New course for life
A MOTORBIKE accident changed Rebecca Cochran’s life forever. The Victoria Park resident is now working to raise awareness for people suffering from brachial plexus injuries.
A HORRIFIC motorcycle accident in March last year changed the life of Victoria Park resident Rebecca Cochran forever.
While riding in the country with her family and friends, Ms Cochran hit gravel and was thrown from her bike at 80km/h.
“I hit a tree after I stopped sliding, most of the force hit my right shoulder and when I stopped my arm was bent behind me and looked visibly wrong,” Ms Cochran said.
After months of surgery, doctors appointments and pain, Ms Cochran was diagnosed with a brachial plexus – a network of nerves running from the spine – injury to her right arm, rendering it near useless.
“I can use my hand but it’s awkward because I don’t have much dexterity; it took months before I could move it,” she said.
Her injury was a mystery to medical staff and she said did not receive a lot of support. As a result the problem went undiagnosed for months.
“I kept complaining that I didn’t have any feeling, I was in a cast for broken bones and doctors said I’d experience numbness,” she said.
“I didn’t know anything about (the) brachial plexus and the hospitals didn’t either. It wasn’t until later that we realised.”
The lack of information or resources available to Ms Cochran about her new life-changing injury ignited a passion to make a change.
“I’m a researcher by nature, so when I was diagnosed I jumped on Google straight away and I couldn’t find any group or organisation, it just kept coming up blank,” she said.
“I started a blog as an outlet and there are just so many other people I found online all doing the same thing as me.”
Once simple tasks, such as putting on a bra, tying her hair in a ponytail or doing up buttons have become daily obstacles.
While Ms Cochran went on her blogging journey to find out new ways to maintain her independence, she said she had people from all over the world asking for her advice.
“People were emailing me all the time, and if I didn’t know the answers I’d research it or put them in touch with the right people,” she said.
“I’ve even been to the extent of researching to find a surgeon for someone in India who didn’t know what to do.”
The success of her blog, Brachial Girl, sparked an idea to start nationwide change.
“There weren’t any organisations in Australia and there really should be; in the UK and US they have organisations that offer support,” she said.
To kick start the process Ms Cochran created a basic website that gained the support of every brachial plexus surgeon or specialist in the country.
“I just want to raise awareness because that’s how big things start,” she said.
To read more about Rebecca Cochran’s story visit her blog www. brachialgirl.com.
For more information on brachial plexus visit www.brachialplexusinjuryaustralia.com.au. EARLY detection is the most important factor in treating a brachial plexus injury, according to occupational therapist Jaslyn Cullen.
Ms Cullen specialises in brachial plexus, peripheral nerve injuries and conditions of the hand, wrist and elbow.
As a clinical occupational therapist, she works with patients to facilitate new movement or establish new ways to move post-nerve or tendon transfers.
She said delayed referral to a specialist was a common problem for patients with brachial plexus injuries and attributed it to a lack of knowledge on the injury.
“We know nerve transfers are best carried out between 4-6 months and therefore early referral for assessment, diagnosis and provision for treatment options is essential,” Ms Cullen said.
“But the injuries can be missed because they are usually associated with high impact trauma that requires additional medical treatment.
“There is inadequate education regarding identification of the injury and the importance of an early referral.”
An organisation for the injury would help to educate patients and medical practitioners and stop patients feeling lost in the system, Ms Cullen said.
“Almost all patients express relief to talk to someone who understands their injury, so an organisation would assist.”
Rebecca Cochran has created a website to help support sufferers of brachial plexus injuries.