Medical Error Ends With Teen's Thumb Replaced With Toe

Horrifying 2018 incident revealed in new investigation
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 11, 2019 2:59 PM CDT
Doctors Forgot to Remove a Tourniquet, She Lost Thumb
Stock photo.   (Getty Images / Sam Edwards)

(Newser) – After fracturing her thumb during a cricket game, a 17-year-old Australian girl was supposed to have a simple surgery, a short recovery, and be back to playing the game. That's not what happened. After repairing the fracture, doctors placed a plaster cast on Britney Thomas' thumb—but, unbeknownst to the teen, they failed to remove an elastic tourniquet first, meaning her thumb was still tightly bound underneath the cast. Six days after leaving the hospital, she returned due to extreme pain. Doctors discovered the error—which had left her thumb swollen, dark purple, and almost completely dead. It had to be amputated, and her big toe was then removed to replace it, the Washington Post reports. The April 2018 incident was first reported this week as part of an Australian Broadcasting Corporation investigation.

Doctors tried to restore blood flow to the dead tissue using leeches, and also tried sewing the thumb to the girl's groin, but nothing worked. Now, not only does she have "severely limited use" of her left hand, but multiple other parts of her body have also been impacted: In order to replace her big toe, a piece of her hip was removed and used to create a new foot bone; she can't bend either her thumb or her toe. She missed so much school she eventually dropped out, and she can no longer play cricket—which she once aspired to play professionally, ABC reports. The hospital launched a probe that found the box indicating tourniquet removal was checked despite the tourniquet never being removed. "It was an uncomplicated fracture, an uncomplicated surgery and a pretty awful mistake," a lawyer for Thomas tells the Post. (Read more medical errors stories.)

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