Cobbler whose thumb was ripped off in horrific accident returns to work after surgeons replace it with his big toe


A cobbler whose thumb was ripped off at work is back at work after surgeons replaced his missing digit - with one of his big toes.

David Lee’s hand got caught in a machine as he repaired a shoe, severing his right thumb.

The 40-year-old was rushed to hospital and five days later surgeons replaced his missing thumb with the big toe from his right foot.

David isn’t the first person to have the surgery - in 2017 cattle worker Zac Mitchell had a similar operation after his thumb was severed by a bull.

Surgeons removed David's right big toe and attached it to his hand so he can work again (Picture: SWNS)

Now, a year after the accident last January, David has returned to work at DL Shoe Art The Cobbler, in Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire.

“As soon as it was put to me that attaching my toe gave me a chance to carry on my job, I instantly said ‘let’s do it’,” he said.


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"I was okay with the idea of moving my toe to my hand. My main concern was the business and my shop as I had recently moved in.

“I thought I’m never going to do my job again and I’m going to lose my business. It was a no brainer going down this route.”

David was trimming the heel of a shoe last January when his hand got snagged in the machine and his right thumb was cut off (Picture: SWNS)

The surgery is only considered for patients with certain types of amputations.

Jill Arrowsmith, one of the two Consultant Hand Surgeons who performed the operation, said: “This procedure is only offered to patients who have lost a lot of their thumb, usually down to close to the knuckle.

“Not having any of the thumbs can be very disabling, especially for those who do a manual job.

“This type of injury could mean that these patients are not able to remain at work, so we’re delighted to be able to provide this treatment option.

“Toe-to-thumb reconstructions are quite rare but we have been really pleased with all of the outcomes these patients have achieved.

“There are lots of different ways to reconstruct thumbs but using the big toe gives the best functional and cosmetic benefits, as it is the thing most like a thumb on the body.”

The rare surgery is only offered in certain situations (Picture: SWNS)

David said as a right-handed person, he wouldn’t have been able to do a lot of his job without the operation.

“I was really conscious of it to start with. It feels heavy having a toe where the thumb should be,” he added.

"Doing the physio and the strength work in my hand has made it feel more like a normal thumb. I’m hopeful I will be getting more feeling in it.”

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