When 12-year-old Devin Graham came into the emergency room at a Wichita, Kan., hospital with his hand nearly torn off by a rope, surgeons there could only amputate. Calls went out to the big medical centers nearby in Kansas City and more than seven hours away in St. Louis, to see if they could save the hand.
The technical hand surgery requires a team of skilled surgeons, an operating room for hours and equipment — all of which experts worry are getting harder to come by. Even for hospitals with the ability, deciding to amass the resources to work though the night on a risky case is not easy.
A physician at St. Louis Children’s Hospital agreed to try. “I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to help him, and I had some trepidation about asking a family to come all the way here and have it be a major disappointment,” said Dr. Charles Goldfarb, an orthopedic surgeon. “But I also think as a 12-year-old, he has deserved every chance to try and save his hand.”
Looking at pictures, Goldfarb could see Devin’s fingers were cold and white, making it likely that the veins and arteries going to and from them were severed.
Repair was going to be especially tricky, he said, because the rope caused a “wide zone” of trauma across the middle of Devin’s hand, unlike the more precise and typical injury from a sharp object. Children’s hands are also smaller, adding to the challenge.
A 50-50 chance of success. That’s what Devin’s mom, Marla Graham, said she was given. But odds have never been in the Grahams’ favor. Seems they are always flipping a double-sided coin.