China / Society

'Miracle' surgery saves man's fingers after 11-hour flight

By Jiang Wei ( Updated: 2015-11-16 14:46

A Chinese man whose fingers were partially severed while he was installing a machine in Ethiopia flew back to China and had them reattached 25 hours after the accident, a miracle that even astonished his doctor, the Yangtze Evening News reported.

The 56-year-old technician, surnamed Chen, was in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, to help a local textile factory install and test machinery sold by his employer.

The accident happened while he and local workers were installing the machine which weighed six to seven tons. "Maybe there was a misunderstanding of my words," Chen said. "When I said OK, workers on one side let go of the machine while workers on the other side didn't, so the machine tilted."

He stretched out his right hand to support the machine, but it was crushed. He didn't feel any pain at first but when he took off his glove he found that his ring finger and little finger were only linked to the palm of his hand by some tendon and skin.

Doctors at a local hospital said they would try their best but couldn't promise success and there was a huge possibility his fingers would have to be amputated.

The boss of the textile factory, a Chinese who has lived in Ethiopia for a dozen years and is familiar with local medical standards, suggested he return to China for surgery where his chances of keeping the fingers were greater.

Chen bought a ticket bound for Shanghai and after an hour's delay followed by an 11-hour flight he arrived at Shanghai Pudong International Airport where colleagues were waiting.

He was taken to Ruihua Affiliated Hospital of Soochow University in his hometown of Suzhou in East China's Jiangsu province and his two damaged fingers were reattached after a more than four-hour operation.

When doctor Xiong Sheng heard that the patient had just returned from Africa, the director of hand surgery was astonished.

"Twenty-five hours had passed since his fingers were crushed, long past the golden time of six to eight hours to reattach a finger," Xiong said. "Besides, the high temperature in Ethiopia also made the chances small for the damaged fingers to survive."

Xiong admitted that he had no idea whether the surgery would work.

Fortunately, the fingers didn't deteriorate and after being reattached could move and blood vessels were reconnected.

Chen returned to hospital on Thursday, more than two months after his nightmare accident, for another operation. A steel pin, planted in his fingers during the earlier surgery, was removed and it's believed he will recover shortly.



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