A former CNN anchor reports that he had his left arm amputated above the elbow after a freak accident. Writing on his blog, Miles O’Brien reports: “I wish I had a better story to tell you about why I am typing this with one hand (and some help from Dragon Dictate)."
He continues, “A shark attack would be interesting. An assassination attempt would be intriguing. Skydiving mishaps always make for good copy. An out-of-control quad copter that turns on its master would be entertaining (and would come complete with a grim, potentially viral, video).”
O’Brien, who is a “PBS Newshour” science correspondent and independent producer, writes that he was stacking Pelican cases filled with TV gear onto a cart during a reporting trip in Asia. One of the cases fell on his left forearm.
“Ouch! It hurt, but I wasn’t all ‘911’ about it. It was painful and swollen but I figured it would be okay without any medical intervention. Maybe a little bit of denial?” he writes.
“The next day, February 13, things seemed status quo. It was sore and swollen but seemingly no worse. Then, that night, things got worse. Both the pain and swelling increased,” he adds.
O’Brien visited a doctor, who told him he might have acute compartment syndrome, which he writes is “an increase in pressure inside an enclosed space in the body. This can block blood flow causing a whole host of serious, life-threatening consequences.”
He reports: “He had me admitted to the hospital. Over the next few hours, I endured probably the longest, most painful experience I could ever imagine. My forearm developed some dusky discoloration, but more alarming was the numbness. I could not feel my forearm!”
After an emergency fasciotomy failed to halt the progress and O’Brien started to lose blood pressure, the doctor “made a real-time call and amputated my arm just above the elbow. He later told me it all boiled down to a choice … between a life and a limb.”
O’Brien adds: “So I woke up to a new reality in the hospital. It’s been a challenging week dealing with the phantom pain, the vicissitudes of daily life with one hand and the worries about what lies ahead.
“But I am alive and I’m grateful for that. Please don’t worry about me. I’m sure I can cope just fine. If I need your help, I promise I will ask.
“Life is all about playing the hand that is dealt you. Actually, I would love somebody to deal me another hand right about now — in more ways than one.”