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Paver's big toe replaces his thumb

Horror accident requires the old switcheroo

Paver's big toe replaces his thumb
13 September 2011

A man who accidentally cut off his thumb has had his big toe attached in its place.

James Byrne, 29, severed the thumb on his left hand last December while sawing through a piece of wood and it was so badly damaged that plastic surgeons could not reattach it and chose instead to replace it with his big toe.

Mr Byrne, from County Carlow, Ireland, but now living in Bristol said he feared he would not be able to continue his work as a paver. But surgeons at the Frenchay Hospital gave the thumbs up to a replacement.

Less than a week after the eight-hour operation Mr Byrne is already able to move his new digit.

"It looks like a cartoon thumb that has been hit by a mallet," he told the Irish Independent. "The aesthetics of it don't bother me, I am just happy that it works. My work as a paver would have been destroyed without the use of my hand.

Mr Khan, his surgeon, said: “It is quite a rare thing to do and is a very complex micro-surgical procedure which involves re-attaching the bone, nerves, arteries, tendons, ligaments and skin of the toe to the hand.

“James will have to learn to re-balance, without his left great toe, onto the ball of the foot but he will be able to walk and jog normally.

“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 days for him and he might need additional surgery to make it look more like a thumb.

“The loss of the great toe is not as disabling as losing a thumb so the loss far outweighs the gain."

Images: PA