25 February 2009

Leeches save surfer's hand

Surgeons who used leeches to reattach the severed hand of an Australian surfer mauled by a great white shark have hailed the operation as a "minor miracle".

Surgeons who used leeches to reattach the severed hand of an Australian surfer mauled by a great white shark on Sydney's Bondi Beach Tuesday hailed the operation as a "minor miracle."

Glenn Orgias, 33, almost lost his hand after being savaged by a 2.5 metre (8.2 foot) great white in the surf off Bondi on 12 February - the second shark attack in Sydney in as many days.

Orgias was rushed to hospital with his hand hanging by a three-centimetre (1.2 inch) piece of skin, and plastic surgeon Kevin Ho said he had held little hope it could be reattached.

"However... given his general health and the speed of which he was rushed into the operating theatre, and also the extent of his injuries, made it a possibility that we could reattach the hand," he told reporters.

Using leeches, Ho said, doctors were able to restore blood flow to the injured hand, and he was hopeful Orgias would regain some of its use.

Hope for a working hand
"I thought the hopes for the hand were close to zero, but I have hope in time that Glenn will have a working hand," he said.

"We're far from out of the woods but I think for him to make it to this stage is a minor miracle, and a reflection of how healthy and physically well he is."

Orgias thanked a French surfer who came to his rescue by applying a tourniquet, saying he believed it had saved his life.

It was believed to be the first attack in the city's waters by a great white, a species made famous by Steven Spielberg's horror film "Jaws". Authorities said 21 great whites had been caught in nets off Sydney, but just two were caught off Bondi in the past three years.

While shark attacks are not uncommon off Australia's vast coastline, experts said no one had been bitten by a shark in Sydney Harbour for more than a decade, and that the last fatal attack was in 1963.

Over the past two centuries, Australia has recorded 194 deaths through shark attacks. Researchers point out endlessly that more people die from bee stings and lightning strikes.

(Sapa-AFP, February 2009)


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.