Jane’s finger to thumb transplant one of Southern Hemisphere's firsts

On the way to what should have been a great night out, Jane’s life was changed forever.

It was a Saturday night in 1976, just before Christmas, when the car Jane was travelling in lost control and crashed into a power pole.

Jane was the sole survivor of the horrific crash.

''When help arrived, I just remember hearing people saying “these two have gone, there's one over here”.

“My best friend went through the windscreen and died at the scene. Her flatmate was thrown from the back seat and under the car. He also died instantly,” says Jane.

Jane was thrown out that same door with her left hand catching the door as it swung shut, throwing her headfirst into the driver’s door.

She was lucky to be alive and was rushed to Middlemore Hospital with a lengthy list of injuries that would require several surgeries and affect her for many years.

A broken jaw, broken cheek bones, a broken collar bone, two broken vertebrae and petrol burns were just part of the list of injures.

But the most horrific injury was the loss of her thumb and part of her index finger which led to what Jane was told was ‘the first operation of its kind in the southern hemisphere’.

“I think they thought of amputation at one stage but decided to try to save my hand and amazingly, they cut down my index finger and transplanted it to where my thumb was.

Jane had to have several operations to get it sorted - but it worked!

“I am full of praise for Middlemore Hospital and the treatment I had there. It was a dreadfully upsetting time, for everybody. The doctors and nurses were fantastic, and the surgery was second to none.

“I was very lucky to have survived but there's not a day goes by that I don’t think of my friends.”

Jane was a patient at Counties Manukau Health for around two years after her accident, with follow up surgeries and care following her primary course of care.

After being discharged from our care, Jane moved to the UK at the end of 1979, where she was married and has children.

Thank you for sharing your story Jane.

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