Surgeons at Winston-Salem's Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center have reattached the severed arm of a 13-year-old boy who was hurt in a utility-terrain vehicle accident.
The incident happened Jan. 18 in Clemmons — six surgeries ago — when the side-by-side vehicle that's larger than an all-terrain vehicle turned over in the snow. The roll bar, a safety feature, landed on driver Tyler Hughes' left arm and severed it above the elbow.
“Tyler’s friends started screaming that he had broken his arm,” his mother, Crystal Hughes, said in a release from the hospital. “I got to him as fast as I could and I knew this wasn’t just a broken arm. The lower part of his arm was too far away from his body.”
Tyler's heavy jacket hid the blood loss and severity of his injury from him. His mom wrapped her scarf around the arm as a makeshift tourniquet while waiting for emergency medical crews.
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Surgeons reattached the arm in a 9 1/2-hour procedure.
Even though Tyler's arm was mangled, the major nerve supply to it was intact, said Dr. Matthew Goldman, an assistant professor of vascular surgery at Wake Forest Baptist. That allowed Goldman's team to reconstruct the blood supply as orthopedic surgeons worked on the broken bones.
“An injury like Tyler’s can be devastating and it often can take years for the nerves to grow back and regenerate,” Goldman said in the release. “At this point, we are still uncertain as to what his long-term functional outcome will be; however, by all of our teams acting quickly, we were able to give him the potential to have a functional arm in the future.”
After more surgeries, the rising high school freshman has regained the ability to grip items such as door handles and is regaining increased sensation in the arm as he continues therapy.
Crystal Hughes, who has no medical training, said the episode illustrates the need to stop bleeding quickly following an accident.
“I’ll never forget Dr. Goldman walking out and telling our family that not only had they saved my son’s life, they also were able to save his arm,” she said. “They did it, it’s on there, and it’s working."