Man's arms reattached after accident North Dakota farmer recovering in Minn.


ST. PAUL, Minn. -- An 18-year-old North Dakota man whose arms were severed in a farm accident and who then sat in a bathtub so he wouldn't bleed on his mother's carpet is recovering this week after surgeons reattached his limbs.

If everything continues to improve for John Thompson, whose surgery at North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale, Minn., took place Saturday, his will be one of the few successful double arm reattachments in U.S. history.

Infection will be a major concern for five to 10 days, hospital spokeswoman Maggie Drury said. But circulation in both arms is good, and Mr. Thompson has been upgraded from critical to serious condition, she said.

The accident occurred about 2:30 p.m. Saturday. Mr. Thompson was alone grinding feed on the family farm near Hurdsfield, about 90 miles southeast of Minot, N.D., when he became entangled in the tractor's power takeoff shaft, Ms. Drury said.

Although the spinning shaft tore off both arms at the shoulders, Mr. Thompson managed to walk uphill about 500 yards to the house. But he couldn't open the door, so he walked into the garage and used his teeth to open another door, according to his uncle, Lynn Thompson.

Inside the house, he kicked open the door to the den, knocked the telephone receiver off the hook, picked up a pencil with his teeth and punched his cousin's number on the touch-tone phone. After notifying his cousin, Ms. Drury said, Mr. Thompson sat in the bathtub.

An ambulance from nearby Bowdon was sent to the scene. The crew retrieved the severed arms and packed them for the trip to St. Aloisius Medical Center in Harvey, N.D.

"On the way to the hospital, he asked the ambulance crew to please call his grandmother so she wouldn't worry about him," Ms. Drury said.

While a trauma team prepared Mr. Thompson for the trip, an air ambulance crew was called from Bismarck, N.D., to transport him to North Memorial in Robbinsdale, a Minneapolis suburb.

He was taken into surgery about 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Ms. Drury said. Plastic surgeons Allen Van Beek and J. Bart Muldowney headed the microvascular surgical team, each working on a separate arm, Ms. Drury said. They were assisted by orthopedic surgeon Joseph Bocklage. The operation took about six hours.

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