Toes for fin­gers!

A big hand to the clever d docs who saved my h hubby’s, er...hand!

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By BS Sue Pay­ton, 45, from Hart­ley, Kent

Jok­ing was mine and Jeremy’s way of cop­ing

As soon as my hubby Jeremy kissed me good­bye, our new­born twins started cry­ing in uni­son. ‘They know Daddy’s off to work,’ he grinned.

Max and Char­lotte were only 5 weeks old.

We also had another son, Oliver, who was com­ing up to 2.

It was as if they could sense when Jeremy was about to leave.

He worked in a fac­tory as a pro­duc­tion man­ager.

I’d worked there be­fore hav­ing chil­dren, and my dad Jim was the sales di­rec­tor.

My mum Bett came round, and for the next few hours, we fed and changed the twins and played with Oliver. Then Dad rang. ‘Jeremy’s hurt his hand,’ he said. ‘He’s gone to Queen Vic­to­ria Hos­pi­tal.’


That was a spe­cial­ist hos­pi­tal for life-chang­ing re­con­struc­tive care and burns.

But surely he couldn’t be that bad.

‘Why hasn’t he gone to A&E?’ I sighed. ‘This is all I need!’

Mum stayed with the kids, and Jeremy’s mum came to help too, while I went to the hos­pi­tal.

When I got there, I was taken to see Jeremy.

‘What have you done?’ I grum­bled.

But then I took a mo­ment to ac­tu­ally take in the scene.

Jeremy was ly­ing on the bed in just his boxer shorts.

They were cov­ered in blood. And he was as white as a ghost.

My eyes fell on his right hand.

It was wrapped in thick ban­dages, but blood was seep­ing through.

‘There was an ac­ci­dent with one of the ma­chines at work,’ a nurse ex­plained. ‘Jeremy’s fin­gers were sliced off.’

‘But you can reat­tach them, right?’ I stam­mered.

‘He’s go­ing for surgery now,’ she ex­plained.

Jeremy still hadn’t spo­ken, was ob­vi­ously in shock.

‘He’ll be down a long time,’ the nurse said.

So I headed back to the kids, spent a sleep­less night fret­ting.

Next day, Jeremy still looked aw­ful.

‘I’m in so much pain,’ he croaked when I vis­ited.

‘It’ll be Ok,’ I soothed.

I man­aged to get a doc­tor to tell me what he’d lost.

‘He sliced off all of his fin­gers and thumb down to the knuckle,’ he said. My stom­ach churned.

This was much more se­ri­ous than I’d re­alised.

My poor hubby.

‘A col­league man­aged to get the fin­gers and wrap them in ice,’ the doc­tor con­tin­ued. They’d reat­tached the mid­dle two fin­gers to see if they would take.

Jeremy was drift­ing in and out of con­scious­ness, dosed up on painkillers.

But when he was fi­nally able to, he told me what he re­mem­bered of that day.

‘I was work­ing on a mix­ing ma­chine,’ he croaked. ‘As I went to close the lid, I must’ve slipped… my hand went in­side.’ It had al­most dragged him in, chop­ping the dig­its.


He was righthanded too. Sadly, days later, the fin­gers that had been reat­tached turned black and were hang­ing on by the ten­dons. So doc­tors had to re­move them. They couldn’t do a skin graft on his knuckle yet – as it cov­ered such a big area, they were wor­ried it wouldn’t take. So they had to open up his groin and ba­si­cally sew his hand into it for three weeks. Bizarre! But what was left of the hand needed a blood sup­ply to sur­vive. That hap­pened on Oliver’s sec­ond birth­day. ‘I hate miss­ing it,’ Jeremy said sadly. ‘But there are lots more to come,’ I as­sured him. Af­ter three weeks, he was al­lowed to come home. All the kids were glad to have him back. At first, Jeremy strug­gled, he

missed his in­de­pen­dence.

‘How am I ever go­ing to drive the car, or play golf again?’ he said mis­er­ably. It wasn’t like Jeremy to mope. But, thank­fully, he be­gan to find ways to man­age.

He was soon cud­dling the ba­bies and help­ing with nappy changes. And he even got the steer­ing wheel of the car adapted so he could drive again. ‘Lend us a hand,’ I’d tease. Jok­ing was mine and Jeremy’s way of cop­ing. One day, com­ing back from a checkup, Jeremy’s smile was big­ger than ever. ‘They want to graft my toes on to my hand, as re­place­ment fin­gers,’ he said. Sounded weird but Jeremy was thrilled. ‘I’ll be nor­mal again!’ he said. The doc­tors had to be care­ful what toes to take, so as not to af­fect his bal­ance.

So, dur­ing the first eight-hour op, sur­geons re­moved his big toe from his right foot, and put it where his thumb should be.

It was a suc­cess. So, next, they re­moved the mid­dle toes from the other foot, and sewed them on to his hand as fin­gers.

Af­ter­wards, Jeremy needed some physio, but soon he was able to write, play golf again, and even drive nor­mally.

At first, it seemed odd see­ing him with his toes as fin­gers, but we all got used to it.

‘Hands down, the best thing,’ Jeremy grinned. It did truly trans­form his life. He was soon back at work at the fac­tory.

‘Just be care­ful,’ I warned. ‘You’re run­ning out of fin­gers and toes!’

Re­cently, Jeremy read about some­body else that had their toe sewn on to their hand to re­place miss­ing fin­gers.

On the foot where the toe had once been, they’d had ‘this piggy went to mar­ket’ tat­tooed on there.

‘I quite fancy that,’ Jeremy grinned.

When I think about all he went through, it still makes me feel sick.

But it could’ve been so much worse.

What the doc­tors have done to help him – well, it gets a thumbs up from us!

A toe-tal suc­cess: look at him now!

Jeremy’s done so well

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