Doctors Reattach Teen's Arm Severed in Pasta Machine Accident

Massachusetts doctors said the patient's youth was a factor in saving the limb.

ByBen Waldron
May 16, 2014, 8:42 AM

May 16, 2014— -- A New York teenager who had his right arm severed in a horrific industrial pasta machine accident says he is doing well after doctors were able to successfully reattach and save the arm from amputation.

Brett Bouchard, 17, of Massena, N.Y., severed his right arm below the elbow on April 25 while cleaning an industrial pasta machine at the Italian restaurant that employed him. He was flown in critical condition to Massachusetts General Hospital where doctors performed a series of risky surgeries to reattach the severed limb.

“I’m feeling great,” Bouchard told reporters assembled at his hospital bedside this afternoon. “Every single day, just focused on my recovery and getting better.”

Moving his arm up and down and joking with reporters about switching allegiance to the Boston Red Sox, Bouchard’ said, “I’ll keep working hard every single day. I have a great support system.”

Bouchard says he can’t yet move or feel his hand, but that doctors say he will eventually be able to as the nerve tissue grows back.

“I’m truly amazed about what they have done so far," Bouchard’s mother Rebecca said. “It’s amazing, it’s a miracle.” She said she's grateful doctors were able to act quickly enough to save her son’s arm from amputation.

Bouchard would not say exactly how he got his arm caught in the pasta machine. After the limb was severed, he went upstairs in the restaurant to put on a tourniquet and wait for medical assistance. Medical workers kept the arm on ice as Bouchard was flown to Massachusetts General.

Most severed limb cases result in amputation, according to the hospital, but doctors say Bouchard’s youth increased the odds the surgery would be a success.

“He has a long life ahead of him and you want to give him the best possible outcome,” said Dr. Kyle Eberlin, one of the surgeons who operated on Bouchard. “He is able to withstand all the other parts of surgery, the ICU care afterward perhaps better than someone who is significantly older.”

“Because of his age, he has a chance to regrow back his nerves very well and have sensibility at the end of his replanted arm which would be far-advantaged to a prosthetic,” Dr. Kurt Cetrulo said.

Dr. Cetrulo said surgeries to reattach severed limbs are inherently risky because harmful factors can build up in limbs that are without blood flow for long periods of time. “When you [reattach] the arm and that blood goes back into the body in can make the patient very sick,” he said.

Bouchard will be discharged from the hospital in the next few days and will remain in Boston another month for rehabilitation. Doctors say he faces at least one or two more operations over the next 4-8 months but are cautiously optimistic.

“He’s a really nice kid and we were happy to help him,” Cetrulo said.

The US Department of Labor is currently investigating the incident at Violi’s restaurant, which employed Bouchard.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is examining whether cleaning constituted operating the pasta machine, which is a piece of industrial equipment, and whether Bouchard should have been 18.

Bouchard says he is looking forward to getting back to the outdoor activities he enjoys once he has recovered.

“He’s not going to be a piano player, but he should have some function and feeling and that’s the goal,” his mother said.

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