New Replacement Surgeries Restore Normal Lives

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Sometimes, in the blink of an eye, a person's life changes forever.

Like in an accident, when someone loses a  part of their body.

But amazing new replacement surgeries are restoring peoples' limbs, and lives.

This isn't the usual thumb wrestling match. Garrett Lafever's thumb used to be his big toe.
 
"Most people say they wouldn't notice unless I showed them, or you know compared it to one thumb or other, and I don't mind it, I think it looks pretty natural," Lafever said.

The California carpenter lost his thumb in a woodworking accident. Doctors at San Francisco's St. Marys Hospital amputated his big toe and put it where his thumb used to be, detaching then reattaching blood vessels, nerves, tendon and bone. That was a year ago. Since then, he's regained nearly all his hand movement, and his toes have repositioned themselves for greater stability.

"I can go on long hikes, I can play frisbee, I can wear any type of shoe I want, I can play basketball," Lafever explained.

Returning to a fully fuctional, normal life is the goal of all replacement surgeries. That goes for human tissue replacment as well as for prosthetics.

A Tennessee daycare owner lost her arm in a car crash, and received this prosthetic arm at the Rehabilitation Institute in Chicago. It works almost as well as the arm she lost. She uses her mind to make it operate.

"What happens is, I think and I can close my hand and I can open my hand," the owner explained.

It even does things her old arm couldn't do.

"My wrist can go all the way around, which is pretty cool, you know," the owner said.

Doctors said body part replacement success stories like these are a combination of the latest medical advances combined with a patient's positive attitude.

*Originally aired June 23, 2009

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Lorie  Johnson

Lorie Johnson

CBN News Medical Reporter

Lorie Johnson reports on the latest information about health and wellness. Since medicine is constantly changing, she makes sure CBN News viewers are up-to-date on what they need to know in order to live a healthy life.  Follow Lorie on Twitter @LorieCBN and "like" her at Facebook.com/LorieJohnsonCBN.