Doctor Puts Fingers Back on Woman's Hand After Being Severed

By: Nick Starling Email
By: Nick Starling Email

NORFOLK, Neb. -- Imagine losing the top part of one of your hands when a blade chops off your five fingers. It's something no one wants to think about, but it happened to one woman. Luckily, there was a doctor in the area that knows exactly how to deal with this injury.

Saying there was a need for hand surgeons in the area, Dr. Tristan Hartzell found his calling at Faith Regional Health Services in Norfolk. Little did he know he would be working on a woman who lost her fingers in an accident.

"Five fingers is kind of an urban legend," said Hartzell.

But on July 24, that happened to one woman who doesn't want to be named. Hartzell says she suffered an industrial accident when a huge blade, used to cut heavy industrial equipment, came down and sliced her hand.

"This was technically the most difficult case I've been part of," said Hartzell.

He says the woman was very sick when she came in. Hartzell says the woman lost well over half the blood in her body and she was in ICU for a few days. The surgery took 17 hours.

"You have to really suck it up, because you're going to be sewing under the microscope for hours and hours and hours so fatigue is a factor, I'm not a marathon racer, but it feels like a marathon when we finish these cases," said Hartzell.

Hartzell's resume is quite impressive, he was part of the team who performed the second face transplant in the world. He went to Duke University for medical school, Harvard for his residency and UCLA for his fellowship.

So how exactly did Hartzell wind up in Norfolk? You can thank his better half.

"My wife is a fourth generation rancher and she doesn't like LA, my kids want to run around barefoot and naked and in LA that is not accepted," said Hartzell.

Hartzell says the woman was only in her 30's and it will take a couple years to recover. She'll have to go to therapy and rehab multiple times a week.

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