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Bright Futures

Articles and Updates from Phoenix Children's

My Daughter’s Arm Wasn’t Moving: Charlotte’s Story

Our daughter, Charlotte, was unofficially diagnosed with Erb’s Palsy due to a birth injury at 5 weeks old. The diagnosis was made after my husband and I noticed Charlotte’s right arm wasn’t moving much, which led us to schedule an urgent pediatric appointment. Once Charlotte received the unofficial diagnosis, she was referred to physical therapy and to a local neurologist, but after joining an Erb’s Palsy support group online, I was advised to find a brachial plexus specialist because we needed a neurosurgeon who specialized in this type of injury. 

After a quick Google search, I found that Barrow Neurological Institute at Phoenix Children’s had a brachial plexus and peripheral nerve clinic and Dr. P. David Adelson, MD, was the neurosurgeon we needed to see immediately. Dr. Adelson is the director of Barrow Neurological Institute at Phoenix Children's and chief of pediatric neurosurgery. I read his biography and was so impressed with his experience, education and all his accomplishments. I had such a good feeling about him before ever meeting him. Thankfully, we were able to get Charlotte an appointment within 2 weeks to see Dr. Adelson. Once we met him, he gave us an official diagnosis, thoroughly explained this type of injury, the long-term effects, what surgery she would need if she didn’t recover on her own and the timeframe of when the surgery would need to occur.

Charlotte was 7 weeks old at the first appointment and he wanted to give her some time to see how much natural recovery she made and recommended weekly physical/occupational therapy. This was all so devastating to us because we had never heard of this birth injury before. We honestly had no idea what was in store for us, especially because with this injury, every child and every case is so different. 

My Daughter’s Arm Wasn’t Moving: Charlotte’s Story

We followed up with Dr. Adelson every couple of months. Unfortunately, after a few months, when Charlottes was 6 months old, her progress plateaued even with weekly therapy. At this point, Dr. Adelson recommended surgery. Our appointment to discuss the surgery was in April and had to be done as telehealth due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Adelson explained the surgery process and all the benefits and risks of the surgery. Once it was confirmed she needed surgery, she was scheduled for surgery 4 days later. We were nervous not only because our 6-month-old baby girl was going to have surgery, but also because it was during a pandemic. The pandemic made things more difficult because of the risk of exposure to COVID-19 and because only one parent could stay at the hospital with Charlotte during the surgery process.   

Once Charlotte and I arrived at Phoenix Children’s the morning of the surgery, I felt my fears and anxiety slowly disappear. It was like a sense of calm came over me. From the moment we walked in and we were greeted by friendly employees to the moment we were called in to the pre-op room, I just felt so at ease. Everyone was so nice and made us feel so comfortable during the entire process.

Dr. Adelson came to see us prior to the surgery and went over everything again just to be sure I knew what to expect and answered any questions I had. Before I knew it, the OR nurse came and carried my Charlotte away to prepare her for surgery. At that moment, I was shocked at the sense of relief I felt. I knew in my heart this was the best choice for Charlotte. This surgery was going to change her life and I knew I wouldn’t have any regrets. About 2 1/2 hours later, Dr. Adelson was all done with her surgery. Everything went smoothly and we were so relieved and thankful. 

Within an hour, I was able to see Charlotte. All the nurses we met during our stay were so incredibly kind and helpful. I was so nervous about carrying and holding Charlotte after the surgery, but the nurses showed me how to do it. Overall, I was so impressed with how smoothly everything went, especially because this was all done during a pandemic.

Since Charlotte’s surgery, I am so grateful because we notice tons of progress. I am so happy we did not allow our fears to keep us from making the best decision for our baby girl. Charlotte is doing great and she is still attending weekly occupational therapy. She started to crawl on all fours, and she can officially feed herself using her injured arm and can lift her arm and touch her head. Charlotte’s progress so far is unbelievable! We never imagined she would have such amazing progress in such a short time. We are so happy to see how far she has come, and we are so excited and look forward to the progress she will continue to have in the future. It’s a long road to recovery, but for us it has become an exciting journey.

We owe so much to Dr. Adelson and to Phoenix Children’s for blessing our child and our family. They have provided our baby with an amazing quality of life (having a functional arm) something that would never have been possible without this surgery. Dr. Adelson is a very kind and compassionate doctor. He truly cares about his patients and their families. We were truly lucky to have the best neurosurgeon perform our baby’s surgery and he continues to provide the best possible medical care for Charlotte. He is the best of the best and we are forever grateful!

- Catherine (Charlotte's mother)

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