WATCH: Local Surgeon Gives Boy New Hand
Cleveland Clinic patient grasps for the first time with new fingers
Andrew Bowers was born with no fingers on his left hand. And thanks to Beachwood surgeon William Seitz, he now has four.
“He started out with very little and we were able to give him a hand that works,” said Seitz. “Certainly its doesn’t have all the joints as most hands, but he’s still able to grab things and play like any other kid.”
Seitz performed a procedure called distraction lengthening on Andrew’s hand, taking bones from other parts of his body and using them to build new fingers.
Seitz performs two or three of these procedures a week, he said, and patients travel from all over the world to visit him at the Cleveland Clinic Beachwood Family Health and Surgery Center.
When this procedure was introduced by a Russian surgeon in the mid-1980s it was very painful and used cumbersome tools.
Seitz adopted the procedure from and rebuilt the equipment, streamlining the process, he said, and alleviating much of the pain for the children who undergo it.
He treats adults, as well, who have suffered physical trauma.
He first treated Andrew when he was six months old, which he said is ideal. “We try to do children as early as possible, say at 6 months, because their brain is developing a picture of what their hand looks like. The earlier we can give a child a hand that works, the earlier the brain will understand what it has to work with.”
Andrew follows 400 or 500 patients Seitz has performed this procedure on over the last 26 years, said Seitz.
And, judging from Seitz's other patients, Andrew's future looks bright: Seitz’s patients with rebuilt fingers and limbs have gone on to receive athletic scholarships in college, one has become an accomplished pianist and one is studying to become a surgeon himself.
“These kids are amazingly resourceful they take the little bit of improvise and make it work," said Seitz. "Of all the things I do surgically, certainly this is the most rewarding.”