Docs replace severed thumb with big toe

Published: 01 December, 2011 08:22 IST | Agencies |

29-yr-old who accidentally sawed off his thumb had it replaced with his toe

29-yr-old who accidentally sawed off his thumb had it replaced with his toe

A father-of-one has shown off his unusual new thumb after he lost his original in a carpentry accident.

James Byrne (29) had his big toe grafted on to his hand after he severed his left thumb while sawing through a piece of wood last December.

Two thumbs up: James Byrne hopes to start work soon as his new
thumb already wiggles and rotates

Surgeons had first tried to sew his original thumb back on but the blood would not start flowing again despite months of treatment, including using leeches.

"I never thought it would work but the surgical teams and nurses have done such a fantastic job. The care has been amazing," he said. "I can't bend it yet but I hope to be able to do so soon. It rotates and I can give it a good wiggle. I am so, so pleased that I had it done. It is just such a relief that I'll be able to get back to work soon."

He said that people reacted to it in very different ways.

"Some think it's really funny while others are a bit disgusted by it," he said.
"When I meet people, they ask 'what did you do to your thumb, it's so big and swollen'. They can't believe it when I tell them it's actually my toe instead."

James's thumb was vital in his job as a paver and plant operator and as a father to son Connor.

Back to work
James currently has limited movement in his thumb but is expected to regain full use of it after intense physiotherapy.

Frenchay Hospital is a regional micro-surgery centre and has an international reputation for such complex surgery.

Khan led two teams of surgeons during the eight-hour operation -- with one amputating James's toe while the other worked on his hand at the same time.

Rare surgery
The plastic surgeon said, "It is quite a rare thing to do and is a very complex procedure. James will have to learn to re-balance, without his left great toe but he will be able to walk and jog normally."
He added, "The thumb is the dominant digit. Without it, James would not be able to do the things that we take for granted, like holding a pen or opening a door. It is still early for him and he might need additional surgery to make it look more like a thumb. The loss of a great toe is not as disabling as losing a thumb. So the loss far outweighs the gain."

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