Rare surgery puts toe on hand

A man with a severed thumb walked into a San Francisco hospital on Wednesday. By nightfall, his thumb had been replaced, but he’ll leave the hospital on nine toes.

Toe-to-thumb surgery is nothing new — a successful operation was reported in 1969 — but for 27-year-old Garrett La Fever, asking plastic surgeons to remove his big right toe and stitch it onto his right hand was a big and “very difficult” decision, said his mother.

“It’s going to be difficult for him for a while,” Kathy La Fever said Wednesday afternoon, after her son’s six-hour operation. “His left side will probably become pretty strong.”

The cabinet maker’s right thumb was sawed off by a tablesaw in April while he worked, his mother said. It was replaced by surgeons, but it never fully recovered, preventing the right-hander from returning to work.

The surgeons who attached La Fever’s right toe to his right hand Wednesday said the surgery at St. Mary’s Medical Center “went great.” Dr. Scott Hansen sliced off the toe, while Dr. Charles Lee prepared the hand. The cost was covered by worker’s compensation.

“We had to reconnect his bones and his tendons and his nerves,” Hansen said. “We’ll keep them immobile in a splint for upwards of four weeks.”

Lee said more than half of a hand’s function relies on the thumb, and that he expects La Fever’s new appendage to become “80 percent functional.”

“It looks like a thumb,” Lee said. “It’s a little bigger, but certainly it has a nail, and it’s got the joint and the tendons.”

Plastic surgery such as that performed on La Fever is widely misunderstood, Lee said.

“People watch [‘Nip/Tuck’] and all these ‘90210’ shows, but real plastic surgery is more than just cosmetic surgery,” he said. “Plastic surgery has evolved now to where we can basically fix any part of the human body.”

jupton@examiner.com

Bay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Private vehicles were banned from much of Market Street in January 2020, causing bike ridership on the street to increase by 25 percent and transit efficiency by as much as 12 percent. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFMTA board approves new Better Market Street legislation

Advocates say traffic safety improvements don’t go far enough to make up for lost bikeway

San Francisco City Hall is lit in gold and amber to remember victims as part of a national Memorial to Lives Lost to COVID-19 on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
San Francisco joins national COVID memorial ceremony

San Francisco took part Tuesday in the first national Memorial to Lives… Continue reading

The S.F. Police Department has canceled discretionary days off and will have extra officers on duty for Inauguration Day, chief Bill Scott said Tuesday. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
SF ‘prepared for anything’ ahead of inauguration, but no protests expected

Authorities boosting police staffing, security at City Hall

Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, said Tuesday that The City received only a fraction of the COVID vaccine doses it requested this week. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Unpredictable supplies leave SF running low on COVID vaccine

Reported reactions to Moderna shots prompt hold on 8,000 doses

The T Third Street train resumes service on Saturday, joined by a new express route between Bayview-Hunters Point and downtown.<ins> (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Bayview-Hunters Point residents get first direct express bus to downtown

New Muni route to launch alongside the return of the T-Third train

Most Read