Bizarre Surgery Saves Man's Burned Hand

Doctors attached it to patient Frank Reyes' stomach
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 2, 2015 5:40 PM CDT

(Newser) – An 87-year-old Texas man just spent three weeks with his left hand surgically attached to his stomach, the AP reports. "It's a funny feeling," Frank Reyes says of the experience. Why did he have to go through it? Back in June, Reyes was changing a tire when his trailer slipped and pinned his hand against the fender. It was a 100-degree day, and the fender "just cooked his hand," Dr. Anthony Echo, a plastic surgeon, tells the AP. Initial attempts to heal the burn ended in infection and the loss of most of Reyes' index finger, and a traditional skin graft wouldn't take due to the bone-deep nature of the burn. That's when surgeons at Houston Methodist Hospital came up with the idea of creating a pocket in Reyes' belly and sewing his hand inside.

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Reyes' granddaughter Casey tells the AP the idea sounded crazy, and she had a hard time explaining it to him. "They're gonna put your hand inside your stomach, kind of like a hoodie," she told him. In response, she says, "he looked at me kind of funny." Attaching Reyes' hand to his stomach allowed new blood vessels to form inside his hand's mostly dead skin and likely prevented him from losing any more fingers, the AP reports. Reyes' hand was freed Thursday and covered with abdominal tissue and skin, and he says he hopes to regain full use of it. Similar surgical methods are being used by scientists to grow new body parts but are rarely thought of when it comes to treating injuries, according to the AP. (Read more surgery stories.)

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