Patient regains arm movement with the help of UF Health plastic surgery

headshot of harvey chimFor six years, Baltazar Carrillo, 64, suffered from agonizing pain in his arms and legs without rhyme or reason.

“[There was] no pill that could make my pain go away,” Carrillo said.

Carrillo, of Sanford, enjoyed cutting his grass, traveling and helping his five grown children until the pain became insurmountable, 24 hours a day.

In April of 2019, Carrillo had spine surgery in his neck to try to correct the pain in his arms. But when he awoke from his surgery, Carrillo couldn’t move his left arm.

Carrillo broke down in tears in front of his daughter.

“When I saw my arm, I was like, what am I going to do now?” Carrillo said. “I didn’t have any hope.”

For 15 days, Carrillo recovered in the hospital in hopes of regaining sensation. However, even after a second surgery and attempt to decompress the nerves in his neck, he did not regain movement. His neurosurgeon explained that he would send Carrillo to the best – UF Health board-certified plastic surgeon Harvey Chim, M.D., FACS, who specializes in hand surgery and peripheral nerve surgery.

In October of 2019, Carrillo made the trip to Gainesville for his initial visit with Chim.

“My first impression [of Dr. Chim] was that he knew what he was doing. He asked me to move my hand, and I was able to feel it but it wasn’t moving,” Carrillo said.

Carrillo suffered from a brachial plexus injury, brachial plexus being the group of nerves that branch out from the spinal cord in the neck and travel down the arm. These nerves also control movement and sensation in the shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand. For Carrillo, he experienced paralysis of the shoulder and elbow.

Chim assessed Carrillo’s arm stimulation by performing an electromyogram, a procedure that examines the function of nerves supplying different muscles, to detect nerve damage.

Chim decided that nerve transfer surgery would give Carrillo the best chance at regaining movement in the arm. The surgery would take healthy, functioning expendable nerves and redirect them to restore function to injured nerves. In Carrillo’s case, Chim would transfer a nerve branch to his left triceps to the axillary nerve in order to restore shoulder function. Chim would also transfer part of the ulnar nerve, which supplies hand function, to the nerve to the biceps in order to restore flexing of the elbow. Carrillo’s surgery took place in December of 2019.

Three months after the surgery, Carrillo started to regain movement in his shoulder and, a little more than one year later, has recovered full function in his shoulder and strong flexing of his elbow. He can move his hand, bend his wrist and carry items.

“I’m just so happy with Dr. Chim’s surgery,” Carrillo said. “Thank you so much to God and Dr. Chim.”