‘Human error’ during surgery results in girl losing thumb, having it replaced with her big toe

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Girl has thumb replaced with big toe due to error

An orthopedic surgeon wraps a person’s foot before surgery in a file photo. (Photo by: BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

MELBOURNE, Australia — A 17-year-old Australian girl who dreamed of becoming a professional cricket player had those dreams dashed when a botched surgery resulted in her having her thumb replaced with her big toe.

Britney Thomas had a routine surgery done to repair a fractured thumb. But when she returned several days later in severe pain, they removed a cast and found her thumb had died. She then had to undergo another surgery to replace the dead thumb with her big toe.

In 2018, Thomas fractured her thumb during a game of cricket in Hong Kong, according to the Australian Broadcasting Company.

When she returned home, she went to Latrobe Regional Hospital to get an X-ray. She told the Australian Broadcasting Company that her thumb was “literally split down the middle of my knuckle.”

An orthopedic surgeon did a routine surgery to fix the fracture, according to ABC, and then put a hard-plaster cast to keep it in place.

But five days later, Thomas returned in excruciating pain. Doctors removed her cast and saw that her thumb was purple and blue.

“They pulled the plaster off and it was very dark, looked very dead. The skin was all yucky… it was horrible,” her mother, Leanne Keating, told ABC.

It appeared a tourniquet that was applied during surgery to restrict the bloodflow hadn’t been removed and caused her thumb to die.

Thomas was rushed into emergency surgery, where doctors removed most of her thumb. Doctors also stitched what was left to Thomas’ groin to get bloodflow back to the tissue and restore the nerves.

Because her big toe was removed, doctors created a new one from a piece of her hip bone, according to ABC.

Following the botched procedure, Latrobe Regional Hospital conducted an investigation. They found that a checklist for the surgery showed the removal of the tourniquet was checked despite it not being removed.

Peter Craighead, chief executive of the hospital, called the issue a “human error.”

“The best thing we could do is make sure that what happened to Britney didn’t happen again,” Craighead said. “It’s been gut-wrenching for a lot of our staff. We weren’t the victims, but we were part of the problem.”

This story was reported from Los Angeles.

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