Today’s blog post is by Jodi M, who suffered from severe peroneal and tibial nerve damage in 2016 after the birth of her first child, resulting in foot drop. A huge thank you to her for all her advocacy work.
I cannot believe that this is my third year participating in National Foot Drop Awareness day!! As hard as 2020 has been, I am beyond blessed that my journey has lead me to be celebrating another year of foot drop recovery! I had never heard of foot drop until I sustained a nerve injury giving birth to my first child that resulted in severe damage to the peroneal and tibial nerves in both of my legs. I hope that my story can help others who are dealing with foot drop as well as bring about awareness of maternal nerve injuries.
My journey through foot drop began on July 29, 2016. I had been in labor 26 1/2 hours, I was exhausted from pushing for almost 3 hours, but my daughter was finally here and she was healthy (as well as almost 2 lbs larger than predicted)!! There was so much joy as I watched my daughter being held by my husband and then our parents. I have continued to hold onto this memory because the joy I was experiencing in that moment would soon turn into panic and confusion.
It had not even been a day since my daughter had been born that it became apparent something wasn’t right with my legs. The nurses couldn’t understand why my feet were still numb and couldn’t move even though it had been more than enough time for the epidural to wear off. I was sent to have an MRI of my spine. The results came back normal so a neurologist was ordered to come and examine me the next day.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” were the words that came from my neurologist’s mouth after she examined me. I remember hearing that and feeling any bit of hope I had drain from my body. If this neurologist who was clearly very educated had never seen an injury from childbirth like mine, what did my future look like? Would I ever walk again? After 4 MRIs, a spinal tap, steroids through an IV, and an EMG not one medical professional I met with while at the hospital could tell me. “I don’t think this is permanent,” was the most hopeful phrase I received from a doctor during my week long stay.
After I was discharged from the hospital I was sent home with no diagnosis, a walker, instructions not to use the shower (I did shower using a seat) or try to get in the bathtub, and to make sure that someone is with me at all times. It was so difficult to function doing every day tasks and completely impossible to take care of my newborn on my own. My mom had to live with my husband and I for almost a year to help me take care of my baby. My legs lost so much muscle in such a short amount of time that it took all I had to be able to get from one room to the other. It was also mentally exhausting because I had to concentrate on lifting my whole leg up and then placing (or slapping) my foot on the floor otherwise my toes would just drag behind. I began in home physical therapy at 2 weeks postpartum and graduated to outpatient physical therapy around 6 months postpartum. I was in physical therapy until 15 months postpartum.
My recovery came in stages from barely moving my big toe, to dealing with excruciating neuropathy, to wiggling all my toes and flexing my ankles. I would say that with the severity of my injury it took me about two years to be in a place where I felt my healing was complete. The sensation in my left foot has never completely returned to normal, but that doesn’t hinder me from being able to walk or function in my day to day life. I am very thankful to have recovered from such a severe injury and I am very blessed to say that I had my second child this July without a repeat injury!!
When I was 6 months postpartum I found a Facebook group called Moms with Femoral/Peroneal/Sciatic Nerve Damage From Labor/Delivery. I was immediately connected with other moms who had suffered nerve damage and I no longer felt alone. Since then I have become an admin of this group and have worked with the other admins to help grow the number of members from around 700 to 1700!! Through this group other resources have been created by the admins for maternal nerve injuries. Our website (www.nervedamagefromchildbirth.com) was created as an educational resource that didn’t really exist for newly injured moms. We also have two advocacy groups. Maternal Nerve Injury From Childbirth Awareness (MICA) was created by two of our admins who are mother and daughter and Unhindered Steps who was created by one of our admin’s sons. We all work very hard together to advocate and bring about awareness to these types of injuries that leave moms feeling completely alone.
I am very proud to work so closely with such a strong group of women!! I would not have been able to get through my recovery journey without them!
Happy National Foot Drop Awareness Day!!!