Warning: graphic images
A cobbler had his big toe sewn onto his hand after losing his thumb in a traumatic work accident.
We all know someone with ‘finger-toes’ – aka weirdly long toes – but this story gives a whole new meaning to the phrase.
David Lee, 40, lost his thumb last January while trimming the heel of a shoe. As he worked, the cobbler’s hand got snagged in the machine and his right thumb was cut off.
The worker actually saw his thumb ‘drop on the floor’, but incredibly he managed to stay level-headed and pressed his hand into his jumper to prevent blood loss.
David ‘calmly’ turned the machines off and even went outside for a cigarette while he waited for the ambulance to arrive, though when he realised how bad his injury was he started to worry he would lose his job.
Recalling the ordeal, the cobbler said:
I knew how bad it was and I just worried that I wouldn’t be able to fix shoes again. I cried my eyes out when I thought about it, as I thought I was going to lose my shop.
I was more concerned about that than my thumb because this is my passion.
It all happened so fast but I felt no pain at all.
David was rushed to King’s Mill Hospital in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, before being transferred to the Pulvertaft Hand Centre at Royal Derby Hospital. There, doctors suggested replacing David’s lost thumb with his big toe.
Realising this may be the only way he could continue working, the cobbler wasted no time in agreeing to the surgery.
I was okay with the idea of moving my toe to my hand. My main concern was the business and my shop as I had recently moved in.
I thought, ‘I’m never going to do my job again and I’m going to lose my business’. It was a no-brainer going down this route.
As a right-handed person, I wouldn’t have been able to do a lot of the job. I was really conscious of it to start with.
Jill Arrowsmith, one of the two Consultant Hand Surgeons who performed the operation, explained the toe-to-thumb surgery is typically only considered for patients ‘who have lost a lot of their thumb, usually down to close to the knuckle’.
Not having any of the thumbs can be very disabling, especially for those who do a manual job.
This type of injury could mean that these patients are not able to remain at work, so we’re delighted to be able to provide this treatment option.
Toe-to-thumb reconstructions are quite rare but we have been really pleased with all of the outcomes these patients have achieved.
David was keen to get back to work after undergoing his operation, and while his new ‘thumb’ feels heavier than his old one, physiotherapy and the strength work have made it feel more normal.
Arrowsmith said using the big toe gives the ‘best functional and cosmetic benefits’ as it is ‘the thing most like a thumb on the body’.
The cobbler admitted he was anxious when he went back to work and first approached the machine that caused his injury, but he has since made adjustments that have ‘put [him] at ease’.
David’s desire to get back to work meant his foot took longer to heal as he was walking around a lot, but he’s just glad he’s able to work at all.
Arrowsmith commended David’s determination, saying:
David has worked really hard to recover after his injury and has done amazingly well.
He’s the first master cobbler I’ve ever met, so it’s really nice to hear that he’s back doing what he loves to do.
David definitely deserves a big thumbs up – or rather, toes up – for the way he dealt with the accident!
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