Gracen Kirby

Doniphan, MO

Conditions + Treatments

Medical Icon Hand Injury/Condition
Medical Icon Ulnar Nerve Revision Transposition

As a high school varsity softball pitcher, I constantly work to improve my game. Everything began to change for me on a Saturday in the Fall of 2019. I was pitching in a tournament and my elbow started bothering me with an onset of pain.

The next game on September 8th highlighted that something was not right.  During the game, as I was pitching, my right pinky and ring finger started tingling and then went numb. My coach became concerned when I started throwing balls and walking players, which is uncustomary for me.

Initially, I received medical care in St. Louis and followed my doctor’s advice to rest my arm for two weeks and then return to play. However, my condition did not get better. Next, I was referred to a local orthopedic surgeon who recommended that surgery would correct my problem. After recovering from surgery, I had another nerve study and my condition was now worse than before.
I was devastated when the surgeon I was seeing at the time told me that there was nothing more that he could do. Softball is my life. This had already affected me physically and mentally.

I am thankful that my dad would not accept the physician’s answer and went online to search for a hand specialist to get another opinion. It was then that he became aware of Dr. Kathleen McKeon at Andrews Sports Medicine in Birmingham, Alabama.

With my compass leading me to Birmingham, I had to wait for an in-person appointment because of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Telehealth medicine was offered and I was eager to get medical care, so we scheduled the appointment. Dr. McKeon was wonderful in speaking remotely with my family and me about my condition. She went over everything step-by-step in those virtual appointments.

When Dr. McKeon told me that I needed to have surgery, I was a little nervous since my last surgeon failed me. However, I was ready to get the surgery done so I could get back to doing what I love. The procedure was called a right ulnar nerve revision transposition.

When elective surgeries were allowed again, my surgery was scheduled. My parents and I made the 6-hour drive to Birmingham for our clinic appointment with Dr. McKeon for an on-site evaluation leading up to surgery.

A few weeks later, my surgery date had arrived. Because of new hospital visitor rules during the pandemic, I was extremely nervous going back into pre-op by myself without my parents. The Ascension St. Vincent’s Birmingham nurses made me feel so comfortable. I was even surprised that Dr. McKeon came to see me before the surgery. I felt like I was in good hands.

A few months later, I had my last appointment with Dr. McKeon where I am proud to announce that she released me for full activity. I was so excited to hear those words. Currently, I am working with my coaches in learning a new pitching technique called Tincher pitching, a technique that takes the stress off my elbow in an effort to prevent any injury in the future.

I am so grateful we met Dr. McKeon and for all the love and support from my family and coaches. It has been a year since my journey began and I am looking forward to pitching my first game in September. I am staying positive and am using my experience to educate and help other female athletes. 

Treatment Providers
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Kathleen E. McKeon, MD
Kathleen E. McKeon, MD View Bio