The man who replaced his lost thumb with his big toe

James Byrne severed his thumb in a carpentry accident before deciding on a most unusual course of treatment

After losing his thumb in a carpentry accident, James Byrne had his big toe take its place.
(Image credit: Screen shot, Daily Mail)

Twenty-nine-year-old carpenter James Byrne accidently sawed off his left thumb. Surgeons managed to reattach his severed thumb, but he never regained use of it, despite months of treatment. So Byrne's doctors made an "unusual suggestion": Why not replace his thumb with his big toe instead? Here, a brief guide to this strange tale:


When surgeons couldn't get blood flood flowing back into Byrne's reattached thumb, things looked grim. Without a working thumb, he wouldn't be able to do things we take for granted — like opening a door. He certainly would not have been able to do carpentry as before. So his doctors suggested using his dominant toe instead. "Losing a toe would only affect his balance in the short term," says Claire Bates at Britain's Daily Mail. Regaining a moving thumb would allow him to resume his work as a carpenter and plant operator, "therefore outweighing the loss."

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And the surgery worked?

So far, yes. The team had to operate simultaneously on Byrne's toe and hand to attach skin, bones, nerves, arteries, tendons, and ligaments so his new thumb would function properly. "I can't bend it yet but I hope to be able to do so soon," says Byrne, who is undergoing physiotherapy. "I never thought it would work but the surgical teams and nurses have done such a fantastic job... I am so, so pleased that I had it done."

Aren't people weirded out?

Some are, yes. Byrne, a father of an 8-year-old, says his new toe-thumb stands out. He's even given it a name: "Toby." Some people "think it's really funny while others are a bit disgusted by it," he says. "My son thinks it's great. I showed it to all of his (friends) and became a bit of a celebrity in the playground for awhile." Even if some people find Byrne's extra-large thumb a little funny, says Jesus Diaz at Gizmodo, "as long as it works, who cares?"

Sources: Daily Mail, Gizmodo, International Business Times

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