Surgeons reattach teen's severed arm after UTV accident

A 13-year-old North Carolina boy is working to gain full-range of his left arm after a UTV accident left him with a severed limb. Tyler Hughes, who was out riding with friends in January when the vehicle’s roll bar landed on his arm, has undergone six surgeries since the traumatic injury.

“It was a complete out-of-body experience while we were waiting for EMS to arrive,” Crystal Hughes, the boy’s mother, said in a Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center news release.

Hughes, whose quick-thinking helped save her son’s life, wrapped a scarf around his injury to stop the heavy bleeding. She said she knew that it was more than a broken limb when she saw how far away the lower part of his arm was from the rest of his body.

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“At the time, I didn’t even realize my decision to use the scarf as a tourniquet was so crucial – I was on auto-pilot,” Hughes said.

The teen was airlifted to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, where surgeons worked for 9.5 hours to reattach his arm.

Hughes had been riding on a UTV when the vehicle's roll bar landed on his left arm.

Hughes had been riding on a UTV when the vehicle's roll bar landed on his left arm. (Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center)

Dr. Matthew Goldman, assistant professor of vascular surgery at the center, said the injury did not sever the major nerve supply to the arm, which allowed for the successful reconstruction of the blood supply. A team of orthopedic surgeons then worked to fix his broken bones.

While the teen has regained the ability to grip items like door handles and lightweight bags, Goldman said it could take years for the nerves to regenerate.

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“An injury like Tyler’s can be devastating and it often can take years for the nerves to grow back and regenerate,” Goldman said in the hospital’s news release. “At this point, we are still uncertain as to what his long-term functional outcome will be; however, by all of our teams acting quickly, we were able to give him the best potential to have a functional arm in the future.”

Hughes said she hopes her son's recovery helps others understand the importance of staying calm when a traumatic injury has occurred.