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Last Updated: Saturday, 9 August, 2003, 13:09 GMT 14:09 UK
Angler's toes replace lost fingers
Colin Thomas
Colin Thomas has fished since he was a child
A keen angler has had two toes transplanted onto his hand by plastic surgeons, so that he can carry on fishing after an horrific accident.

Colin Thomas, 58, from Swansea, south Wales, lost all eight fingers when both his hands were caught in a roller at a steel plant.

He feared his fishing days were over because he could not hold a rod, nor could he reel in his catch, without fingers.

But surgeons came to the rescue in a 13-hour operation to take a toe from each foot to transplant onto his right hand.

Colin is absolutely delighted with the result. "I'm just so thrilled that the surgeons were able to give me the chance to go fishing again," he said.

I always joke that I'm the only man who can pick his nose with his toes
Toe transplant patient Colin Thomas
"I just love the sport - but it is impossible without fingers. The toe transplant means I can be out there with my rod again.

"I never dreamed surgeons could do something like this. The doctors were just amazing. "It means I can bait the line, grip the rod and reel in the catch."

Colin, from Cockett, has bought a boat from the 100,00 compensation he got from steel giant Corus for the accident.

His hands were trapped in a roller, and he lost all his fingers but kept both thumbs.

The father-of-two was in hospital for seven weeks recovering from his terrible injuries and had to have more than 20 operations.

Colin Thomas' fingers
The toe transplant was a highly-specialised job
Plastic surgeons Philip Sykes and Hamish Laing amputated the toes next to the big toes on each foot and transplanted them into his right hand.

Doctors told him he was the first person in Britain to have two toes transplanted onto his hand.

Toe-to-hand surgery is one of the most technically demanding microsurgical operations - and the blood vessels were joined up with 12 tiny stitches using fibres narrower than human hair.

Colin, a keen angler since he was nine-years-old now goes out fishing almost every day in his new 20,000 boat called Chorus Girl, fishing mainly for bass just off the Gower coast.

He is able to hold the rod steady with his left hand even though he has no fingers on it.

He has made a kind of a glove which attaches to a Velcro pad on the rod, allowing him to keep control, while the thumb and two toes on his right hand give him enough control to bring in the catch.

"I'm enjoying my fishing again but I always need one of my mates to go out with me," Colin explained. "I couldn't cope with the boat on my own if there was an emergency. "People stare at me but I've got used to that - and I always joke that I'm the only man who can pick his nose with his toes."

Wife Lynne, 54, said: "He was in deep despair after the accident but the transplant operation went so well that he has been given a new lease of life." Fishing friend Roger Gore said: "When I spoke to him soon after the accident he said he didn't think he would pull anchor for me again.

"Now all his mates think he is fantastic for overcoming this terrible injury and start fishing again."

Plastic surgeon Mr Laing said: "We were pleased we were able to perform this transplant and enable Colin to get on with his life.

"It was good team work by the operating team and Colin was a very good patient."

Hand to hand finger transplant
03 Dec 01  |  Health
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22 Oct 02  |  England
Surgery to 'regrow' fingers
17 May 01  |  Health


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