn’t yet fully processing that my right arm didn’t work. Yet I would still attempt, feebly as it was, to catch whatever it was with my right arm. Clearly, that never worked, not. at. all. What I had to do was retrain my brain to function differently. I can confidently say that I am now left handed, but boy oh boy, its all still a work in progress. My handwriting looks like that of a 6th grader. Hey, it used to be comparable to a 2nd grader! Progress is progress. *I got t-boned back in 2014, breaking my left wrist in 3 places. That was a whole other monster. The t-rex arms were oh so real. HA!
Now it’s 2019, and I’m as good as I can be in terms of my physical capabilities. I try to remember, to control what I can, and let go of what I cannot. I do yoga, with one arm of course. The only cardio I can do is spin on a stationary bike. Other things like ab workouts, and other workouts just have to be done with extreme caution. Controlled movements and nothing high impact. Awareness of both my body and my surroundings has become beyond essential to my life.
But above all, patience is always at the forefront.
I’m a very stubborn person, and I like things a certain way. It took me so long to learn to just let go, and let God. I’m honestly the person that would rather do most things myself, because I know how I will do it. Control freak, hi. But life is never perfect, its not meant to be. So I try to stop making things bigger than they are meant to be. What is silly, is that the hardest time for me to ask for help is when I’m in the kitchen!! I looooove to cook and bake, the kitchen is truly my happy place. Thankfully, there are so many amazing tools that make my life so much easier. Automatic can openers, automatic wine openers (God bless, best gift ever), and hubby even made me a cutting board with a nail in it!! So I can stick whatever I’m cutting on that to hold it in place while I cut with my left hand. Cool right? Innovation is everything!! Gotta get creative sometimes.
I just want to remind you that if you’re dealing with something difficult, His word says:
Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Oh how I desire the rest that He alone can give.
Isaiah 41:10 “..fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” I will not back down. I will stand my ground. I will remain strong and not succumb to the weakness. The devil and his demons will not prevail against the Lord Almighty.
He says it over and over again in His word, we are never alone in our struggles. It is okay to ask for help. It is okay to admit that things are hard, or that you’re just having a bad day. Life is not perfect, it was never made to be. It is important to be able to discuss how you’re feeling when you are dealing with something heavy. We were never intended to be alone. I’m very fortunate to have a husband that cares for me and loves me with no bounds, he is so often my source of strength. Between God, my hubby, family and close friends, I am covered full circle. I just know I would not be the same person if I was fighting this struggle alone.
Have questions? Comments? Leave a comment!
I’d love to talk and spread support for those dealing with chronic pain, nerve pain is a whole other kind of animal. Stay strong my friends!