Wednesday, March 11, 2015

CNN: "Miles O'Brien: A Life Lost and Found": recovery from an arm amputation after an accident with random, rare medical complication

Tuesday night, CNN presented a special one-hour documentary, “Miles O’Brien: A Life Lost and Found”, which is pretty well summarized by this AP story here
Dr. Sanjay Gupta hosted the story of one of CNN’s own international journalists.  O’Brien, 55, had been reporting in southeast Asia and was in the Philippines in early February, 2014. CNN’s own link is here
On Tuesday, February 12, 2014 O’Brien had a freak accident where a video case fell and hit his forearm.  He thought he had just an ordinary bruise.  But in rare cases, the swelling from a large contusion can choke off blood flow to the rest of the limb because it is contained in connective tissue, called “compartment syndrome” (link). 
Had the arm been fractured, he would have been better off, because he would have sought medical attention immediately. It's unlikely that the outcome would have been different, when treatment was sought so late, even in the US. 
Instead, he waited until there was severe pain.  He went to shock because of blood poisoning from the tissue death below, and the arm was amputated during surgery.  He woke up, unable to believe what he had seen.  He spent nine days alone in a hotel before he would tell anyone.
The rest of the film shows the rehab, especially long bike rides for charity in Michigan. 
The extreme nature of the syndrome is remarkable.  We’ve all had deep bruises, that lead to bumps and little discoloration at first, and then a greenish color that spreads.  
I had an ulnar fracture in September 1970 after falling off a bicycle when striking a pothole in a New Jersey parking lot.  It was put in a cast and healed without incident.   

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