Page last updated at 00:33 GMT, Sunday, 3 January 2010

'My reattached arm feels part of me again'

By Jane Elliott
Health reporter, BBC News

John Stirling
John feels 2010 is his year

For John Stirling, the touch of a cold door handle or the warmth of a cup of tea are miraculous sensations - something he thought he might never feel properly again after losing his forearm in a circular saw accident 16 months ago.

John slipped while using the chainsaw in the garden of his home in September 2008.

The forearm was completely detached, but he was able to alert a neighbour who wrapped the limb in a bag of frozen pastry, preserving it until surgeons could re-attach it.

John, 60, from Telscombe Cliffs, East Sussex, said his progress since had been phenomenal and he now felt whole again.

"You don't realise when they sew a limb back on that at first it is like having a dead log attached - you can't feel anything," he said.

"It feels incredibly heavy and there is no feeling in it, but now it is back to being a part of me instead of being separate from me and it feels normal again."

John can play snooker again and drive - things that seemed impossible when he was first injured.

His recovery began after 14 hours of surgery at the Queen Victoria Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, in East Grinstead.

Asit Khandwala, the consultant plastic surgeon who performed the operation, said John's determination and hard work had been the key to his recovery.

Much credit for his recovery is due to his mental strength and determination to get better
Consultant plastic surgeon Asit Khandwala

"He is doing exceptionally well, and the team here are delighted with his remarkable recovery," he said.

"The speed at which he has regained function in his hands and his independence following such major trauma is due to his hard work and motivation throughout the year, and working so well with our specialist therapists.

"Much credit for his recovery is due to his mental strength and determination to get better. He is an inspiration to other patients."

Fiona Clilverd, specialist occupational therapist at the hospital, agreed that the speed of his recovery was a testament to his hard work.

"John is progressing exceptionally well, far surpassing our expectations of recovery and functional use at this stage.

"Not only is John progressing physically but also mentally.

I can't play the piano, but then I was never any good
John Stirling

"He has appeared motivated, determined and wholly focused on his therapy throughout, which we believe will have a major impact on his final outcome."

John said his recovery had been amazing and he had felt his nerves as they grew gradually down the length of his arm.

One of his greatest achievements so far is getting his driving licence back.

"The consultant gave his authority for me to drive about two months ago, but I do drive an automatic car," he said.

"Being able to drive is amazing. After 30 years of driving it is a restriction to be chauffeured around - it is nice to be on the road again.

"I can do a lot more than I could. I can even play snooker, which is certainly a step forward.

John Stirling
John's says the reattached part of his arm feels part of him again

"I am exceeding their expectations. Because of my age they did not think the nerves would grow back and that I would get the movement back, but I think they feel as I do now that anything is possible."

John said although his fingers had feeling in them, he could not move them separately.

"The fingers move together - the index finger is slightly separate but it is really early days. I can't play the piano, but then I was never any good.

"I really feel that I am going to have a happy new year. I could not have dreamt that the result was going to be as good as it is.

"If nothing improves further than it has then I am happy with my lot.

"I can open doors and even butter a slice of bread. When I had just one hand, the bread just moved across the work surface. Now I can hold it in place and make my own sandwiches.

"I just think I look forward to 2010 thankful for what I have."

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