"I tried to move it around and i couldn't move it at all. It was like my whole arm wasn't working," 8 year old, Jake Griffin said.
When Jake hurt his arm in a fall, he figured it would get better in a week or two.
"He couldn't move his arm for about six months, it just kind of hung there," Stephanie Griffin, Jake's mom, said.
Jake suffered a brachial plexus injury. It stretched and even tore nerves that control his right arm
"Depending on the number of nerves injured sometimes they lose shoulder elbow function, sometimes they lose everything," Allan Peljovich, M.D., medical director of pediatric hand & upper extremity program/ brachial plexus program at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, said.
Traditional surgery for these injuries used a nerve graft from the patient's own leg to make the repair. Doctors at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta are doing something different.
After identifying the severed nerves, surgeons use custom-fit nerve grafts from cadavers. Gluing in the donated fibers to bridge, or even reroute the broken connections.
"There can be a perfectly size matched graft placed quickly and easily, relatively effortlessly which provides us we think with every advantage that the traditional nerve graft did," Joshua Ratner, M.D., director of brachial plexus program at children's Healthcare of Atlanta, said.
Thanks to some help from beyond the grave, ten months after surgery, Jake's strumming away on his guitar.
"Oh it's huge, and I still have deep hope in my heart that he's going to completely get better," Stephanie said.
Jake still has a lot more therapy ahead of him. The hope is he will get back more strength and mobility. Meanwhile, the doctors who pioneered his procedure believe that using donor nerve grafts could eventually become the standard of care for treating children with these injuries.