By Kathy Walsh

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – A father of three from Pueblo West is thanking a surgical team at Swedish Medical Center for saving his right hand. Much of it was blown off in a firework explosion early New Year’s morning.

Trevor Tate (credit: CBS)

Trevor Tate has had five surgeries, so far. To avoid amputating his hand, his care has included a technique that’s not new, but it is uncommon.

“I’m a 46-year-old man, and I made a mistake,” a remorseful Tate told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh. “I’ve never had an injury like this,” he said choking back tears. “(I’m) usually pretty safe.”

(credit: CBS)

But shortly after midnight, while others watched fireworks to welcome the New Year, Tate and friends fired mortars. Tate says his tube was loaded upside down. The mortar exploded in his hand.

“It looked like someone had shot it with a shotgun, and my biggest fear was losing my hand,” he said.

(credit: CBS)

Tate was rushed to the emergency room at Swedish and plastic surgeon Dr. Benson Pulikkottil.

“This is one of the worst injuries I’ve seen for a firework,” said Pulikkottil.

In the weeks that followed, the shattered bones in Tate’s hand were reconstructed with plates and pins. Replacing all of the missing soft tissue was complicated.

(credit: Trevor Tate)

“He had devastating injury going up to his forearm of the blood vessels,” explained Pulikkottil.

So Pulikkottil and his wife, Dr. Lily Daniali, both plastic microvascular surgeons, went what they call “old school.” They sewed skin on Tate’s chest directly to his hand.

Dr. Benson Pulikkottil and his wife, Dr. Lily Daniali examine Trevor Tate. (credit: CBS)

“The blood flow over here (on his hand) will eventually start taking over,” said Pulikkottil.

Tate’s hand was attached to his chest for four and a half weeks.

“It’s been absolutely amazing,” said Tate.

On the day Walsh spoke with him, Tate later had surgery to separate his hand from his chest. Now, chest skin and tissue are part of his hand.

“I think he’s going to have a very functional hand,” said Pulikkottil.

(credit: CBS)

Tate is an estimator for an electric company. His first goal is to be able to use a pencil. Tate is grateful for his care and readily shares the lesson he’s learned.

“Don’t play with fireworks, you’ll get burned.”

Kathy Walsh

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