This week we have interviewed Kim Hawksby, an Erb’s Palsy sufferer who is an Occupational Therapist.
Q1: What is your experience of having Erb’s Palsy?
When I was born my shoulder got stuck on my mum’s pelvis (shoulder dystocia). The medical team did not know how to manage this birth emergency and instead of carrying out the manoeuvres they were supposed to, they applied excessive traction to my head and neck as they forcefully pulled me out. This resulted in Erb’s Palsy. All 5 nerves of my brachial plexus were damaged causing paralysis to my right hand and arm. The damage caused at birth has had a huge impact on my life including physically, psychologically, financially and on my daily function and independence.
Q2: What has been the hardest thing about having Erb’s Palsy?
One of the hardest things about having Erb’s Palsy is that it limits your choices. For example, my hairstyle, the car I drive, the clothes I buy, the food I buy, my career etc. All are decisions based on what I can manage due to my disability rather than being a free choice. I lead an independent life but find many day to day tasks difficult and painful such as food preparation, cutting my food up, ironing, changing my bedding, food shopping and shaving my underarms. I have to rely on other people far more than most my age which can be difficult to accept. I have a lot of anxiety about how I will manage in the future as I already have lots of pain in my unaffected arm and hand due to over use.
Q3: As an adult with Erb’s Palsy, how do you feel?
Having Erb’s Palsy has made me a stronger person, more resilient, more persevering, more adventurous and more interesting! I think I am a better occupational therapist because of it as I have more empathy towards my patients and have great problem-solving skills.
Q4. What words of advice and encouragement would you give to any children who have an Erb’s Palsy that you wish someone had said to you when you were younger?
My advice to other people with Erb’s Palsy is to not let other people’s views limit you. Use your disability as a strength and tell others about all the positives that come from living with a disability. I would also tell them to be an active member of the Erb’s Palsy Group. The group has been amazing and they have supported me and my family throughout many ups and downs over the years. They work tirelessly to ensure families get the best advice and they help educate many health professionals. I hope that all midwives and obstetricians get adequate training on how to manage a shoulder dystocia birth trauma so that no more babies are injured and have the lifelong impact mismanagement of shoulder dystocia causes.
We would like to thank Kim for taking the time to talk to Ison Harrison about her experience of Erb’s Palsy.