Leeches save hand, help Illinois man avoid amputation

By Brooks Hays   |   Feb. 6, 2014 at 5:11 PM

DEKALB, Ill., Feb. 6 (UPI) -- Over the course of a month, a man in Dekalb, Ill., applied more than 1400 leeches to his injured hand in order to keep it from having to be amputated.

When Sam Leon caught his hand in a roller press at work last year, the results were rather gruesome. The skin was ripped from his hand and fingers and there was severe damage to many of his veins, nerves and arteries. Leon's doctors said that in similar situations, 80 percent of the time, amputation is the only recourse. But Leon was adamant about not losing his hand.

"I just wanted to keep my hand. I had to do whatever I had to do to make this end up the best that it possibly could," Leon told local news station WREX.

After doctors operated on his hand to repair as much of the damage as they could, Leon had to regularly apply leeches to aid the healing process by stimulating blood flow.

"Leeches are able to secrete a substance that is a very powerful blood thinner and it allows your wound to continue to drain until your own veins have reformed and you don't need them anymore," Dr. Brian Bear told WIFR.

Leon still has trouble grasping smaller objects, and doctors say he'll never have a 100 percent functionality, but they say his recovery is nothing short of a miracle.


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