Every day, lives are saved through surgery. This week the Herald takes a look at some of our country's most extraordinary operations - from a thumb being replaced with part of a toe, to part of a bike being removed from young girl's groin. Health reporter Emma Russell reports on some of the remarkable stories.

Peter Carter never expected to wake up from surgery with his dismantled thumb sewn onto his groin.

The Auckland carpenter accidentally sliced off his left thumb with a saw while working on a piece of furniture.

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"I started cutting this little bit of wood and the saw kicked back. I didn't realise at the time but it had taken my whole thumb off," Carter told the Herald.

He was rushed to hospital by his elderly auntie and uncle, who found the sliced-off thumb at end of the driveway where Carter had been working.

Surgeons examined an X-ray of his thumb and suggested chopping off one of his toes to replace his missing thumb. However, he didn't meet the criteria for that procedure so they opted for a different option.

"They picked me up for surgery the next morning and I wasn't really told a lot about what they were going to do to salvage my thumb."

Five hours later, he woke up from an operation like no other.

"I got the fright of my life when I woke up and I went to scratch my face but couldn't because my thumb was attached just to the left of my man products," Carter said.

"It's one of those things your brain just can't comprehend. No one told me that's what was happening so I was asked the doctor what's going on."

According to the surgeon, the groin was the best place for a skin graft.

Peter's thumb grows pubic hair:
Peter's thumb grows pubic hair: "It's the gift that keeps on giving." Photo / Michael Craig

The procedure - known as pedicled groin flap - involved cutting a rectangular piece of skin from a portion of his groin and using it to cover the top of his remaining thumb.

Carter's thumb was then sewn in place on his groin and it stayed there for about a month until the tissue attached itself to his thumb. Then doctors remove the stitches to separate the thumb.

"I was a bit of a novelty, really. As the surgery hadn't been done in a long time, every new nurse would be turning up asking to see it."

Carter spent three weeks in hospital and one week resting at home before his stitches were removed.

"I was just living in a T-shirt with the side cut out of it for about a month because I couldn't wear anything else."

He said although his half thumb had healed, it now grows pubic hair.


"It's the gift that just keeps giving."