Life Video

By Charlotte Nisbet 

A woman who lost her thumb trying to save 10p is over the moon after surgeons replaced the limb with her ring finger. 

Helen Banham, 51, lost her right thumb and part of her hand when trying to retrieve a milk bottle worth 10p that had fallen into the machinery she was operating. 

Pic by Peter Goddard/Caters News

After being rushed into hospital by her husband, Helen spent three weeks undergoing surgery to rebuild her damaged hand. 

It wasn’t until two months later that surgeons decided to use Helen’s already damaged ring finger to replace her thumb. 

She couldn’t be happier with the results and is now sharing her story to raise awareness for amazing care provided at The Pulvertaft Hand Centre within Royal Derby Hospital. 

Helen, from Skegness, Lincolnshire, said: “When the bottle fell through the machine I was thinking to myself there’s 10p wasted. 

“I didn’t want to waste 10p so I put my hand into the machine to save it without turning the machine off first. 

“After pulling my hand out I noticed that my thumb had gone but I was in so much shock that there was no pain at all. 

Pic by Peter Goddard/Caters News

“We live in such a rural area that I knew it would be faster for my husband, David, to drive us to the nearest hospital instead of waiting for the ambulance. 

“He was worried that I was going to bleed to death but I managed to wrap some towels around my hand. 

“I was transferred to Royal Derby Hospital as my injuries were extensive and they have a specialist hand unit. 

“I spent three weeks in hospital as I adapted to life without my thumb. 

“My ring finger had also been damaged and I was struggling to use my hand to grip as tendons had been torn. 

“It was suggested that my big toe would be amputated to replace my thumb but I have size 10 feet and I knew that would affect my balance dramatically. 

Pic by Peter Goddard/Caters News

“I can’t thank the team at Pulvertaft Hand Unit enough, their expertise and care was amazing. 

“Two months after the accident the team at the hand unit suggested that we try and recycle my ring finger as it needed to be amputated anyway and use the tip to rebuild my thumb. 

“I was willing to try anything and I was thrilled when the seven hour surgery was a success in February 2013.

“I have spent the last few years attending physio for my hand and rebuilding my life. 

“The milk bottle business ended the same day of accident and I’m now manager at a farm instead. 

Pic by Peter Goddard/Caters News

“Despite it being an awful accident I have kept my sense of humour with it all and love tricking people who ask where my finger has gone and I show them my thumb. 

“I’ve been so lucky to have such a dedicated team at the hand centre and it’s incredible how dedicated they all are.”

Helen began her milk bottle business with her husband, David, as she wanted to create a high quality milk product at their farm. 

She said: “We wanted to expand our milk product but we were all exhausted as we needed to work long hours to ensure we produced the finished product efficiently. 

“After my accident we decided it wasn’t worth the risk and we have since sold our cows.”