Saving Limbs and Rebuilding Lives

Accidents happen. It’s a fact of life.

Sometimes we are so touched by them that we can’t stop thinking about the victim.

That’s what happened to me when I read about a severe car accident in Queens, NY. 18-year-old Andrew Tsai was walking outside of his high school when his life was changed forever. A woman fleeing the scene of another accident slammed into a van, which hit Andrew, severing both of his legs.

I felt a sense of sadness and anger — here was this young man who, by no fault of his own, was in this predicament. Good Samaritans came immediately to aid the teen. Once paramedics arrived at the scene they stabilized the boy, and he was transported to a trauma center in New York. After several days, a new report gave details about how the surgeons at Bellevue Hospital were able to save one of his legs. Although he remains in critical condition, his family is at his side. All reports say they are strong in dealing with the prospect of their son’s recovery.

Although I am still saddened by the tragedy, I am also somewhat relieved that, at least for now, there is some positive news regarding his injured limbs.

Limb reattachment surgery is a program that seldom gets the publicity it deserves. This is why I want to shed some light on the terrific work that trauma teams do every day all over the U.S. Highly trained, they work together as a well-oiled machine. They are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The teams include plastic, vascular, orthopedic general surgeons, neurosurgeons, rehabilitation doctors, dermatologists, radiologists, internal medicine specialists, as well as nurses, recovery room nurses, technicians, therapists, social counselors and paramedics.

Since the early 1990’s, surgical techniques and instruments have been perfected to create a field of microsurgery that allows these types of procedures to become more successful. The window of time during which a successful reattachment can occur after amputation is about 4 to 6 hours. However, with continued research and new treatments such as hyperbaric oxygen treatment, surgeons have been able to save limbs up to 14 hours after being severed.

So, as we pray for this teenager and hope for the best, let us also give thanks to those dedicated people who undo the devil's work.

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Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. For more information on Dr. Manny's work, visit