By Jen McCaffery
Roanoke Times Link
On Jan. 4, Brian Carter was at his girlfriend's house in Vinton when his muzzleloader fell out of its case and discharged.
It nearly blew his hand off.
His girlfriend wrapped a towel around his bleeding wrist. The Vinton Rescue Squad arrived and quickly got him to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital.
A doctor in the emergency room examined Carter's wrist and told them they would have to amputate his hand, Carter recalled.
"I accepted it," Carter, a 34-year-old father of two who lives in Bedford County, said earlier this month. "I was happy to be alive."
Meanwhile, a resident in the emergency room had paged Dr. Cay Mierisch, an orthopedic surgeon at Carilion's recently opened Bone and Joint Center in Vinton.
Mierisch called in. The resident told him about Carter's situation and that they were planning to send Carter to the University of Virginia Medical Center, as had been routine for injuries that required specialized care. In the past, people who needed such surgeries were sent to larger medical centers that had more specialized expertise.
But in Carter's case, there was no need to send him to UVa. Mierisch and his colleague at the Bone and Joint Center, Dr. Cesar Bravo, are both hand specialists; Carter's case could be handled locally, said Eric Earnhart, spokesman for Carilion Health System.
After receiving the call about Carter, Mierisch went to the hospital and met him. Mierisch found that the main arteries supplying blood to Carter's hand had been severed. His hand was cold and he had no feeling in it. And it was hanging by a thread.
"It was essentially a dead piece of meat at that point," Mierisch said.
Mierisch told Carter he would do what he could to try to save his hand but made no promises.
As an orthopedic surgeon, Mierisch typically works on hand and upper-body operations for carpal tunnel, shoulder reconstruction, thumb reconstructions and elbow surgeries.
He said that cases such as Carter's are pretty unusual, even at the Mayo Clinic, where Mierisch did his residency.
Inside the operating room, Mierisch cleaned the wound of gunshot residue and stabilized the bones in Carter's hand using a long plate with screws. He took a blood vessel from Carter's arm and used it to re-establish blood flow to the arm. He also grafted skin over his wrist.
Carter has had four surgeries on his hand so far.
"At this point, we know his hand will survive," Mierisch said.
Carter was so grateful he contacted several newspapers about his story.
From now on, there may be some fine-tuning to see that Carter gets "protective sensation" back in his hand, Mierisch said. Mierisch plans to take an expendable nerve in Carter's leg and place it in his hand.
Meanwhile, Carter already has some feeling back in his injured hand. But he may also need some additional surgery to improve his grip. And he's in physical therapy to keep his joints supple.
The injured hand will no longer be Carter's dominant hand. The goal is to restore as much function as possible.
"I'm left-handed now," Carter said.
ETA why was he storing the muzzle loader with a cap or primer on the nipple?
TOP TEN REASONS `OLE LEFTY HAD IT LOADED
10) He forgot to discharge it after he used this seasons tag on a road kill
9) The bang tends to liven up parties (after the SWAT team leaves)
8) He loves the smell of black powder (and burnt flesh) in the morning
7) Pesky garden gnomes
6) Elvis did it that way
5) Reenacting bull run in his pajamas
4) The voices told him to load it with tinfoil shot
3) To stave off the Indians
2) It was their home defense weapon.
-wait for it-
1) He was going to harpoon Michael (Moby) Moore
Thank you! Thank you! The tip jar is by the piano! I'll be here all day folks!
Wow! I killed this thread before my first cup a coffee... mwahahahahahahaha!
The perfect crime