Doctors struggle to save boy's hands

Ben Bowersox being treated in Duke's hyperbaric chamber. (Family photo)
May 22, 2013 12:27:02 PM PDT
There's a very brave little boy at Duke University Medical Center right now. Five-year-old Ben Bowersox was in a horrifying freak accident and then endured one of the most complicated surgeries ever performed at Duke.

Ben got his arm caught in the cable of a motorized door at an airplane hangar in Florida. He suffered broken bones, lost fingers, and easily could have been killed. But he's alive, and now his family and friends are praying for a miracle.

Dr Scott Hollenbeck is in plastic and reconstructive surgery at Duke. He's on the team helping Ben.

"This is a very complicated injury - probably the most severe I've ever seen and ever tried to do a replantation on," he explained.

Ben's arms were broken in multiple places, his tiny hands were crushed, and several fingers on both hands were torn off. Doctors in Ben's home state of Florida couldn't help him. The closest place was Duke where doctors specialize in microsurgery and pediatric reattachments. 

"In the finger, we're talking about blood vessels in a 5 year old. We're talking about less than a millimeter in size in his case," Hollenbeck said, "We're talking about blood vessels less than half a millimeter.  It's extremely difficult."

A large team of doctors worked more than 15 hours under a microscope. It took three hours to reattach each finger with one surgeon working on each hand at the same time. 

Then, surgeons came in to take care of his broken arms. He is now being treated in Duke's hyperbaric chamber - it's the largest human chamber of its kind on this continent. The hope is to get his fingers to come alive again.  Little Ben has been quite the trooper.  His father, Steve Bowersox, has been at his side the entire time.

"Ben is doing well. He's telling jokes and teasing the nurses and doctors.  He's got a routine of jokes he's telling them.  He's in good spirits.  He's sweet and kind.  I'm being blessed by my own child," said Steve.

Steve is the executive pastor of worship at First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Florida where members are praying and blogging about Ben's journey daily.

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Ben has a twin sister who was there when the accident happened and a 16-year-old sister.  Sadly, their mom - Steve's wife - passed away two years ago from cancer.  Steve says he's gotten through this with God's grace.

"We have sensed God's hand along the way," Bowersox said, "From the provision of the lifeflight jet to being able to be here in time to the tremendous outpouring from my home church, to the churches around here.  I'm staying at a pastor's garage apartment I've never met before, another pastor provided me with a van to drive around."

Steve said smaller acts of kindness blessed him too - from someone buying him a cup of coffee to taking him to lunch during a dark time while Ben was in surgery.

"So, you just stay on track. You discipline your thoughts, hold onto your faith and you hope - like the parable in the Bible - the man who built his house upon the sand and the man who built it on the rock.  When the storm came, and it came to both of them, the house stood that was built on the solid rock.  When you have a good foundation, you survive," he offered.

Right after the accident, Ben apologized, saying "Daddy I'm sorry. I'll never do that again."

"With him I've addressed," Steve said. "This is not your fault. You've done everything right. You've been strong, brave. You're funny. You're my hero."

Doctors say more surgeries are in Ben's future and he's got a long road ahead.  Steve says Ben's right hand is completely viable, but his left hand needs a miracle. Many now are praying he will get that miracle.

If you would like to support Ben Bowersox, go to https://www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/53d2/pray4ben

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