Patient's story #2: Maya Hudson:

“I was using the table saw and wasn't paying attention. I turned away and then I felt this jerk. It didn't hurt at first, but when I looked, my hand was caught in the saw. I turned the saw off, wrapped my hand up in my shirt, and yelled for my father to call 911,” reported Maya Hudson, matter-of-factly. Her momentary lapse of attention resulted in the loss of her thumb and index finger and the mangling of the rest of her hand, with the middle finger barely hanging on. After 8 hours in surgery, Maya emerged with what was left of her index finger replacing the unusable missing thumb and her middle finger reattached.

Recovery went well at first, but 2 or 3 days after surgery, the wounds became engorged with blood, especially the thumb. The new thumb was double-sized and very purple-blue. The doctors prescribed leeches in order to save the digit. Maya reported that, during leech treatments, she was never so hot in all her life because they kept her covered with a Bair Hugger plastic “blanket” (Visit to view blankets ) which pumped warm air through it to promote peripheral venous dilation, they also kept the lights low and the curtains drawn.

Maya was not repulsed by the leeches; she found them somewhat interesting. She described how the nurses used instruments to apply the leeches, laying them on the wound: “They took awhile to attach - right away to 5 minutes. They tried to put them on the bloodiest spot to encourage them to latch on.” She said that nurses were supposed to stay with her during the treatment but didn't always stay the whole time. Sometimes she fell asleep and the leeches detached and got lost in the bed. That was somewhat distressing.

Maya said that one good thing about the thumb still being numb was that she couldn't feel the leeches, which looked like “shiny black worms.” The leeches, she noted, were small when applied but got very fat and grew about an inch in length as they filled with blood. Maya could tell when it was time for a treatment because her thumb would start to throb, and the throbbing would stop after the leech was attached. Then it would slowly build up and start throbbing again when it was time for a new treatment. Maya had leech treatments, one leech at a time, twice a day for 6 to 8 days. After that, her hand healed slowly. Maya credited the leeches with salvaging her thumb and relieving her discomfort. Putting up with the leeches was a small price to pay.

Instant Feedback:
Leech therapy relieved congestion in Maya Hudson's thumb, but it didn't relieve discomfort.

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