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Boy Expected To Regain Some Use of Reattached Arms

October 8, 1986

ROBBINSDALE, Minn. (AP) _ Surgeons have reattached the arms of a teen-ager who lost both limbs at the shoulder in a farm accident, but the youth probably won’t regain full use of his hands, his doctor said.

Still, 13-year-old David Virnig will be able to return to some of the things he enjoys, including farm work.

David’s first question after waking up after surgery Monday was, ″Mom, do I still got my arms?″ his mother, Marlene Virnig of Hillman, said.

His second concern was, ″Mom, I can’t work no more - I can’t work, Mama,″ Mrs. Virnig told the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Dispatch.

David underwent microscopic surgery at North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale just hours after his arms were severed at the shoulder Sunday afternoon.

A team of three surgeons worked simultaneously on each arm for close to 10 hours. Most of the surgery was performed under microscopes as arteries, veins and nerves were sewn back together with nylon sutures and tiny needles.

It will take David more than a year to recover the use of his arms as he waits for the nerves to regenerate, said Dr. David O. Smith. He will probably undergo physical therapy and some reconstructive surgery.

David was chopping and storing silage on the family’s farm when he got caught between a power shaft and a tractor pole. Family members think his shirttail caught on a bolt on a piece of machinery.

In the panic that followed, Virnig’s arms were left behind as his parents rushed him to a hospital in Little Falls about 50 miles away. At the time, Mrs. Virnig said the possibility of saving the arms didn’t even occur to her. ″Me, I thought he was going to die,″ she said.

Friends of the Virnigs discovered one arm about 30 feet away from the site of the accident, packed it in ice and rushed it to the hospital. Paramedics, who arrived after the Virnigs left, picked up the other one.

Medical personnel in Little Falls quickly decided to send the boy to North Memorial Medical Center by helicopter.

The quick action taken at the Little Falls hospital and by the people who saved the boy’s arms made the surgery possible, Smith said.

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