Man Who Severed Hand Using Meat Slicer Moves Fingers Day After Surgery

Sarah O NeillSarah O Neill in News, World
Published 28.10.19

Aided by fast-thinking colleges and quick-witted doctors, a man has managed to keep the use of his hand after a terrible workplace accident.

Starting off as a day like every other, 23-year-old Lawrence ‘Lorry’ Cooper began work in the Brisbane Factory at the meat slicer, until disaster struck.

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‘I only remember glimpses after I did it’, Mr Cooper said.

Thanks to the sharp and even cut of the machine, the amputation left no jagged bones, making the attachment easier.

Continuing on, he revealed, ‘most of it wasn’t actual pain, a lot of it, they call it phantom pain where you can still feel your pain even though it’s not there.’

A colleague grabbed the severed hand, immediately placing it in ice, which means that the severed part can be preserved until it can be reattached. After applying a tourniquet to his arm, Mr Cooper was whisked away to the local Mater Private Hospital.

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‘It’s pretty terrifying when you see your hand missing,’ he told 7News on Tuesday.

For the next seven hours, Dr Theo Birch and colleague Andrew Hadj performed intense microsurgery on the hand starting from the inside out.

‘We were pretty fortunate that given the nature of the injury it was a really clean-cut, almost a surgical incision,’ Dr Hadj stated, referring to the industrial meat slicer where the incident took place.

severed hand

Talking to ABC Australia, Dr Birch went on to elaborate on the details of the surgery.

“Before we could even consider reattachment we had to establish if we could reconnect the blood supply to the severed hand within a viable time-frame.

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Unfortunately you can’t just connect an artery together straight away to restore blood flow as the construct is too flimsy. You need to plate and screw the bones together, repair the deeper tendons — only then is it safe to focus on the fine microvascular surgery.”

The surgery was both painstaking and extremely time sensitive, with the doctors being under constant pressure to reconnect the blood supply to the hand.

Doctor Birch revealed the pressure the doctors were under in a recent press conference with 9 News Sydney.

‘Unfortunately you can’t just connect an artery together straight away to restore blood flow as the construct is too flimsy.

‘We’re under the microscope, very very high magnification, suturing those little vessels back together with tiny stitches you can’t see with the naked eye.

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Mr Cooper was then carefully monitored in intensive care for several hours following the operation, due to the rarity of the surgery, and complicated nature of his injury.

Dr Birch added: 

If any of those blood vessels get a small clot or thrombus in it, then the whole circulation goes off.

His movement the next day was promising. We gave him a day’s rest, put it into a splint and got things moving to improve the chances of success.

Cut nerves are the most unpredictable part of the process because for a successful recovering they need to grow, which is a very slow process.

Although miraculously, it was only the day when Lawrence already moving his fingers.

‘His movement the next day was promising,’ the doctors said.

‘We gave him a day’s rest, put it into a split and got things moving to improve the chances of success.

‘Cut nerves are the most unpredictable part of the process because for a successful recovery they need to grow, which is a very slow process.’

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After just eight weeks of rehabilitation, Mr Cooper says he is ‘pushing through to gain as much mobility as he can’, even though the movements can be painful.

Lawrence has been open with both the physical and mental results of the accident.

‘You’re always grateful and you’re always happy but there’s a lot of mental issues’, he admits.

‘I think you’ve just got to be strong-willed… it’s just about seeing how it progresses.’

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