Crawfish Princess: Overcoming Brachial Plexus with Resilience 4lbs of Crawfish at a Time.

At only eight years old, My youngest baby girl, Niyah Jean, embodies an undying spirit of resilience and determination. With a mountain of crawfish before her, she dives into the challenge, deftly peeling and eating them with just one hand. Everyone who knows her, especially the owner of the store where we buy our crawfish, knows her as the Crawfish Princess because she can eat five pounds of crawfish faster than someone using two hands.

Niyah’s method is uncomplicated yet highly effective. Employing her right hand, she lifts the crawfish to her mouth, using her teeth to extract the tail and position it in her left hand. Subsequently, her teeth become the tool for shelling the tail and savoring the meat. Her proficiency is so remarkable that she manages to consume an entire crawfish in a fleeting few seconds.

Niyah’s enthusiasm for crawfish has become a talking point in her community. Frequently invited to crawfish boils, she consistently leaves a lasting impression. Observing her in action is a pleasure, invariably bringing smiles to those around her.

Niyah serves as an inspiration to us all, embodying the belief that anything is achievable if we’re determined. She stands as a role model to all children and serves as a potent reminder to never abandon our dreams, regardless of the obstacles we encounter.

My BabyGirl has Brachial Plexus??

When Niyah was first born, the doctors told us that she would never be able to use her left arm or hand. They said that she would be at a significant disadvantage in life and that she would likely never be able to do the things that other children could do.

But Niyah has never let her disability define her. She is a fighter, and she has never given up on her dreams. She has worked hard to overcome her challenges, and she has achieved great things.

Born with all four nerves severed in her left arm due to a forceps delivery, the doctors predicted a life of complete paralysis called Brachial Plexus. But something extraordinary happened. Niyah’s body miraculously regenerated nerves in her shoulder, granting her the ability to move her shoulder, forearm, thumb, and pinky partially. Today, although she still can’t tie her shoes or excel in certain two-handed activities, Niyah demonstrates a level of adaptability that is nothing short of awe-inspiring.

Now, I know what y’all thinking, what’s a brachial plexus? In layman’s terms, it’s a network of nerves that sends signals from your spine to your shoulder, arm, and hand. A brachial plexus injury happens when these nerves are stretched, compressed, or in severe cases, ripped apart or torn away from the spinal cord. Sounds tough, right?

Well, this condition affects approximately 1.5 out of every 1000 births in the United States. But my baby girl, she’s not just a statistic. She’s a force to be reckoned with.

Niyah Jean, she’s my miracle child, an overcomer, and an inspiration. She’s got this spark, this spirit that just can’t be dampened. From learning to walk at nine months old, to playing basketball and riding a two-wheeler, Niyah has always found a way to work around her limitations. Her story serves as a beacon of hope for parents facing similar challenges with their children.

Parent to Parent

To parents grappling with a brachial plexus diagnosis, Niyah’s story carries a vital message: Remain hopeful. Even when doctors deem brachial plexus repair surgery unviable, there’s still a chance that the nerve may regenerate on its own. Consistent range of motion (ROM) exercises and physical therapy can facilitate this process.

In Niyah’s case, she was also diagnosed with Horner’s Syndrome, a condition characterized by a drooping eyelid, decreased pupil size, and dryness of the eye. While it may cause cosmetic concerns, it doesn’t impede her vision. In fact, her optometrist has declared that she has superhuman vision!

I highly recommend that Parents can apply for child supplemental security (SSI) as soon as their child is diagnosed, medical assistance, PCA services, and Early Childhood Intervention. Some services may have income limits, but it’s advisable to apply anyway. Medical appointments, therapy, serial casting, splints, and etc. can get very costly, and any little bit can alleviate the strain on parents.

When your child enters school, it’s essential to request a Physical Disability IEP. This program can assist with a wide range of things that may not seem significant to us but can make a world of difference to a child with brachial plexus. These could include extra minutes and assistance in the restroom, taking off coats, sweaters, and backpacks, or even something as simple as a piece of tape or clipboard to keep papers in place.

Sadly, many school systems are not willing to suggest or implement an IEP as it comes out of their budget. It’s important not to let that deter you. If you encounter difficulties with the school system, don’t hesitate to seek legal assistance. It’s crucial to remember that you are your child’s primary advocate, and sometimes, you might have to fight to ensure they receive the accommodations they need.

For parents traveling out of state for their child’s medical care, like Niyah’s family does to visit Gillette Children’s in Saint Paul, remember to consider how the travel may impact your child and plan accordingly. It’s important to ensure the child is comfortable and well-prepared for the journey.

Another crucial point to note is that children with brachial plexus may exhibit behaviors such as thumb sucking, nail-biting, or even self-mutilation due to the pins and needles sensation in their affected arm. It’s essential to be aware of this and consult with healthcare providers for guidance and management strategies. Remember, they may not be able to articulate their discomfort, especially when they are young.

Lastly, refrain from referring to the affected arm as the “bad arm” or “paralysis arm.” Words matter and can significantly impact a child’s self-esteem. Instead, consider calling it the “helper arm” – a term that highlights the role it plays in assisting with various tasks, promoting a positive perception of the affected limb.

The journey with brachial plexus is undoubtedly challenging, but with hope, resilience, and the right support, children like Niyah can lead fulfilling lives, continually defying expectations and inspiring others with their spirit and determination.

 So, I want to encourage parents who are told that their child does not qualify for brachial plexus repair surgery to be hopeful that the nerve will regenerate on its own, especially with frequent ROM and physical therapy.

The journey with brachial plexus is undoubtedly challenging, but with hope, resilience, and the right support, children like Niyah can lead fulfilling lives, continually defying expectations and inspiring others with their spirit and determination.

For support and additional resources, parents can join the Brachial Plexus Injury Support Group on Facebook or visit Birth Injury Info and Birth Injury Support Groups for more information.

Niyah Jean’s Favorite Time of Year

In the heart of Louisiana, it’s currently crawfish season. Watching Niyah deftly peel and eat crawfish with her able hand is an absolute joy. Her technique showcases her adaptability and determination, proving that her condition does not limit her enjoyment of life’s simple pleasures.

Should you find yourself inspired to join in the crawfish feast, you don’t need to be in New Orleans or elsewhere in Louisiana to do so. Seafood markets, some Walmarts, Asian markets, and Restaurant Depot in various cities often carry frozen crawfish. For that authentic New Orleans taste, get a bottle or a couple of bags of Zatarain’s Crawfish, Shrimp & Crab Boil, along with other seasonings and spices such as bay leaf, lemon, and oranges. And, should you fancy it, here’s a simple crawfish boil recipe to get you started.

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Louisiana-Style Crawfish Boil Recipe
  1. 10 pounds live crawfish
  2. 5 quarts water
  3. 2 large onions, quartered
  4. 4 heads of garlic, halved crosswise
  5. 4 small potatoes
  6. 2 lemons, halved
  7. 1 bag of Zatarain’s Crawfish, Shrimp & Crab Boil
  8. 2 bay leaves
  9. 4 ears of corn, halved
  10. Salt to taste
  1. Rinse crawfish thoroughly using fresh water until the water runs clear.
  2. In a large pot over high heat, add water, onions, garlic, potatoes, lemons, Zatarain’s boil seasoning, bay leaves, and salt.
  3. Bring the water to a boil and let it cook for about 10 minutes to let the flavors meld together.
  4. Add the crawfish and corn to the pot, stirring with a large paddle.
  5. Once the water comes back to a boil, let it cook for another 5 minutes.
  6. Turn off the heat and let the crawfish soak in the liquid for an additional 15 minutes to absorb more flavor.
  7. Drain the crawfish and vegetables.
  8. Spread out your crawfish and fixings on a large outdoor table covered with newspaper. Let it cool a bit before everyone digs in. Enjoy!
Remember, part of the fun of a crawfish boil is the communal nature of the meal. It’s a social gathering as much as it is a feast, so be sure to share this delicious experience with friends and family!

*Note: Please adjust to your liking, and be sure to check any allergy information as needed.*


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