High Schooler with Erb’s Palsy Breaks Boundaries as Archer

A Kentucky high schooler with Erb’s Palsy is breaking boundaries as an archer, and has become one of the top student archers in the world.  high school junior Faith Oakley is breaking boundaries and offering hope to families affected by birth injuries.  Oakley has risen to become a top student archer by using unconventional methods of working around her birth injury – firing arrows with her teeth.

Just in time for the holidays, let’s take a look at what Oakley has accomplished and how her example can offer hope to children diagnosed with Erb’s palsy.

High Schooler Offers Message of Hope

From the outside, Faith Oakley looks like the average high school student.  But since her birth, she has been anything but average.  During childbirth, Oakley sustained birth injuries to her nerves in her right arm.  Diagnosed as Erb-Duchenne palsy, or Erb’s palsy for short, the injury resulted in the tearing away of the nerves from her spine.  The result is that Oakley cannot use her right arm.

As a student, Oakley has not let her diagnosis define her.  With an interest in archery, she quickly found ways of working around her injury, using her teeth to pull back the bowstring.  Now, she is one of only a handful of people who use a special rectangular nylon mouth tab to complete her shots.  Her determination has not gone unnoticed as she is now one of the top student archers in the world, and is the only one using her mouth to compensate for an injured arm.

In July 2017, she placed ninth at the National Archery in the Schools Program, a World Tournament held in Orlando, Florida.  In 2018, she plans to compete in the World Championships in Louisville, Kentucky.  Even further out, she plans to compete in the 2024 or 2028 Paralympics on the archery team.

Rather than feeling defeated by her physical limitations, Oakley has chosen to dedicate herself to achieving her passion and inspiring others.  In her own words, “I hope that watching me inspires people to feel comfortable to push their boundaries and do things they didn’t think they could do.  I am just like everyone else and I am proving you can do anything with determination.”

Information About Erb’s Palsy

Erb’s palsy is considered an obstetric injury caused by difficult labor and delivery.  Most often, Erb’s palsy is caused by too much stretching of the baby’s neck during delivery, causing the nerves to stretch and tear on one side.  The severity of Erb’s palsy can range from weakness or numbness to complete paralysis as in the case of Oakley.  The severity depends on the type of injury, which may include:

  • Avulsion, or complete severing from the spinal cord
  • Neurapraxia, or mild to moderate stretching
  • Neuroma, or development of scar tissue on the nerves
  • Ruptures, or complete tears in the nerves

Any of these nerve injuries (or a combination of them) can occur at the same time.  However, the symptoms may not be apparent immediately.  There are cases where it is obvious that an injury has occurred, and healthcare providers can take immediate action to diagnose and start treatment.  Unfortunately, however, sometimes Erb’s palsy is not diagnosed until the child reaches toddler age and it becomes noticeable that milestones are being missed.  In such cases, treatment is delayed, which can negatively impact how effective treatment is.

Starting treatment as soon as possible after the injury can go a long way toward overall success.  With treatment, some children see improvement, or even in rare cases complete recovery.  The prognosis and long-term effects of nerve injuries can only be estimated on a case-by-case basis.

Legal Questions about Erb’s Palsy

Birth injuries are a difficult situation for your entire family.  There are often many questions about why the injury occurred, if it could have been prevented, and if it was the fault of a particular healthcare provider.  The answers to these questions often lead to additional questions about whether a lawsuit can be filed, or financial costs recovered.

There are also the strains associated with a birth injury that can impact your family profoundly, including physical pain, emotional trauma, and financial worries.  As birth injury attorneys, Brown & Brothers strives to provide guidance and support for families affected by negligence or medical malpractice.  When those difficult questions arise, we are here to help your family find answers and solutions that work best for you.

We also want to provide our readers and clients with information that is useful and even inspiring.  A birth injury is a serious, difficult matter, but it does not have to define your family’s future.  To find out more about birth injuries, browse our website, or fill out our online form to request information or a free case evaluation.