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The Arm: There Is No Escaping the Reality for Mothers of Children With Obstetric Brachial Plexus Injuries

Beck, Cheryl Tatano

doi: 10.1097/NNR.0b013e3181ac10da

Background: Shoulder dystocia is considered the obstetric nightmare. A potentially devastating complication of shoulder dystocia to the infant is obstetric brachial plexus injury (OBPI). Between 20% and 30% of infants with OBPI experience residual functional deficits.

Objective: The objective of this study was to investigate mothers' experiences caring for their children who have an OBPI.

Methods: Colaizzi's phenomenology was the method used to examine the phenomenon of mothers' caring for their children with an OBPI. A recruitment notice was placed on the Web site of the United Brachial Plexus Network. Twenty-three mothers comprised the convenience sample. Eleven mothers participated in the study over the Internet, and 12 mothers were interviewed in person. Each mother was asked to describe in as much detail as she wished her experiences caring for her child with an OBPI.

Results: Six themes emerged to describe mothers' experiences caring for their children with an OBPI: (a) In an Instant: Dreams Shattered; (b) The Arm: No Escaping the Reality; (c) Tormented: Agonizing Worries and Questions; (d) Therapy and Surgeries: Consuming Mothers' Lives; (e) Anger: Simmering Pot Inside; and (f) So Much to Bear: Enduring Heartbreak.

Conclusions: The results of this phenomenological study helped to make visible the daily struggle and enduring heartache of mothers who care for their children with OBPI.

Cheryl Tatano Beck, DNSc, CNM, FAAN, is Professor, School of Nursing, University of Connecticut, Storrs.

Accepted for publication February 23, 2009.

This article is dedicated to the women whose courage and profound generosity made it possible to learn about mothers' experiences caring for children with brachial plexus injuries. Thank you to the board of directors of the United Brachial Plexus Network for their unwavering support and enthusiastic assistance with this research project. Thank you also to Mary Grace Amendola for her dedication and detailed care in transcribing the interviews.

Corresponding author: Cheryl Tatano Beck, DNSc, CNM, FAAN, University of Connecticut, 231 Glenbrook Road, Storrs, CT 06269-2026 (e-mail:

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.