Entries in Amputation (8)


Firefighter Loses Leg to Bacteria, Vows to Get Back to Work

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Ralphie Lettieri lost a leg to flesh eating bacteria, but he hasn’t lost his positive attitude.

“I feel like I’m a  miracle” Lettieri, 26, told ABC News’ New York affiliate WABC.

Lettieri likely contracted the virus when he took a swim in a pond after getting poison ivy. The flesh eating bacteria present in the pond was able to enter his body through the open sores caused by the poison ivy. Once there it proceeded to wreak havoc, causing his organs to shut down and putting him in a coma within days.

Dr. Louis Riina told WABC Lettieri was “as close to death as any man could be” when surgeons at Nassau University Medical Center made the difficult decision to amputate his left leg.

Now, nearly two months later, Ralphie Lettieri is finally ready to return home to his fiance and 3-year-old son. And although Lettieri still has months of physical therapy ahead of him, he hopes that once he gets a new leg, he’ll be able to resume his duties as a volunteer firefighter at the East Patchogue fire department, where he is a lieutenant.

“With all the technology and the prosthetics I can do just what I did before. I can be like anybody else”

To help Ralphie Lettieri with his medical costs you can make a donation:

The Help Ralphie Fund
c/o A. Citarella, Chief
510 Oakdale Avenue
East Patchogue, NY 11772

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Diabetic Sues Doctor After Penis Amputation

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(MIAMI) -- A man who elected to have a penile implant in a Florida hospital is now suing his doctor after a post-surgical infection resulted in the amputation of his organ.

Enrique Milla, 65, who was reportedly deported from the United States last year back to his native Peru, has been testifying in court via Skype that the medical procedure robbed him of his dignity and manhood.

In a medical malpractice trial that began this week, Milla claims that his doctors should have known that he was not a good candidate for the procedure because of his diabetes and high blood pressure.

"This has been devastating, painful and embarrassing," said Milla's attorney, Spencer Aronfeld of Coral Gables, according to ABC's affiliate WPLG.

Milla alleges that his anesthesiologist Dr. Laurentiu Boeru "failed to evaluate properly the risks of this procedure." He first filed the lawsuit in 2009, naming Boeru and Dr. Paul Perito, the urologist who performed the surgery.

According to the Miami Herald, which obtained records that are not publicly available, Perito settled the case out of court.

Penile implant surgery is most commonly performed after all other treatments for erectile dysfunction have failed. It is also used to treat some cases of Peyronie's disease, a condition that causes scarring inside the penis, leading to bent, painful erections.

Implant surgery comes with a risk of infection, which can occur at any time after surgery -- in rare cases, even years later, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Milla suffered from a number of medical conditions, including erectile dysfunction, according to court records. Milla, who had lived in Miami for 40 years working in a medical supply business, received the surgery in 2007 at Coral Gables Hospital. But two weeks after the operation, Milla developed an infection that eventually turned to gangrene. Amputation of his penis was necessary to save his life, according to his lawyer, who alleges Boeru didn't exercise proper care after the surgery.

"Post-operative period is about anywhere between six to 24 hours after surgery. It does not include either days or months," testified Boeru.

"This is an infection that occurred in this gentleman because he didn't do what he was supposed to do post-operatively nine days after the surgery," Boeru's lawyer Jay Chimpoulis, told WPLG.

He suggested that Milla ignored medical instructions to avoid sex and developed a fecal infection.

"There are any number of ways he could've gotten that. None of them had anything to do with [Boeru]," Chimpoulis said.

Dr. Pravin Rao, director of reproductive medicine and surgery at the Johns Hopkins Brady Urological Institute, said penile implants, called prostheses, are safe for patients who are in good health -- even those with diabetes, as long as the disease is "controlled." The risk rate is lower than three percent, according to Rao, who did not treat Milla.

Penile implants are among a "long algorithm of options" for those with erectile dysfunction, according to Rao. Urologists start with pills like Viagra -- the least invasive approach -- to vacuum erection devices and injection therapy. But sometimes those treatments fail because of the quality of the tissue in the penis or poor blood flow. The most common reason for ED is chronic disease that affects the vessels in the penis -- most often diabetes, hypertension, smoking or high cholesterol. Nerve damage, caused by spinal cord injuries, diabetes or radical prostate cancer surgery, can also trigger ED.

A poor candidate for a prosthesis is someone who is not in overall good health and may be at risk under anesthesia or not be able to withstand the blood loss of surgery.

"The number-one concern is infection, and that's why we make sure their overall health and immune status are good and their diabetes is under control," said Rao.

When infection does occur, the prosthesis must be immediately removed to clear the infection.

The prosthesis is an inflatable device that is inserted in the two tubes of the penis. The balloons can be filled up with fluid, creating an erection. A small pump is placed in the scrotum with a reservoir of fluid that connects to the tubing.

"When we first place it, we don't have it activated to create a full erection," said Rao. "Then after letting it heal for six weeks, [the patient] comes in and we teach them how to use the pump by squeezing it."

Patients are told not to have sex during that recuperative period.

Rao said that penile implants are "very successful and infection is not the norm."

Some studies of patients with diabetes and those without the disease had the same rate of infection. "But," he said, "we have to be prudent about picking the patient."
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Actor, Iraq Vet Lobby for Increased Biomedical Research Support

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Just as wounded soldiers are returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan with amputations, brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder, a new survey finds flagging public support for biomedical research needed to help them recover.

Two people who can testify to the importance of such research are CSI actor Robert David Hall, and Lt. Col. Tim Karcher of the U.S. Army.  Both men are double amputees.  On Thursday, they helped launch an education and media campaign to raise support and awareness for basic biomedical research to help wounded veterans and civilians.

“I have arguably $80,000 to $100,000 worth of legs on right now,” Karcher told ABC’s Top Line Thursday, showing off his new prosthetics beneath a pair of khaki shorts.

“It’s a little tougher if you’re a civilian,” quipped Hall, “I only have $30,000 worth of legs on me.”

It was a good-natured exchange with a serious message.  Karcher lost both his legs in Afghanistan in 2009.  Since then he says he has seen and experienced huge progress in the biomedical and prosthetics fields.

Karcher said he is not worried about declining support for soldiers like himself.

“There’s no other nation in the world that would put the kind of investment in their wounded soldiers like our nation does,” he said.

But Hall, a civilian, said a survey released last week found waning public opinion on basic biomedical research.  The survey, from Zogby International, reported support among Americans dropped to 55.7 percent, down from more than 70 percent during the Vietnam era.

“I can’t tell you how important it is to keep the ball rolling.  It’s one of the reasons Tim and I are here, is to make sure that funding is maintained,” said Hall.

The actor said while he realizes it is a tough time economically for Congress, the country must not let down service members.  Especially since military research for veterans often transfers over to civilians.

Karcher’s new legs are the latest prosthetic advancement -- they were approved for above-the-knee amputees less than four months ago, and Karcher was the first to receive them.  The legs have a five-day battery life -- a significant improvement from the 36 to 40 hours in the previous version.  Karcher also said they have running and stair-climbing functions, and have a more natural gait.

“I have the old version,” said Hall, pulling up his pant leg to give a side-by-side comparison of the prosthetic legs.  “And this is the cooler new one,” he added, patting Karcher on the knee.

Karcher said a joint project between the Department of Defense and a private company is working on “combat-capable” legs.  Karcher’s legs are one of the first generations of such prosthetics.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Colorado Logger Pinned by Trailer Amputates Own Toes

BananaStock/Thinkstock(MONTROSE, Colo.) -- A 61-year-old Colorado logger who found himself trapped beneath a trailer that pinned his right foot, did the unthinkable: he amputated three of his toes to free himself.

Jon Hutt had driven his logging truck into a remote part of western Colorado near the town of Montrose on Aug. 19.  He was attempting to retrieve a pile of fallen Aspen trees to cut up for winter firewood when something went terribly wrong.  Six tons of machinery fell off of the truck and pinned him.

"The trailer started to slide.  It pinned my right foot right in there," Hutt told ABC News as he pointed to his foot with a crutch.  "When I tried to move it, the pain would get worse."

Hutt was trapped, completely alone, and in unimaginable pain.  With no cellphone service nor help, and after 30 minutes with no other choice, Hutt took out his three-inch pocketknife and began amputating his toes.

Hutt later drove to a parking lot by the nearby Ridgway Dam, where an ambulance arrived to take him to Montrose Memorial Hospital, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reported.

Hutt is hardly the first person to resort to self-amputation when facing their own mortality.  Last summer Jonathan Metz was in his Connecticut basement when his left arm became stuck behind a furnace he was repairing.

After being trapped for 12 hours, Metz, 31, said that it became clear what he needed to do once he could smell the flesh of his crushed arm beginning to rot: he amputated his arm with the blade of a power saw.

Doctors said that the decisions that Metz made, particularly to cut away at the dead tissue which released toxins that were circulating through his body, are what ultimately saved his life.

And who could forget Aron Ralston?  His amputation of his own arm inside a desolate Utah canyon was the inspiration for Danny Boyle's 2010 Oscar-nominated film 127 Hours starring James Franco. While mountaineering in Blue John Canyon, Utah, Ralston became trapped when a boulder dislodged and pinned him next to a canyon wall.  After being trapped for six days, Ralston finally cut off his right arm to free himself -- an ordeal that took an hour and was performed with his two-inch knife.

As for Hutt, it has now been two weeks since he amputated his own toes, and he says he is still in pain.  But he does offer advice for those who find themselves in similarly horrific situations.

"I think it's real important to keep your head and not just panic and start screaming," he said.  "That ain't going to do you any good, you need to start figuring the way to get out of the situation like that.  And do whatever it takes to do it."

The police retrieved his severed toes but unfortunately doctors were not able to save them, as they were far too mangled to be reattached.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Trial Begins in Amputated Penis Case

Comstock/Thinkstock(SHELBY COUNTY, Ky.) -- Phillip Seaton went to the hospital in October 2007 for a routine circumcision to treat inflammation but left the operating room without a penis.

Seaton sued his surgeon, Dr. John Patterson, for removing his penis without his permission, and the trial got under way Monday in Shelby County (Kentucky) Circuit Court. Seaton and his wife, Deborah, seek damages for "loss of service, love and affection."

Patterson said he found cancer while performing the routine circumcision, and Patterson's defense attorney, Clay Robinson, said the surgeon had no other options but to remove the penis immediately, according to court documents.

Judge Charles Hickman instructed both lawyers to refrain from commenting on the case because it is ongoing.

Despite the alleged seriousness of Seaton's penile cancer, experts contacted by ABC News said that the doctor needed consent from the patient before surgically removing his sex organ.

"I think the doctor made a big mistake, and will not win the case," said Dr. David Crawford, a professor of surgery at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.

Partial penectomy, or a partial removal of the penis, Mohs surgery, a precise surgery used to remove several types of skin cancer, laser and radiation therapies were all options when treating penile cancer, said Crawford.

Because the surgeon had said the cancer was so severe, Robinson told the courtroom that Patterson could treat it only by surgically removing the organ.

Nevertheless, "a surgical consent is needed to do this," said Dr. Glenn Bubley, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. "This is the standard of care. There would be no reason to breach standard of care in this case."

Seaton also sued Louisville's Jewish Hospital, where the surgery was performed. The hospital settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Young Gymnast Tumbles on One Leg after Overcoming Cancer

Ryan McVay/Thinkstock(NORTHFIELD, Minn.) -- Adam Starr stepped into the Northfield Gymnastics Club last week; it had been two years since he last tumbled. Gymnastics skills aren't like riding a bike.

Any gymnast would be rusty after two years of no physical preparation. It takes enhanced muscle memory, daily practice and sheer mental strength to convince the mind to tumble.

It takes courage for any gymnast to jump into the air and flip the human body backward in unnatural ways, fully knowing the danger that waits on the ground if one small mistake is made.

But Starr's situation was different. This time he was attempting his first gymnastics trick with only his left leg.

Starr started gymnastics at the age of three and continued practicing as a teenager. His mother, Leslie Starr, said he was always a "monkey" climbing around their home. His father, Garrett Starr, said that his son was always an acrobat.

The 21-year-old senior at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn,. lost his leg to cancer in 2009. Being a lifelong gymnast, captain of his high school track team and an All-American diver, losing one a leg was devastating.

Starr was born with a rare condition called Lymphedema, which causes swelling in limbs. In this case, Starr always had swelling issues with his leg that would come and go, but he was still able to compete in athletics.

During his freshman year, Starr went to the doctor for swelling and a bruise on his foot that would not go away. The doctor called him on Valentine's Day in his college dorm room and told him he had a form of low-grade cancer, but it still required amputation of his leg.

The doctor gave Starr two choices for his surgery: either to have his below-the-knee amputation in just one month over spring break or to wait until his summer break. Starr chose to go ahead and have his surgery over spring break -- a decision his parents agreed with, but they were worried for their son.

Once the doctors did the surgery, they found that Starr actually had a very aggressive and rapidly growing cancer that had spread -- stage four angiosarcoma, which has a very high mortality rate.

His mother said they were shocked by the news, but her multi-talented son, who is also a guitarist, kept them grounded after the devastating diagnosis.

Two days later, Starr went through another amputation, this time above the knee to remove the aggressive cancer that had spread. He said it was odd to see where his leg should have been after the amputation.

Starr took the spring semester off from college and for the next seven months he endured a rigorous schedule of chemotherapy.

Starr was fitted with a prosthetic leg and learned to walk with his new body. He said the most difficult part was building up his endurance to walk long distances.

Starr said one thing that pulled him through his cancer was his desire to become a doctor. He is a pre-med student and will be applying to medical school after he graduates next year. He is considering the field of physical medicine and rehabilitation after going through his illness.

Starr spent the last two years rehabilitating, and just last week he decided to go back to the gym to see if he could still tumble.

Starr walked into the gym with a couple of friends and a camera, with a goal in mind of completing a back tuck.

To Starr's surprise, he could still land a back tuck and began attempting other gymnastics tricks that were also successful.

Starr posted the tumbling video online for his family and friends to see. The video became a viral sensation online with hundreds of thousands views. Messages came pouring into Starr's inbox from all over the country, some from amputees who were inspired by what Starr could do.

Starr says his return to the gym serves as an affirmation that he can achieve his goals and be successful.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


First Double Leg Transplant Performed in Spain

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(VALENCIA, Spain) -- In what could turn out to be a major breakthrough for limb amputees, Spanish surgeons have performed the first double-leg transplant on a man who had lost both legs above the knees in an accident.

According to Dr. Pedro Cavadas of La Fe Hospital in Valencia, doctors will find out before long if the legs are rejected.  Otherwise, it will take a month until they know if the transplant was successful.

Cavadas said that after a suitable cadaver donor was found, his team performed the surgery last Sunday on the unidentified patient.  It took 14 hours to connect bones, nerves and tissues.

Prior to the decision to perform a double leg transplant, doctors tried fitting the patient with artificial legs but the procedure didn't take because the man didn't have enough of his own limbs to accommodate the prostheses.

Cavadas has had experience with delicate transplants before, having performed Spain's first face transplant, which included the first new tongue and jaw given to any patient in the world.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Teen May Lose Hand to Rare, Flesh-Eating Fish Tank Bacteria

Courtesy Amy Cox(OAK HILLS, Calif.) -- What started as a small scrape from the corner of the family's fish tank five years ago may end in the amputation of a champion teen gynmast's hand.

Hannele Cox, 13, from Oak Hills, California has battled a rare, flesh-eating infection she contracted from the tank when she was 8 and doctors have been unable to stop it from spreading.  The bacteria has now spread to the bones of her right hand.

"I can't use that hand at all.  I'm in pain all the time," says Cox.

Over the years, the infection has forced Cox to quit sports like volleyball and gymnastics, despite having won an American Athletic Union gymnastics championship.  The infection has become so severe that the eighth grader has been unable to write or do school work because her dominant hand is constantly shaking with pain.

Mycobacterium marinum, sometimes referred to as fish tank granuloma, usually eats away at only the surface of the skin.  But in Cox's case it has infected several bones in her right hand, a development which could mean amputation of her right hand.

Doctors at the Loma Linda Medical Center and UCLA Medical Center have tried multiple types of antibiotics and two surgeries to remove infected tissue, but the bacteria seems to have become drug-resistant.  Fearing she may be infected with a "superbug" strain of the bacteria, the Cox family is seeking further treatment for her with infectious disease experts at Denver, Colorado's National Jewish Health medical center next week.

"I'm afraid they won't be able to fix it," the teen girl says of her upcoming trip to Denver.  "I'm afraid they'll mess up again and I'll go through something I didn't have to, like with the past treatments."

Her mother is also looking ahead to the Denver trip with concern.

"When I found out that it had spread to her bones, I think that's the hardest I've cried in this whole thing.  I just lost it," says the teen's mom, Amy Cox.  "After years of doctors not taking this seriously, this trip [to Denver] is our last hope."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio