A CATTLE worker whose thumb was chopped off in a tussle with a bull has had his big toe surgically removed and attached to his hand in a remarkable medical feat by a Sydney surgeon.
Despite efforts to preserve the thumb by stashing it among cold beers, 20-year-old bull rider Zac Mitchell was told the radical surgery was the best option for returning function to his hand.
The entire thumb was ripped off after a bull kicked Mr Mitchell’s hand and slammed the thumb against a fence during a horror incident on a remote cattle property in northern Western Australia in April.
The bull also scrapped a large patch of skin off Mr Mitchell’s hand and ripped out the thumb’s entire tendon.
“The bull was coming through the yard and it run me over … my boss said ‘is your head or your hand bleeding?’” Mr Mitchell said.
Mr Mitchell picked up his thumb, placed it in a towel and his quick thinking fellow cattle workers stashed the thumb in cool beers in the hope it could be reattached.
Mr Mitchell calmly wrapped his hand in a towel, had some strong painkillers and was driven 130km from the Falls Creek property to get medical attention at Horse Creek.
He was later flown to a hospital in Perth where surgeons tried twice to reattach the thumb but had no success.
Doctors there even suggested the remedy was to surgically sow the bloodied stump on Mr Mitchell’s hand into his groin and leave it there for three weeks.
The surgery was to help skin grow over the stump.
But at the suggestion of his mum Karen, Mr Mitchell opted to return to Sydney.
He was treated at the Sydney / Sydney Eye Hospital’s specialist hand unit where Dr Sean Nicklin first suggested they needed to cut off Mr Mitchell’s toe — much to his dismay.
“I just wanted a plastic one, a prosthetic one and they talked…