By Kathy Walsh
AURORA, Colo. (CBS4)– A concrete worker from Thornton, seriously injured in a car crash, has had an unusual transplant. Doctors saved his arm by using Mike Klement as his own donor.
“It changes your life in a heartbeat,” said Klement about his serious car crash.
On April 6, Klement’s SUV was totaled in a hit-and-run along Riverdale Road in Thornton. The driver’s side door was sideswiped. Klement’s upper left arm was mangled.
“This was horrible,” he said gesturing to his arm now in a special splint.
That arm was pinned in the crash and left with severed nerves, a gaping hole, and missing bone.
“About four inches of the humerus bone exited my body,” Klement told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.
At the University of Colorado Hospital, orthopedic specialists devised a plan to save the badly damaged arm by making Klement his own donor.
“Take his leg bone and make it into an arm bone,” explained Dr. Jason Stoneback, an orthopedic traumatologist and the Director of the Limb Restoration Program at the University of Colorado Hospital.
Stoneback and the Limb Restoration team transplanted a segment of Klement’s calf bone, along with its living blood vessels, into the gap in Klement’s arm. The complex bone graft included skin.
“So that we could check and make sure that that bone is actually alive and has a good blood supply,” said Stoneback touching the patch of implanted skin. “It’s like a window to the blood flow of that bone.”
We saw Klement four months after surgery.
“Looks fantastic,” said Stoneback.
“It’s amazing that they could put it back together like that, really is,” said Klement.
The arm now has a steel plate and 15 screws. Klement is undergoing physical therapy.
Gesturing he said, “I’m hoping I can do this with my thumb, extend the fingers, get some muscle growth back and be productive again.”
The concrete worker will need to be patient. Doctors say improvement will come with time.
Klement’s transplant surgery in May was one of seven surgeries he has had since the crash. His most recent operation was a nerve transfer to replace the nerves destroyed when his arm was pinned.