A 'modern miracle': Navy vet's arm reattached after workplace injury

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on January 4, 2013 at 11:30 AM

DALLAS -- Feeling his wife's hand in his is a simple joy 50-year-old Royce Reid knows he's lucky to enjoy again.

Reid's left arm was severed in August of 2011 in a workplace accident in Gilmer, Texas.  In the hours it took to get Reid from a Longview hospital to Parkland in Dallas, he nearly bled to death. The longer a limb is deprived of blood, the less likely it is to be successfully reattached.

Seven hours had passed before Reid met Dr. Bardia Amirlak, a UT Southwestern plastic surgeon on-call as part of the hand transplant team.  In order to restore oxygen to Reid's amputated arm, Dr. Amirlak transfused blood directly from the patient's left leg.

Dr. Amirlak had only heard of the experimental procedure, but never tried or read about it. He knew it was a risk and a longshot.

It took 18 hours of tedious surgery for the transplant team to reattach Reid's limb.

"I expected not much function," Dr. Amirlak admitted, "But he's regained sensation. He can move all his fingers, he can do daily tasks."

Metal rods hold the bones in place, but Reid's nerves and muscles are slowly regenerating on their own. He can now feel temperature changes and pick up small objects, including cups.

"I kept hoping and praying, and I keep seeing results," Reid said. "I can grasp my shirt and put on my shirt."

Dr. Amirlak credits the Navy veteran, who survived both Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield, for sticking with a strict and often painful rehab over the past year.

It was all worth it for Reid, so long as he can play with and hold his grandchildren -- that's what convinced doctors to attempt the risky operation in the first place.

"One of my original goals was to be able to interact with my grandchildren," Reid said. "I can push them on the swing, I can lift them up and hold them up, and hold them without difficulty."

"It was worth it," Amirlak said.

"It's a modern miracle," Reid added. "It really is."

Doctors believe that with continued therapy, Royce Reid's strength and dexterity will continue to improve, so that he may one be able to return to work.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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