Local News
4:30 pm
Fri May 16, 2014

Teenager's Arm Reattached At Mass. General

Brett Bouchard
Credit Ibby Caputo / WGBH News

A teenage boy whose severed arm was reattached by surgeons continues to recover tonight at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Seventeen-year-old Brett Bouchard sits in his hospital room with a view of the Charles River out his window.

"Very big Boston supporter after the whole incident," he said.

It’s been three weeks since Bouchard severed his arm while cleaning an industrial pasta maker at the restaurant where he worked in upstate New York. The arm was cut midway between the elbow and wrist.

"Every day I’m feeling a little better," he said. "Getting there. I’m going to get through this though."

After the accident, Bouchard, who had the foresight to tie a tourniquet around his upper arm, was flown to Mass. General , where doctors started the process of saving his arm. Plastic reconstruction surgeon Curtis Cetrulo recalls weighing the benefits and the risks of the procedure.

"Do we put this kid's life at risk to save his dominant right hand?" Cetrulo said. "At the same time, he’s a young, 17-year-old kid, and we think that we have the tools to do it successfully and safely, and that’s why we elected to proceed."

During a complex, 10-hour-operation, doctors were able to reattach his arm. Surgeon Kyle Eberlin says that a team of surgeons used vein grafts from his legs, which they connected with stitches under a microscope to reestablish blood flow to the hand.

"It’s essentially a bypass procedure, like people get for their legs, if they have vascular surgery, or for their hearts if they have cardiac surgery," Eberlin said.

Over the next few weeks, Bouchard needed two more operations to reconstruct the nerves in his arms, and to transplant tissue to cover the wound. These aren’t new techniques, his doctors said, but they are rarely done together. Bouchard can’t feel anything in his hand yet, but doctors say they are hopeful that after another surgery, he will.

"We hope he is going to have a nice, subtle, sensate hand, and will be able, depended on how much functional muscle we can get, and a good excursion of his tendons, we think he will do pretty well," Eberlin said.

That sounds good to Bouchard, who loves to hunt, fish and spend time outdoors. He says this experience has changed his life.

"It’s definitely given me a different outlook on life," he said. "It’s definitely making me appreciate a lot more."

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