Hand of Hope

A South Florida man is being called a medical miracle after a flesh-eating disease nearly took his arm, and his life. In tonight’s special assignment report, 7’s Mike Marza shows us how a team of local doctors offered him a “Hand of Hope.”

WSVN — Harvey Richmond cut his left hand while cleaning under the fridge of his Bay Harbor Islands home. He didn’t think anything of it.

Harvey Richmond: “Nothing, nothing. I’m always cutting myself.”

But a few days later, that tiny little scratch would turn into this.

Harvey Richmond: “My arm was purple and black. I started getting really dizzy and shaky.”

Harvey was rushed to Mount Sinai Medical Center, where ER doctors made a gruesome discovery. A flesh-eating bacteria had invaded the cut, and was quickly ravaging Harvey’s arm and body.

Dr. Cynthia Rivera: “It does spread very rapidly. The skin will change and will be, so to speak, eaten away in a matter of hours.”

Judy Richmond: “Overwhelming fear, because I didn’t think that’s the kind of wound you could live after.”

Doctors say these types of flesh-eating bacteria lurk everywhere.

Dr. Cynthia Rivera: “Obtaining this bacteria is as simple as anything that cuts the skin, anything that allows the bacteria to enter the skin.”

To save Harvey’s life, surgeons had to strip away all the skin and tissue affected by the bacteria, leaving most of the man’s arm skinless and raw.

Dr. Joshua Lampert: “It did look like something out of a zombie movie.”

Harvey lost two fingers, and because his arm was so disfigured, doctors considered amputating it, too. But Mount Sinai plastic surgeon Joshua Lampert pushed to save Harvey’s arm. He was able to use skin grafts to reconstruct Harvey’s arm, but all the exposed bone and joints on Harvey’s hand posed a problem.

Dr. Joshua Lampert: “The problem with the exposed hand is, you can’t just put a skin graft. It usually won’t work.”

So the surgeon came up with an innovative plan.

Dr. Joshua Lampert: “We ended up elevating a flap from his groin and tucking it in and sewing that groin flap on top of the hand to cover the bone and the joint.”

Harvey’s hand was literally attached to his abdomen. The goal: to get Harvey’s own body to regrow the skin.

Dr. Joshua Lampert: “Over a course of 2 to 3 weeks, the surrounding blood supply grows into that tissue and then you can sever it from where it’s connected.”

And once his hand was removed from the abdomen, Harvey started serious physical therapy to learn to use his hand again. Ten months later, amazingly, this is Harvey’s arm.

Dr. Joshua Lampert: “He has pinch, he can open and close the hand, he can button up his shirt. I’m actually amazed at how well he is doing. I think, overall, we can chalk this up as a win.”

Harvey is just happy to be alive, and with an arm to hug the ones he loves.

Harvey Richmond: “I have the best result that I could have had, or anybody could have had with this disease. Hug my wife, play with my dog.”

Again, doctors say flesh-eating bacteria are everywhere, so it’s important that if you get a cut, to clean it really well. And if you do get a cut that becomes red, with major pain, get to a hospital immediately.

Mount Sinai Medical Center
4300 Alton Road
Miami Beach FL 33140
(305) 674-2273
Dr. Joshua Lampert, Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon
Dr. Cynthia Rivera, Infectious Disease


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