Surgeons reattach boy's three severed limbs

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Tuesday, March 29, 2005 A team of Australian surgeons yesterday reattached both hands and one foot to 10-year-old Perth boy, Terry Vo, after a brick wall which collapsed during a game of basketball fell on him, severing the limbs. The wall gave way while Terry performed a slam-dunk, during a game at a friend's birthday party.

The boy was today awake and smiling, still in some pain but in good spirits and expected to make a full recovery, according to plastic surgeon, Mr Robert Love.

"What we have is parts that are very much alive so the reattached limbs are certainly pink, well perfused and are indeed moving," Mr Love told reporters today.

"The fact that he is moving his fingers, and of course when he wakes up he will move both fingers and toes, is not a surprise," Mr Love had said yesterday.

"The question is more the sensory return that he will get in the hand itself and the fine movements he will have in the fingers and the toes, and that will come with time, hopefully. We will assess that over the next 18 months to two years.

"I'm sure that he'll enjoy a game of basketball in the future."

The weight and force of the collapse, and the sharp brick edges, resulted in the three limbs being cut through about 7cm above the wrists and ankle.

Terry's father Tan said of his only child, the injuries were terrible, "I was scared to look at him, a horrible thing."

The hands and foot were placed in an ice-filled Esky and rushed to hospital with the boy, where three teams of medical experts were assembled, and he was given a blood transfusion after experiencing massive blood loss. Eight hours of complex micro-surgery on Saturday night were followed by a further two hours of skin grafts yesterday.

"What he will lose because it was such a large zone of traumatised skin and muscle and so on, he will lose some of the skin so he'll certainly require lots of further surgery regardless of whether the skin survives," said Mr Love said today.

The boy was kept unconscious under anaesthetic between the two procedures. In an interview yesterday, Mr Love explained why:

"He could have actually been woken up the next day. Because we were intending to take him back to theatre for a second look, to look at the traumatised skin flaps, to close more of his wounds and to do split skin grafting, it was felt the best thing to do would be to keep him stable and to keep him anaesthetised."

Professor Wayne Morrison, director of the respected Bernard O'Brien Institute of Microsurgery and head of plastic and hand surgery at Melbourne's St Vincent's Hospital, said he believed the operation to be a world first.

Sources