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Augustin Acosta, 40, reached for the reporter’s hand and enclosed it in a vice-like grip. He proved his point that, despite nearly having his hand cut off just above the wrist by a buzz saw, his strength and flexibility was restored.
The Miami broadcaster’s hand was reattached by Alejandro Badia, M.D., a hand and upper extremity surgical specialist who performed emergency surgery on Acosta on Jan. 1, 1996 after an accident at Acosta’s home.
“I had been remodeling my house for several months and had just one more job to do,” Acosta told the Voice. I had borrowed a rotating saw and was cutting a piece of wood molding when the saw blade flew from the machine. It spun through the air and hit me on the wrist,” Acosta recalled.
Thanks to his watch, which had a metal band, the blade apparently was slowed down just enough to prevent it from cutting off Acosta’s arm completely, but ninety percent of the limb was severed.
“As a broadcaster for 23 years I had interviewed doctors and I knew I only had about five minutes to stop the blood and get to the hospital before I passed out,” Acosta said. He caught a ride from a passer by and went to a nearby hospital but there were no surgeons on duty. Dr. Badia was called and he quickly arrived. “As a broadcaster for 23 years I had interviewed doctors and I knew I only had about five minutes to stop the blood and get to the hospital before I passed out,” Acosta said. He caught a ride from a passer by and went to a nearby hospital but there were no surgeons on duty. Dr. Badia was called and he quickly arrived.
The surgery required the repair of two major nerves as well as tendons, muscle and tissue. It was necessary to take bone from Acosta’s pelvis to reconstruct the radious bone in the forearm.
As complicated and challenging as the surgery was, it was all in a day’s work for Dr. Badia who has made hand restoration his life’s work. “I remember being interested in this specialty even when I was a child of eight years of age. My grandmother had crippling rheumatoid arthritis in her hand and together we visited a hand surgeon in New York City. Years later when I was in medical school I realized this would be the perfect specialty for me,” Dr. Badia recalled.
Dr. Badia performed his undergraduate studies at Cornell University in Physiology. He obtained his medical degree at New York University where he subsequently completed his internship in General Surgery and Residency in Orthopedic Surgery. He went on to a Hand and Upper Extremity Fellowship at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA.
The surgeon pointed out that the hand is often the limb injured in accidents and represents 10 percent of emergency room visits. “I realized there was a great need for reconstructive surgery skills. The wrist,” he added, “is the hand surgeon’s domain. Without special attention and awareness there are a whole host of injuries that go undetected or untreated.”
As a member of the staff at HealthSouth Doctors’ Hospital in Coral Gables, Dr. Badia is able to surgically treat virtually any type of hand injury from minor to complicated. “HealthSouth Doctors’s Hospital is a premium orthopedic hospital with all of the necessary equipment and skilled nursing staff,” he added.
As patient Acosta came to understand, the hand specialist represents part of a total rehabilitation team. “I was in a cast for the first two months after surgery and then I began my rehabilitation,” Acosta said.
As Dr. Badia pointed out, Acosta was a very motivated patient which helped tremendously in the success of his rehabilitation. Once the hand specialist had reconnected tissue, tendons and muscle so that everything worked as it should, it was up to Acosta to regain his strength and flexibility.
He is justly proud of the fact that unless he points out the scar no one would even know that his hand had been almost severed from his wrist just four years ago.
“We do see it as one of our responsibilities to educate other health professionals about the necessity of bringing in a specialist when hand injuries occur. It is vitally important the physician have the best training, that necessary surgery is done very quickly after the injury and that interim therapy be aggressive,” Dr. Badia told the Voice.
Augustine Acosta is proof of what can be accomplished when those principles are applied.
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