'Sci-fi' operation at Houston Methodist Hospital to save man's hand

By Haley Hernandez - Health Reporter

HOUSTON - A couple months ago, Frank Reyes burned his hand so badly, he needed more than a skin graft, he needed new blood supply to the hand, which doctors got by using his abdomen.

At 87 years old, there's not much that can slow down the cattleman.

He was changing a tire when a lowboy trailer fell on his hand.

Nothing was broken but the trailer pressed on his hand like an iron, giving him third-degree burns.

"The hot metal was so hot, it was two o'clock in the afternoon and it stayed there for 20 or 30 minutes in the hot sun," Reyes said.

The procedure is not unheard of, but it is rare. Dr. Anthony Echo, a plastic surgeon from Houston Methodist Hospital in The Medical Center, told KPRC 2 that in order to grow a new blood supply to the hand, sewing it under a flap on Reyes' abdomen was the best option.

"Those two raw surface areas actually stick and over the course of about three weeks the blood vessels actually connect, allowing us to divide the remaining skin on his abdomen and transferring onto his hand," Dr. Echo said.

Under the bandage, you can see the "new" hand taking shape. His index finger was partially amputated but as an active man, he plans to use his fingers and hand again, even if it's with limited mobility. 

"So far I can move it, my new hand, my thumb and the little one," Reyes said. "Next Tuesday they're going to take [the splint] off and we'll know from there what they can do for me."

Echo said it will take months of therapy to get use of his hand back.

Reyes is looking forward to riding horses again with both hands.

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