Six weeks after moving to a new shop in January 2019, Master Cobbler David Lee had an accident that caused him to lose his thumb. He immediately worried about losing his livelihood.
“Straight away, I knew how bad it was, and I just worried that I wouldn’t be able to fix shoes again. I cried my eyes out when I thought about it, as I thought I was going to lose my shop.”
But Lee caught a break. He was referred to the Royal Derby Hospital in Derby, England, where the doctors suggested a toe-to-thumb reconstruction.
Jill Arrowsmith, one of the hand surgeons who performed Lee’s operation, said:
“There are lots of different ways to reconstruct thumbs, but using the big toe gives the best functional and cosmetic benefits, as it is the thing most like a thumb on the body.”
Apparently, toes are near-perfect substitutes for fingers because they have the same structure, range of motion, sensitive skin and nails for pinching. When a finger is replaced with a toe, the patient often attains optimal functionality.
Lee jumped at the chance to have the surgery, which took 10 hours, and a year later was still in his shop doing what he loves.
But Lee has to be vigilant for problems that could arise. The big toe carries up to 40% of our weight as we walk, and losing it can wreak havoc on the structure of the foot. While Lee might be good at repairing shoes, he’s probably not going to win any foot races.
Disclaimer: This article does not provide medical advice. Do not take action based solely on this article and always consult with an appropriate healthcare professional. This article is purely for informational purposes.