Cattle rider’s big toe implanted on hand after thumb severed by bull

Saturday, 22 July 2017, 09:33:01 AM. Australian doctors have successfully attached a rancher's big toe to his hand after a bull severed his right thumb in a cattle accident.

A hospital in Sydney, Australia, has successfully removed a bull rider’s big toe and attached it to his hand after his thumb was ripped off in a cattle accident.

Zac Mitchell was working as a ranch hand in Western Australia in April when a bull severed his right thumb.

“[I was] running a few [cattle] through and one cleaned me up and kicked my hand up against the rail and ripped my thumb off,” Mitchell told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Mitchell stashed his thumb with some cold beers and had to wait five hours to seek medical attention after being airlifted to a hospital in Perth.

Doctors there tried twice to reattach the digit, but Mitchell’s entire thumb tendon had been ripped out by the bull, complicating the surgery.

That’s when Mitchell was transported to Sydney Hospital in his home state of New South Wales.

Doctors immediately recommended removing Mitchell’s toe and surgically attaching it to his hand, despite the 20-year-old’s desire to have a prosthetic fitted.

“I just wanted a plastic one, a prosthetic one and they talked me out of that,” Mitchell told The Daily Telegraph. “But they said we’ve got to cut your toe off … there wasn’t another option.”

Specialists at Sydney Hospital successfully conducted the operation on June 30, where they used bone, nerves, blood vessels and veins to fully attach the toe.

South Eastern Sydney Local Health District

South Eastern Sydney Local Health District

Surprisingly the operation is more common than the public might think.

Doctors say the radical surgery’s success rate at restoring sensitivity and range of motion sees them perform the operation every 18 months on average.

“You can connect the nerves and get good sensation, you can get the tendons, you can get the movement. And although it’s a bit big, it actually looks more like a thumb than other things that we might do,” Dr. Sean Nicklin told ABC.

It’s expected to take up to 12 months for the hand to fully accept its new thumb. As for Mitchell’s missing toe — he says he’s taking it in stride.

“It’s slowed me down a bit,” Mitchell told ABC, saying he’s still working on his balance. “I’d much rather have a thumb than a toe.”

Mitchell also seems confident he’ll be able to jump back into the bull riding saddle by Christmas.

“I’ll be able to get back to work and riding bulls and rodeoing,” he said. “Luckily it was my free hand, not my holding-on hand.”

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