You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Big toe replaces severed thumb following a Kimberley cattle yard accident

ABC News logo ABC News 13/07/2017 Michelle Stanley and Joseph Dunstan
Zac Mitchell says losing his thumb and the five-hour transit was probably the worst pain he had experienced. © Provided by ABC News Zac Mitchell says losing his thumb and the five-hour transit was probably the worst pain he had experienced.

A Kimberley cattle station ringer has had his big toe surgically removed and attached to his hand after his thumb was severed in an accident in the cattle yard.

Zac Mitchell, 20, from Sophie Downs Station, 710 kilometres south-west of Darwin, said he was in the cattle yards when he had a run-in with an animal.

"[I was] running a few [cattle] through and one cleaned me up and kicked my hand up against the rail and ripped my thumb off," Mr Mitchell said.

Mr Mitchell said at first he did not realise what had happened.

"My boss looked down and saw the blood and asked me what was bleeding. I had a look at my hand and figured out pretty quick," he said.

"My boss strapped my hand up, [we] got in the car and started driving back to Halls Creek."

Living in remote northern Western Australia, Mr Mitchell said he was about 150 kilometres away from the nearest town.

Mr Mitchell said following the accident the pain was probably the "worst pain" he had ever experienced.

It took five hours between severing the thumb and arriving in Perth with the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

After two attempts to reattach his thumb in Perth, Mr Mitchell flew back to his home state of New South Wales and Sydney Hospital's specialist hand unit.

While he was hoping to have a prosthesis attached, the surgeons suggested removing his big toe and attaching it to his hand.

"The surgeon explained that [a prosthetic thumb] was pretty pointless and useless in a way, so he talked me into getting my toe put on as sort of my last option."

Plastic surgeon at Sydney Hospital's specialist hand unit, Dr Sean Nicklin, said while there are plenty of other ways to "make a thumb", the big toe is ideal.

"You can connect the nerves and get good sensation, you can get the tendons, you can get the movement. And although it's a bit big, it actually looks more like a thumb than other things that we might do.

"So you just know that it's going to be the best replacement for a thumb."

While attaching toes to hands is not a common form of surgery, Dr Nicklin said he did similar operations approximately every 18 months.

While there is believed to be a relationship between a big toe and balance, Mr Mitchell said it had not affected him too much.

"It's slowed me down a bit, [I've got] a bit of a limp, but no it's not too bad. It's definitely worth it," he said.

"I'd much rather have a thumb than a toe."

Dr Nicklin was impressed by the way Mr Mitchell handled the situation.

"He's really taken it all in his stride, he's coped with a pretty catastrophic injury incredibly well which is incredible for a 20-year-old really," Dr Nicklin said.

Mr Mitchell said while he did not have a great deal of movement at the moment, he was expecting his new thumb to start functioning in the next two to three months.

"It is good news. I'll be able to get back to work and riding bulls and rodeoing," he said.

As a bull rider, Mr Mitchell said he was relieved the incident will not affect his hobby.

He said "half the reason" he chose to attach his big toe to his hand was to get back to rodeoing.

More From ABC News

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon