In response to the Erb’s Palsy Group’s #2point6challenge I delivered leaflets to 260+ homes for my local Community Support Group. The leaflets publicised services by volunteers ready to, pick up shopping or medication, post mail, offer a friendly phone call, or do whatever might be needed to help vulnerable people in isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Each leaflet was paired with a card advertising a free, confidential, NHS talking therapy service to improve mental and physical well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic.
I wore several pairs of protective gloves for this exercise and, from the outset, it was clear that someone with a brachial plexus palsy injury would find what I was doing quite challenging. For those not familiar with the condition, it is mainly due to birth trauma and can affect some or all of the 5 primary nerves in the brachial plexus that supply the movement and feeling to an arm. A moderately severe injury can cause an inability to:
- fully turn the hand so the palm faces up
- fully turn the hand so the palm is flat
- grip with fingers and thumb
- raise the injured arm above chest or head height
and may result in:
- reduced dexterity, especially for repetitive actions
- reduced grip strength in the affected arm or hand
- loss of sensation in the fingers, hand and arm
- pain during movements at the end of the range of motion
- impaired balance
The simple act of putting on a pair of gloves could be a challenge. Having done this, I folded the leaflet over the card so that I could push both each letterbox deftly and silently to avoid disturbing the inhabitants or worse, their dogs!
Folding the leaflet was a two-handed activity and once I had achieved this and gripped the leaflet and card firmly, I needed my free hand to lift the letterbox cover. The first letterbox I tackled was fitted with tight draft excluders, actually many letter boxes had this feature, which frankly should be banned in summer as it can take the skin off your hand! These letter boxes needed a very firm thumb and hand grip to hold the leaflet and card flat, then a firm push followed by careful withdrawal of the hand and a quiet release of the letterbox lid. A frustrated dog lurked behind each door, for all I knew. In between each letterbox I would repeat the exercise of folding the card into the leaflet, ready for the next drop.
I found letterboxes at low level, waist-height and sometimes above head height. The high letterboxes would be particularly challenging for someone with brachial plexus palsy who cannot raise their arms above chest height. It would be a painful manoeuvre or simply impossible. I had to post through several letterboxes at basement level accessed by narrow stairs which required good balance. In fact going down and up or up and down stairs was quite a feature in this exercise because two of the roads that I tackled were in a very hilly part of town. I did my challenge over the course of two evenings after work and a Saturday morning, using each as my Boris Walk for the day. The task made me empathise all the more with those who do not have bi-manual skills; my lovely postman has earned even more respect, a bottle of wine and a packet of jelly babies following this exercise.
My challenge took me about 4 hours to complete, but those who live with a brachial plexus palsy face challenges with bi-manual activities, every day of their lives. I am very happy to make a donation to support the work of the Erb’s Palsy Group’s.
Endurance Arthur May 2020
For more on information and guidance on Erb's Palsy please visit our dedicated support page.