A carpenter whose hand was severed in a horror accident today told how he hoped to return to work after having it reattached in 17 hours of surgery.
Anthony Lelliott, 46, virtually amputated his left hand with an electric “chop saw” as he fitted flooring in a house in Weybridge on May 30.
The circular blade sliced through his wrist, and across his palm as he tried to pull his hand clear, leaving it attached by a sliver of skin and bone.
Mr Lelliott said there was “blood spurting out everywhere” and described the pain as “20 out of 10”. He managed to wrap his hand in his shirt while his apprentice called 999. He was taken to St George’s hospital, Tooting, the specialist hand unit for the South-East. Consultant plastic surgeon Roger Adlard said it would have been easier to reattach the hand had it been completely severed. He added: “I had seen the photos of the wound and some of the X-rays. The X-rays made it look better than it was. I said to him: ‘We are getting you out of pain. We are taking you straight to theatre.’”
The first operation took 13 hours. Realising he was up against time, Mr Adlard called in fellow plastic surgeon Farida Ali, who specialises in microsurgery. They took veins from Mr Lelliott’s foot and nerves from his forearm, stitching them to severed arteries in his hand using a microscope and tiny needle. They worked through the night and finished at 9am.
Mr Adlard said: “His detached fingers were getting warm and left too long without blood they would rapidly decompose and be impossible to reattach.
“I’ve done maybe three or four hand amputations in my lifetime — most units will see one or two every year. I’d say it’s probably the most complex amputation I’ve had to deal with. There are many surgeons who, once they’d seen that level of injury, would think it was unsalvageable.”
He added: “There was a moment when I was deliberating whether I was risking Anthony’s life by trying to do something heroic. He was going to have a very long anaesthetic and that is not good for him either.”
Colleagues performed a second operation a week later to remove Mr Lelliott’s middle finger, which was decaying. There was also concern about the skin on the palm of his hand, so it was surgically attached to skin in his groin for a fortnight to help it to regrow. The hand was then cut free.
Operations to re-attach hands are attempted in about half of cases.
Mr Lelliott, of Walton-on-Thames, has been told it will take a year to recover enough strength in his hand to be able to consider returning to work. He thanked the paramedics and hospital staff for “fantastic” care. “To be honest, I was expecting to wake up without a hand,” he said. “I think everyone has exceeded themselves.”
Hand therapist Millie Chu said: “Rehabilitation can be challenging but Anthony has shown great courage and motivation by already demonstrating great improvements.”