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Thumb Replacement Surgery

November 9, 2012, 6:06 PM by Casey Wonnenberg

Thumb Replacement Surgery

The thumb is the most important part of your hand. And when a KELOLAND woman lost hers, doctors found a solution on another part of her hand.

Roma Brown recently picked up a bottle with her right thumb for the first time in almost a year.

"I couldn't do my own hair. I can't put on makeup. I had a problem buttoning my pants," Brown said.

You see, the Sioux City woman lost her thumb in a workplace accident last December when she was helping a maintenance worker put in a door stop.

"He was drilling holes, and I was on the outside holding bolts in the holes that were already made so he wouldn't redo the same hole. I had a glove on, and the drill bit came through and caught my glove, and there it went," Brown said.

Since then, Brown has struggled to do everyday, essential activities without a thumb.

"A thumb is very important," Brown said.

That's why Sioux Falls Dr. Blake Curd recommended replacing her thumb with her index finger.

"It doesn't require any nerve regeneration or any vessels to heal because we use the native blood vessels and nerves in the finger and just transfer the finger itself into a position so that can be utilized," Orthopedic Institute Dr. Blake Curd said.

Still Brown worried that if the surgery went wrong, she would be without not only her thumb, but also her index finger.

"I actually had a date for the surgery before September came, but I cancelled it. It was kind of scary," Brown said.

As you can likely guess, this surgery is pretty rare. Dr. Curd has done one other surgery like this in the past decade.

"There are also other options. Toe-to-hand transfer, which is a microvascular surgery, is also an option," Curd said.

"I don't know how they did it. They made the finger look like a thumb," Brown said.

Just more than a month after the surgery, Dr. Curd is optimistic about Brown's progress.  But it will be a year before she sees the full results.

"All we can do is wait and see how it heals up and get the therapy going. It's going to be better than no thumb, that much I do know," Brown said.

Brown has a splint on her hand as her new thumb heals. She is also working with a hand therapist for the next six months to improve use of the new thumb.

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