A 15-year-old boy who lost an arm when a boulder rolled over it near Emerald Bay beach in Laguna Beach last month had it reattached following seven surgeries and was discharged from UC Irvine Medical Center Thursday.
As paramedics were rushing him to the hospital July 18, a group of surgeons were being summoned, trauma surgeon Sebastian Schubl said.
UCI has the only type of hospital in the area with the necessary expertise to quickly respond to an amputation, Schubl said.
“We’re really the only ones capable of handling these types of devastating injuries,” Schubl told City News Service. “We had him upstairs within minutes. Seven hours later we had everything connected back.”
The surgical team also included orthopedic surgeon James Learned, plastic surgeon Wendy Ng, vascular surgeon Mark Smith, anesthesiologist Katherine McCartney and Dr. Michael Lekawa, the chief of trauma services.
“The four of us operated for about seven hours and we were able to reattach the limb,” Schubl said.
Most of the original team participated in seven total surgeries, Schubl said.
“Another (surgery) was 13 hours long,” Schubl said.
Another one was a “two-hour case to clean things up,” Schubl said.
Now the teen will turn his focus to in-patient rehabilitation and then outpatient rehabilitation, Schubl said.
“It’s going to be a slow, steady process,” Schubl said. “We don’t know how much function he will have in his hand, but he has some sensation, which is a good sign, a good start.”
Having much the same team on each surgery was crucial, Schubl said.
“That got us the outcome, the same core group of surgeons were there for every one of his operations, so we were very familiar with the injury and the patient,” Schubl said.
Perhaps the most critical part of the patient’s success was owed to his own strength, Schubl said.
“This is one of the strongest, most impressive young men I’ve ever met,” Schubl said. “He is an unbelievable kid, and I think his family support, his own strength of character, had more to do with how well he’s done than anything else. He is an unbelievable man, and that’s going to help him have a great outcome.”
The teen’s parents were “at his bedside every day for 22 days straight,” Schubl said.
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