Back in 2006 while my wife was pregnant with our first child
I was injured while playing American Football for my beloved Maidstone Pumas. Somehow whilst attempting to make a tackle my head was twisted violently to the right while my shoulder jammed in the opposite direction. The net result was that I tore out 4 nerves from the brachial plexus region of my spine and damaged the 5th. At this point I had no feeling or function in my left arm, all I could do on that side was shrug my shoulder.
My first operation at RNOH Stanmore was an ‘exploration’ where the surgeon evaluated the damage and tried to repair as best he could. However, seeing as nerves cannot be plugged back into the spine the 5th nerve was used to rewire the more important muscles. Not too long after I had a second op where some nerves from my ribs (intercostals) that aid breathing were grafted into my elbow with the aim of giving some sensation into the forearm and hand.
I’ve had a reasonable amount of recovery in my upper arm and can lift the weight of it up to shoulder height to the front and side but apart from a slight flicker in my bicep I don’t have any function to move my lower arm and there is no sensation below the elbow.
In 2012 I went back in to Stanmore for an operation where my surgeon hoped to move my pectoral minor muscle from my chest around to graft it into my upper arm with the aim of helping the bicep to bend the elbow. Unfortunately when he opened me up the muscle was deemed to be too weak and therefore he didn’t want to jeopardize the previous nerve grafts.
I was since offered a Gracilis muscle transplant where they take a whole muscle from your knee and implant it into your arm but I turned that down as for me the possible gains were outweighed by the thought of another six months of rehab.
I don’t really miss having both hands in many ways as I am able to cope pretty well however, unfortunately I do suffer badly from phantom limb pain in my hand and lower arm. This burning, crushing pain is constant and cannot be treated so mentally I have to face the fact that I will have to cope with it for the rest of my life.
But as my ol’ Nan used to say “mustn’t grumble”.