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The unexpected reason Aussie woman can't lift one arm above her head

Inspired Melbourne woman Brodie Jenkins has released a video on what her life is like living with Erb's palsy.

A young make-up artist has bravely revealed the "invisible disability" that impacts her ability to raise her arm and complete many everyday tasks.

Brodie Jenkins, 27, had "never heard anyone on the internet" speak about having Erb’s palsy, a nerve injury which causes paralysis of the arm, until a few weeks ago when a mother shared she was "worried her daughter wouldn't lead a normal life".

Feeling "inspired", the Melbourne local decided to share her experience which affects around 0.9 to 2.6 cases of every 1000 births, leading to "permanent nerve damage to [her] arm" as a result of a brachial plexus injury at birth.

A photo of Brodie Jenkins, 27, with one arm fully up in the air, and the other only reaching her face. A photo of Brodie posing in a dress.
Brodie Jenkins, 27, suffered a brachial plexus while being born, resulting in Erb’s palsy. Source: TikTok/Supplied (Supplied)

Creating a TikTok video about it, Brodie showed how she can't lift her left arm above her head and has "random spots" on her arm with no feeling, making it hard to "do her hair, cut certain foods, do certain exercises and anything that is weight-bearing on [her left arm]".

Why does she have Erb’s palsy?

When she was born Brodie got stuck in the birth canal and doctors chose to use forceps, a controversial birthing instrument used in emergency scenarios.

A photo of Brodie as a baby.
As a baby, Brodie had no feeling in her left arm until having an operation at 18-months-old. Source: Supplied (Supplied)

"They pulled me with forceps and my mum wishes that they had given her a C-section instead given my circumstances," she told Yahoo News Australia. "I think my mum didn't feel she had much of a say, and I was her first baby, so it was all a new experience."

Erb’s palsy is treatable

As a result Brodie had an operation to restore some movement in her arm at 18-months-old and was regularly attending physio at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne up until she was 18.

"They were initially worried that my left arm would struggle to develop at all," she said in a TikTok last week that has more than 30,000 views. "My left arm is shorter than my right, and my hand and wrist are smaller."

Though what "affected [her] the most" in adulthood was being told her "career won't go anywhere" by an instructor if she can't do both hair and make-up during her make-up course.

"I can't blow-dry, you need two functioning hands that you can lift," she said. However she likes to think she put her instructor "to shame" by now having a successful make-up business for 10 years.

"To mothers or people that have it, just know you can still be successful. It shouldn't disturb your quality of life. If you're determined you can still definitely do whatever you want," she said, adding that accessibility is also "very important".

Social media users praise make-up artist for sharing

Brodie's video garnered many comments, with several people sharing their own experiences. "My daughter has the exact same thing, crazy, it's more common then I thought," one person commented on TikTok.

"Oh my gosh! I have a brachial plexus injury as a result of my car accident! You are amazing — it is not easy to live with," another said.

"You have legit described my life!! I have the same injury due to birth on my left arm/shoulder!" a third person said.

In most cases, a full recovery occurs within the first one to three months, but a quarter of babies will face ongoing problems on the affected arm, according to the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne. Physical therapy will lead to most children making a full recovery or have minimal impairment.

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