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.


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.


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.

10 thoughts on “My Tendon Transfer Experience”

  1. Hooray Mary!!! Great post! Love you 😻🌅🌈🌹

    On Fri, Oct 25, 2019 at 5:58 PM Wheel Life with Mary wrote:

    > marysalis posted: “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” >


  2. Love you and believe in you! And yr pups and family. Such courage, from the heart…know we all hold you in a circle of love. 💕🙏🌿Beth


  3. Dearest Mary….I’m Kathy’s and MuSoengs friend and I’ve been following along with you since the beginning….this is so wonderful. And most of all, your courage and perseverance and persistence are beautiful and a life lesson for everyone. You’re a joy. It’s a privilege to accompany you on your journey. With love and gratitude. Diana


  4. Sounds like you have a good handle on what’s being done for you. It is mind-boggling that the doctors can do this things. Keep up the courage you and your family has to endure. We love you and pray for you. Thanks for the update. Loved your wiener dog.


  5. Hi Mary, I am a friend of your wonderful Aunt Amy. You may already know it, but you definitely have a team of folks routing for you here at Bryant University. You are courageous and beautiful! I too love the adorable wiener dog artwork! 😊
    Keep up the great work Mary, and thank you for sharing your story. 💖


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