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My Tendon Transfer Experience

Happy fall, everyone!

I can’t believe summer is over and the holidays are right around the corner. It’s been a while since I’ve given an update on my progress. To be honest, it’s been a long, challenging two months but good things are happening. Here’s a little glimpse into what I’ve been up to:

On August 22, I had surgery on my left arm. Before my SCI, it was my nondominant arm, but since then I’ve had to rely on it for everything because my right arm is really weak. I was really torn about having the surgery because I knew it meant giving up my arm for a couple of months. But after talking to several people who had it done and doing a lot of research, I decided to go for it. Sometimes you have to take one step backward to take two steps forward, right?

My left arm worked pretty well and I was independent in a lot of things before the surgery, but my left triceps was absolutely nonexistent. If I was lying in bed and reached up, my arm would fall and smack me in the face. Let me tell you, it’s not fun (and that’s just one example). Dr. K and Justine and Sarah, my awesome OTs at Shriners, decided I would be a good candidate for biceps- to- triceps tendon transfer surgery.

Basically, you have three different muscles in your arm that work together to flex your arm up towards your face — the brachialis, brachioradialis, and the biceps. Turns out you don’t need all three muscles to still be able to feed yourself, brush your teeth, and do everything else that requires elbow flexion. It’s pretty genius that our bodies come with all these spare parts — the gracilis, biceps, appendix, etc. During the surgery, the biceps brachii are snipped and wrapped around the elbow to act as triceps.

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After surgery, my arm was in a straight cast for a week. My friend Erin drew a cute picture of a wiener dog on it. Very fashionable. Since then, it’s been in a brace so it can’t bend past the allowed range and I’ve been going to Shriners for OT almost every day. The biceps are used for flexion, so I am in the process of retraining my brain to use them for extension. It’s actually really hard! It takes a lot of patience and practice during OT, but I’m starting to get a hang of it.

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Right now, I’m allowed to bend my arm to 90 degrees and I’ll get the brace off soon. I’m super excited about that. I will finally start to work on strengthening it back up and using it to do things independently again. Thank God for that because Dad is a terrible teeth brusher and Mom needs to work on her makeup skills.

Another exciting development is that the gracilis in my right arm is finally coming alive. It’s not strong enough to make much movement yet, but the whole muscle contracts now! It’s a start. The doctors from Shriners and Penn seem very excited and optimistic that it will continue to strengthen over the next 18 months.

This whole process has been a test of my patience and at times has been a little scary. But with every new movement I know I’m headed in the right direction.

Until next time! Thank you for reading.

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Thank you!

Thank you so much to everyone who supported my family’s team for Shriners Hospital’s Walk for Love fundraiser! With your generosity, we were able to surpass our goal and raise nearly $4,000 — incredible. I know your contributions will go a long way to help kids with all sorts of disabilities reach their potential.

The Walk on Saturday was a really great time! It was a beautiful, brisk fall morning. Some of my family from Rhode Island, friends from Temple, and friends from Magee came out to support me and walk with us. Even Willow came! She definitely won the award for the tiniest dog there — and cutest (in my opinion). It really meant a lot to me to have everyone there.

Thank you again!

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Salisbury Squad! Of course, my eyes were closed in every picture.