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Baltimore Surgeon Helps Reattach Arm Of Injured Firefighter

BALTIMORE (WJZ)—In an incredible story of survival, a medical team in Baltimore is able to reattach a Maryland firefighter's severed arm.

Mike Hellgren takes a closer look at how they did it.

In the tangled mess of a crash involving a tractor trailer and a fire truck on the Capitol Beltway, Lieutenant Ryan Emmons' arm was severed just below the elbow.

First responders rushed him to Baltimore's Medstar Union Memorial Hospital, where Dr. James Higgins with the Curtis National Hand Center was able to reattach it in a delicate surgery.

"Fortunately, this patient was very young, very healthy, and we received him very quickly from a very efficient field system," Higgins said.

Firefighters from around the state gathered at the hospital to support Emmons.

"It's a community, and all of us know the feeling of going on a call at 3 in the morning and then something happens," a firefighter said.

"The thing that struck me was the tremendous amount of support. The family waiting room was overfilled," Higgins said.

The operation took several hours.  First responders packed the firefighter's arm in ice, and the doctor says that was critical.

"If the part is properly shipped, it lengthens the period of time we have to get the blood supply back to the part," Higgins explained.

Emmons was one of seven people injured in the crash. Four of them were firefighters.

He's been sedated since he got to the hospital, and the road to full recovery could be a long one.

"He'll recognize right away that he still has his limb, but he won't be able to functionally move it, nor will he be able to feel sensation in the early stages," Higgins said.

Higgins was part of the team that recently gained international recognition for performing Maryland's first double hand transplant on an injured Iraq war veteran.

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