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Michael Hanna's Battle with Parsonage Turner Syndrome

Hanna is a graduating senior at Somers High School who had to battle a difficult challenge his junior year.

Michael Hanna is a senior at who has enjoyed a stellar athletic career ever since he started lacrosse in the spring of his freshman year. 

Since then, he has had All-State awards in lacrosse and hockey, as well as All-Conference MVP for the Tri-Town hockey team this year. He also made the All Star Team for lacrosse and won the . 

Hanna has even found time to work at various homeless shelters in Springfield and Enfield on Thanksgiving since he was eight years old. 

But Hanna had to work through a very difficult time to get to where he is today.

In his junior year of high school, Hanna started to feel some pain in his shoulder and he was not able to move his elbow.

“In October 2009, I got H1N1 and shortly after that I could not use my elbow,” said Hanna. “I was seeing a doctor that ended up ordering an MRI to the elbow and discovered my tendon was torn and took a piece of the bone along with it.”

Hanna was told by the doctors that if he stopped using the elbow, the tendon would heel and he would feel no more pain. But one night in November, Hanna said he experienced the most pain he had ever felt and nothing was helping.  Michael’s father, Larry Hanna, said he remembers the night all too well.

“We remembered the night he just woke up in such pain that would not stop for hours and nothing we did helped him through that night,” said Larry Hanna.

After a long night for the Hanna family, Michael Hanna went in to meet with the doctors.

“My parents called my doctor and they could not see me right away so they prescribed some medicine to help with the pain,” said Michael Hanna. “(Eventually) I saw the doctor and I did not present with atrophy at the time so everyone thought it had something to do with my elbow even though I clearly said the pain was coming from my shoulder.

“By the time I saw the doctor again, I could not even lift a gallon of milk anymore.  The atrophy was so severe that there was no mistaking the pain I felt had everything to do with my shoulder after all. My doctor at that time said he had never seen such a bad case like mine before and referred me to another doctor.”

Larry Hanna said that Michael went to numerous doctors but they all thought that it was a serious hit to the elbow which caused some nerve damage. 

Eventually Michael would see a neurologist who would diagnose him with Parsonage Turner Syndrome. Some studies say the cause is unknown and that some doctors told the Hanna family that Michael’s own immune system could have attacked itself. 

Parsonage Turner Syndrome affects a group of nerves that conduct signals from the spine to the shoulder, arm, and hand. The condition usually starts out with the first experience being severe pain across the shoulder and upper arm. Then after a few days, weakness, atrophy, and paralysis can affect the muscles in the shoulder or arm.

“It affected basically everything that you use your arm for,” said Michael.  “I could not lift anything, I couldn’t workout with that arm at all, I could play lacrosse but not well with my right arm which was the only arm I used to use. Picking up a plate wasn’t even an option.”

Hanna battled through the pain and is now on his way to a full recovery. He said that the nerve is growing back but it is a slow process.

“My atrophy is definitely getting better but I am still not 100 percent,” said Hanna. “They said it could take up to three years to make a full recovery.”

Hanna said that the doctors couldn’t believe he was still able to play sports while battling with the Parsonage Turner Syndrome.

“My whole life things came easy and now I was definitely faced with quite a challenge,” he said.  “I was surprised when the doctors said they couldn’t believe I was still playing lacrosse. So I am grateful I am still playing lacrosse and hockey.”

While the road to a full recovery might not be the easiest thing in the world, Larry Hanna said that at least now the family knows what is going on and how to control the pain.

“Now we know what happened to him and if this does occur again we can control the pain with medication,” he said.  “So in short, it was a terrible time for us not understanding what was happening medically and watching him struggle. It could take years for Michael to make a full recovery but we are just grateful that he is okay and able to do the things he loves to do still.”

Michael said that he has always had great support from his family and specifically from his sisters, Nicole and Lulu, who are his No. 1 fans and go to all of his games to support him.

Next year Michael will be attending Salisbury University in Maryland and will be playing lacrosse for the Seagulls.

nreardon May 27, 2013 at 08:08 AM
Dear Michael, We are so glad to hear you are doing better! My Dad was just diagnosed with Parsonage Turner Syndrome - Would you or your Mom be willing to give me a call - 860-836-7506 Thanks so much, Nancy

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