Severed thumb on ice for hours

By Joanne Carroll

File photo / Sarah Ivey
File photo / Sarah Ivey

A man who severed part of his thumb in machinery had to wait eight hours for a hand specialist, who then told him it was too late to reattach it.

Leonard Bloksberg has lodged a formal complaint against Auckland City Hospital with the Health Board and the Health and Disability Commissioner.

The hospital says surgeons could not have reattached the piece of his finger as it was soft tissue, with no muscle or bone.

However, Bloksberg was angry the surgeon was not given a choice because of the delays.

As a biomedical research scientist who has done microsurgery and also makes award-winning jewellery, he needs his hands.

He injured the hand in an accident at 7.30am on March 15. "I stopped to help someone and when I was putting away the winch on my 4WD I wound my hand into the mechanism and the full force of a 9500kg winch crushed my hand."

He reversed the mechanism and found part of his thumb missing. "I asked my daughter to go back to the truck to get my glove which had the other end of my finger inside. When she brought the glove, the finger rolled out," he said.

St John Ambulance arrived immediately as they were 200m from a station. The finger was put on ice and he was at Auckland City Hospital by 8am.

"I was given pain relief and was visited about 10 times by many people. I was told I needed to be transferred to a specialist in Middlemore but was fobbed off for six hours.

"At 3.30pm, the doctor said, 'We needed to see you within four hours to be able to reattach the finger. Where is it?' I pointed to the ice bucket and he found my finger floating in water from the ice put in at 8am," he said.

St John regional operations manager Murray Holt said Auckland City Hospital requested a transfer at 10.36am but Bloksberg wasn't picked up until 1.36pm. "The hospital was advised twice there would be a delay because our services were extremely busy. We weren't advised it was a high priority."

Christchurch hand surgeon Barnaby Nye said it was possible to reattach soft tissue after crushing injuries. "You can reattach tissue up to 12 hours later but the tissue has to be carefully preserved."

The surgeon reconstructed Bloksberg's thumb from skin from the heel of his hand.

Auckland City Hospital Emergency Department's clinical director Tim Parke said, "It appears there was a delay in his arrival at Middlemore Hospital but, in the opinion of the consultant hand surgeon responsible for his care, this did not affect the outcome in any way."

- Herald on Sunday

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