Newswise — MAYWOOD, Il. (April 25, 2014) – In 1984, Bob Seeman was operating a tow truck when his arm got stuck in the cable equipment and was almost completely severed.
In a marathon operation, Dr. Michael Pinzur and other surgeons at Loyola University Medical Center reattached Seeman’s arm.
To mark the 30th anniversary of the remarkably successful surgery, Seeman returned to Loyola to present Pinzur with a plaque that says: “Dr. Michael Pinzur – You’ve made a difference in my life, and God has used you in mighty ways. Thanks for everything. Bob Seeman.”
Seeman, who lives in Mokena, Ill., says his reattached left arm is 99 percent normal. “You were the doctor with the we-can-do-it mentality for which I will be forever thankful,” Seeman told Pinzur.
Pinzur said he was humbled by Seeman’s gratitude. “This is a great reminder of why we practice medicine,” Pinzur said.
Pinzur, an orthopaedic surgeon, also has treated Seeman for other conditions, including a broken arm and foot problems that were resolved with orthotics. “Over the years you’ve come through on every call for help,” Seeman said. “There are not too many doctors who will give you their email address to contact them, and you always responded quickly. You’re my hero.”
Seeman also gave Pinzur two gifts that Pinzur said he will treasure: A poster-size photo of Chicago Bears great Walter Payton and teammate Matt Suhey (signed by Suhey), and a model of an Indianapolis 500 racecar owned by David Letterman, team owner Bobby Rahal and Seeman’s employer, Mi-Jack Products.
On April 30, 1984, Seeman was working in the family tow truck business when he was called to the scene of an overturned semitrailer. His left arm got caught in a mechanism that winds and unwinds the tow truck cable. His arm, nearly severed, was left hanging by the skin.
Pinzur worked with plastic surgeon Dr. Juan Angelats and vascular surgeon Dr. William Baker to reattach Seeman’s arm.
They sewed nerves, blood vessels, muscles and tendons together and used plates and screws to reconnect his broken humerus (upper-arm bone). They took bone grafts from his hips and skin grafts from his leg, and used a vein from his leg to replace a damaged artery in his arm.
Many limb reattachments ultimately fail. The limb can die due to poor circulation; retain little or no movement; or become so painful due to nerve damage that it must be amputated.
But Seeman experienced none of those problems. After several follow-up surgeries and a year of occupational therapy, he recovered nearly full use of his arm. Seeman describes his accident, surgery and recovery in a video he has uploaded to YouTube.
“Sometimes in life we don’t appreciate something until we lose it, and then it’s too late,” Seeman says in the video. “It seems that hundreds of times over the years I’d be playing with my children, picking them up high in the air with two good arms, and it hits me like a lightning bolt how fortunate and thankful I am for a second chance.”
Pinzur is a professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Rehabilitation at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.