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October 3, 2018

Teamwork and Motivation Spur Recovery from Brachial Plexus Injury

By SharingMayoClinic

A motor vehicle accident left Jennifer Tetler without the use of her left arm. But the comprehensive treatment plan developed by her Mayo Clinic care team, along with Jennifer's drive to recover as fully as possible, led to an excellent outcome.

A motor vehicle accident left Jennifer Tetler without the use of her left arm. But the comprehensive treatment plan developed by her Mayo Clinic care team, along with Jennifer's drive to recover as fully as possible, led to an excellent outcome.


Jennifer Tetler tried to react, tried to get out of the way. "I had a Vespa, a beautiful 250cc Vespa, and I was driving that to meet my sister one night for dinner. A car coming the other way turned left, right into me," she says. "I tried to put on the brakes and swerve, but I ended up coming off of my scooter and hitting my shoulder."

Jennifer didn't just hurt her shoulder, however. The impact damaged the complex group of brachial plexus nerves that power her arm. The injury paralyzed her left arm from her shoulder to her wrist.

After the accident, Jennifer went to Mayo Clinic's Arizona campus where she came under the care of plastic surgeon Shelley Noland, M.D., neurosurgeon Pelagia Kouloumberis, M.D., physical therapist Julie Pohlad, and occupational therapist Cecelia Skotak.

"When Jen came to see us, she had paralysis of her shoulder and her elbow. This, of course, affected her life in many ways," Dr. Noland says. "It made the things she enjoyed doing before the injury very difficult."

Jennifer's care team in Mayo's multidisciplinary Peripheral Nerve Clinic began trying to reverse the damage by working together on an individualized surgical plan. She had four separate nerve transfers to restore life to paralyzed muscles in her shoulder and elbow.

After those procedures, Jennifer dove into her rehabilitation with gusto, highly motivated to return to her active lifestyle. That enthusiastic participation made a world of difference, according to Dr. Noland.

"She's done extremely well," Dr. Noland says. "She took a big role in her rehabilitation and her recovery. She really participated to the fullest, and we think that's why she's had such an excellent outcome."

Jennifer is quick to add that she couldn't have done any of it alone.

"I always felt encouraged by Shelley, Julie and Cece during my rehab and recovery," she says. "I'm so thankful to them for helping me make hard decisions and for always supporting me whenever I'd come in for checkups. Their literal 'oohs and aahs' to my continued progress kept me inspired to keeping working hard on my own, and still does today."

Learn more about Jennifer's story in this video:


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Tags: brachial plexus, Cecelia Skotak, Dr. Pelagia Kouloumberis, Dr. Shelley Noland, Julie Pohlad, Neurology & Neurosurgery, Peripheral Nerve Clinic, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Rehabilitation

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