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Denver Doctor Helps Cowboys Keep Their Fingers In Tact

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George Eidsness' repaired thumb (credit: CBS)

George Eidsness’ repaired thumb (credit: CBS)

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DENVER (CBS4) – Coloradans like to say the frigid temperatures lately are “Stock Show weather.” The competition is well under way at the National Western Complex, and all that riding and roping can be tough on a cowboy’s body.

CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh learned there’s a doctor in Denver helping cowboys hang on. It’s a tough way to make a living because they get hurt a lot. Many cowboys end up with severed fingers, but Dr. David Schnur at the Denver Clinic for Extremities at Risk puts them back together again.

It takes skill and speed to sort cattle in competition. George Eidsness loves the sport of team penning. He’s a businessman Monday through Friday, and a weekend cowboy, but he’s had to pay to play.

“Broken toes, broken ribs, broken collar bone,” Eidsness said.

And that’s not the worst of it. In October 2011 Eidsness was working cattle when a cow pinned him against a gate. His thumb was crushed and was left hanging by a tendon.

“Immediately I just put it in the palm of my hand and wrapped it up with vet wrap and headed for the hospital,” he said.

He eventually ended up at Presbyterian/St Luke’s Medical Center with Schnur, a plastic surgeon who specializes in hands.

“On one side of the thumb his arteries weren’t too badly damaged, so we decided to go ahead and attempt to save the thumb,” Schnur said.

In a six-hour surgery the thumb was re-attached.

“Even though the bone is fused and I can’t bend it, I’ve got, I’d say 75 percent use of it right now,” Eidsness said.

Schnur and his colleagues try to reattach about 50 severed fingers, hands or arms each year. He said cowboys are the most challenging.

“They all want to go back to work the next day,” Schnur said.

I asked him if I could ride at the national finals a week later if he could make some little splint for me, and he just kind of looked at me like I was crazy,” Eidsness said.

It took six months to get back in the saddle, but Eidsness is glad his thumb ended up in good hands.

Schnur not only treats cowboys, but anyone in the Rocky Mountain region with upper extremity injuries.

LINKS: National Western Stock ShowDenver Clinic for Extremities at Risk

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