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A cattle worker has had his big toe cut off to replace his thumb after an accident with a bull left him unable to use his hand fully.
Zac Mitchell, from Northern Western Australia, was run over by the bull, which ripped out the thumb’s entire tendon in the process.
Despite Mitchell’s efforts to preserve the thumb by stashing it among cold beers, surgeons were unable to reattach it.
Instead, they recommended using his big toe as a replacement thumb in transplant surgery.
Mitchell was treated in a specialist hand unit within the South Eastern Sydney Local Health District by Dr Sean Nicklin.
At first, he was not convinced by Dr Nicklin’s suggestion that he should have his toe removed.
“I just wanted a plastic one [thumb], a prosthetic one, and they talked me out of that. But they said we’ve got to cut your toe off … there wasn’t another option,” Mitchell told the Sydney Daily Telegraph.
Mitchell is expected to regain most hand functions with the help of the toe, although he will need a year of rehabilitation to get used to the change.
Surprisingly, he hasn’t found life without a big toe too difficult so far.
“I haven’t fallen over anyway, I don’t think it’s had much of an effect on the balance,” he said.
The surgery to attach the toe took doctors eight hours to complete. They used tendons from Mitchell’s index finger to help attach it and manipulated nerves and blood vessels.
Although doctors have used parts of toes to replace thumbs in the past, Dr Nicklin said the extent of Mitchell’s injury was unusual.
“It’s pretty unusual we do a complete toe, we have taken bits from toe but a complete toe I’ve done only once every couple of years,” he said.