Bellamy’s strength: Beating the odds after brachial plexus injury

Dulce and Orlando Pantoja describe their fourth child, Bellamy, as a happy little boy who enjoys being the center of attention. He loves to wave his arms and hands in the air, giggle at his siblings and crawl across the room. For the Pantojas, these milestones mean everything. When Bellamy was born, he could not move his left arm and hand.

“I knew Bellamy was a strong-willed baby from the moment I carried him,” said Dulce. Unlike my [first] three pregnancies, I had a tough time delivering him. On the day of my induction, I began dilating, which was a good sign that the baby was almost here. But as I kept pushing and pushing, Bellamy just didn’t want to come out. Before the next contraction kicked in, my OB/GYN was able to pull the baby out safely.”

On April 14, 2021, Dulce gave birth to Bellamy in Grand Island, Neb. The Pantojas were so happy to see their baby boy as he let out a loud cry. But the constant pushing and excessive force during childbirth caused trauma to the baby, and as a result, Bellamy lacked total movement in his left arm.

Bellamy suffered a brachial plexus injury caused by shoulder dystocia, a birth injury that happens when one or both shoulders get stuck inside the mother’s pelvis during labor and birth. The brachial plexus is a network of intertwined nerves that control movement and sensation in the arm and hand. Injuries to the brachial plexus stem from trauma to the neck, and can cause pain, weakness and numbness in the arm and hand. As a result of his injury, Bellamy could not move his left arm at all.

Coming to Children’s for the very best care

“Bellamy’s pediatrician referred me to Dr. Oluwaseun Adetayo, the head of pediatric Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery at Children’s,” said Dulce. “Dr. Adetayo recommended that I take Bellamy to physical therapy to see if that would help activate movement in his left arm and hands. If that didn’t work, then surgery was our next option. Bellamy started therapy at 8 weeks old, and a month into therapy, he began moving his fingers on his left hand. You had to look at his pinky and not blink to see that tiny, subtle movement. We were pleased with his progress and took that as a good sign, that he would make more progress in the months ahead.”

After several visits to Children’s in Omaha to see Dr. Adetayo and analyze Bellamy’s progress with his arm movement, Dr. Adetayo ordered an MRI. The MRI showed a liquid mass near the neck and shoulder area – and it was possible that the mass was pushing down on his nerves around his left brachial plexus, affecting his ability to move his arm and hand completely. Dr. Adetayo recommended that he undergo surgery to remove the mass of scar tissue on the injured nerve bundle.

“When I heard that my baby had to have surgery, it was nerve wracking, but I knew he was in the best place for care,” said Dulce. “From the moment I met Dr. Adetayo, she was amazing. She answered my questions, helped me and my husband understand what the surgery entailed and reassured us that she would do everything she could to ensure a good outcome. Although a bit nervous, I knew this surgery is what Bellamy needed. My husband and I just prayed and hoped for a successful outcome for our son.”

A surgical solution for a strong outcome

When Bellamy was 7 months old, Dr. Adetayo performed his surgery on Nov. 22, 2021 to remove the mass of scar tissue and restore movement to his left arm. The surgical repair involved brachial plexus exploration and neurolysis.

“When pressure compromises a nerve around the shoulder, the first thing we do is perform a surgical exploration of the brachial plexus to directly visualize the problem, so we know precisely how to repair it,” said Dr. Adetayo. “Once we identify the nerve that is impacted in the plexus, we can perform neurolysis, which is the deliberate destruction of a nerve or a network of interlacing nerves to provide permanent relief from pain and help the patient regain movement to the impacted area. In Bellamy’s case, we were able to help him regain function of his left arm and hands following a brachial plexus injury.”

After Bellamy woke up from surgery, the Pantojas were amazed to see their son move his left arm. He raised his arm up to his chest like he was showing off what he was not able to do before.

In the months since his brachial plexus surgery, Bellamy continues to reach milestones. He goes to physical therapy in Grand Island three times a week, and his physical therapists perform range of motion exercises on him to maximize use of his left arm and keep the joints and muscles moving as normally as possible.

“We are so happy with our son’s progress, and I know that over time, Bellamy will build up more strength to lift his left arm further,” said Dulce. “He inspires me and never gives up. Something that really amazed us recently is that he started crawling, and that’s a blessing for us to witness right after his surgery. I am so glad that our son’s pediatrician recommended Dr. Adetayo to us. She has been a blessing to us. Because of her and our son’s physical therapists, I see a bright future ahead for Bellamy. He has come a long way.”

Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery

At Children’s Hospital & Medical Center, we understand that birth defects or traumas can be difficult and overwhelming — especially when they are visible or affect a child’s development. Our specialists are here to help children ages 0 to 21 through all of their plastic surgery needs.

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