Surgeons build thumb from seaman's toe
Saturday 19 December 1998
Emilio Valerio, 35, had his thumb ripped out when a rope with a 15- ton breaking strain snapped. Surgeons at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Trust in London spent six months rebuilding his hand, culminating in the transplant of a toe to create a substitute thumb.
Yesterday, doctors removed a pin from Mr Valerio's new "thumb" in the final stage of the surgery.
Mr Valerio was loading oil by hose on to the 100,000-ton tanker in Nigeria when the accident happened last May. A crane driver manoeuvring the hose did not see him and when the rope broke it whipped backwards with explosive force. "I am lucky it was only my thumb," he said yesterday.
A helicopter took him to hospital in Lagos with his severed thumb packed in ice. His employers, Chevron, the United States oil company, arranged an air ambulance to fly him to London the same night. However, delays in obtaining the necessary exit papers prevented his departure until four days later. By that time, his Nigerian doctors decided his thumb would be no use and discarded it. "If they had sent it with me, the surgeons at St Thomas' could have salvaged the bone and tendons," he said.
Ciaran Healy, consultant plastic surgeon at St Thomas', said the injury had left a deep hole in Mr Valerio's hand which had to be rebuilt. First, he took bone from his hip and transferred it to his hand to create the foundation for a new digit. For three weeks Mr Valerio had his hand sewn into an incision in his groin to provide it with a substitute blood supply. And in the final operation, which lasted eight hours, surgeons transplanted the second toe from his foot using microscopes to attach blood vessels and nerves. Mr Healy said: "Each stage in the operation worked wonderfully."
Surgeons say he will eventually have a near normal grip, but Mr Valerio said he could already pick up small objects.
Today he is flying home to the Philippines for Christmas. When he returns to work in the new year, Chevron has promised that an offer of promotion to chief officer, made before his injury, remains open.
"It is like having a blank cheque," Mr Valerio said.
- 1 Michael Brown shooting: Police shoot and kill second young black man near Ferguson
- 2 James Foley 'beheaded': Isis video shows militant with British accent 'execute US journalist' – and warns Obama of more to come
- 3 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns aged 27
- 4 Cilla Black defends Cliff Richard: 'I am positive that the allegations are without foundation'
- 5 James Foley 'beheading': Met police warn public watching murder video could be criminal offence
James Foley 'beheaded': PM cuts holiday short for emergency meeting on British response to latest Isis atrocity
Michael Brown shooting: Police shoot and kill second young black man near Ferguson
ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns aged 27
James Foley 'beheaded': Isis video shows militant with British accent 'execute US journalist' – and warns Obama of more to come
Iraq crisis: Islamic State's message to America - 'We will drown you all in blood'
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Russell Brand calls for Israel boycott: Comedian urges big businesses that 'facilitate the oppression of people in Gaza' to pull funding
Ukip MEP calls for reintroduction of death penalty on fiftieth anniversary of last deaths
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...
£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...
£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Full Stack ...
£450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - I...