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PBS reporter Miles O'Brien recounts amputation



LOS ANGELES (AP) -- PBS science correspondent Miles O'Brien said Tuesday his left arm was amputated above the elbow after an apparently minor injury put his life in jeopardy.

In a blog post on his personal website Tuesday, which was verified by PBS, O'Brien recounted the Feb. 12 blow to his arm he suffered while on assignment in Asia and the medical emergency that followed.

He was diagnosed with "acute compartment syndrome," O'Brien said, in which blocked blood flow in an enclosed space in the body can cause life-threatening consequences.

Part of his arm was removed in a choice between "a life and a limb," O'Brien said, quoting his doctor. He is grateful to be alive, the PBS reporter said.

O'Brien has continued working despite the ordeal, PBS spokeswoman Anne Bell said.

The former CNN science and space correspondent covers science for "PBS NewsHour" and is a correspondent for public TV's documentary series "Frontline" and the National Science Foundation's Science Nation online magazine.

According to his blog, O'Brien was securing cases filled with camera gear on a cart as he wrapped up a reporting trip to Japan and the Philippines. One of the cases fell onto his left forearm, he wrote, adding, "It hurt, but I wasn't all `911' about it."

The arm was sore and swollen the next day but worsened on the next, Feb. 14, and he sought medical care. O'Brien did not detail where he was and PBS couldn't immediately provide the information.

At the hospital, as his pain increased and arm numbness set in, a doctor recommended an emergency procedure to relive the pressure within the limb, O'Brien wrote.

"When I lost blood pressure during the surgery due to the complications of compartment syndrome, the doctor made a real-time call and amputated my arm just above the elbow," O'Brien wrote.

He typed the blog post with one hand and help from speech recognition software, he noted, and ended it with dark humor.

"Life is all about playing the hand that is dealt you. Actually, I would love somebody to deal me another hand right about now - in more ways than one," O'Brien wrote.

© 2014 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.

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ms.sammi February 27 2014 at 12:39 AM

Unimaginable. My sincere prayers goes out to him and his family. I'm not a physician but it all just seems so primitive SMH....... but glad he made it out alive. Could have been much worse, much worse.

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Slow February 27 2014 at 12:29 AM

Miles,

JS Fossett, and a bunch of the 93 Class wish you well from 07 and the Nevada Group.

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J15491 February 26 2014 at 9:40 PM

I am so sorry to hear of this but have always been inspired by your reporting, especially about the Space Program. I know you will go on to do great things! Prayers to you...

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ROBERT February 26 2014 at 9:35 PM

Hope he is Right handed !

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martinhanl February 26 2014 at 8:08 PM

Bad doctor.........If he was in the States...he'd have his arm..............good grief!!!!

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rplace209 February 26 2014 at 7:53 PM

Mr O'BRIEN,I'm terribly sorry to hear about about your unfortunate accident.I always followed you on CNN and quite frankly the program hasn't been the same without you.My grandfather lost his left arm in a saw mill accident in 1952 .My father wrapped the limb,put it on ice, but
reattachment efforts failed.It never changed the man he was we just didn't need pliers to detach our catfish when fishing(I'm originally from Georgia). I wish you a speedy recovery and good health in the future

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BARRY AND KATHY February 26 2014 at 7:22 PM

In 1961 my father hurt his arm at work. He went into the hospital and shortly after and they amputated the same arm in the same place as OBrien. He lived with one arm and owned a restaurant among other factory jobs the rest of his working life.
He passed away in 1997 and until I read this story just now I NEVER considered he didn't lose his arm to cancer. We were told at the time that if his arm wasn't amputated, he would be dead in a week so there was no choice.
He suffered phantom arm pain for about two years until it gradually lessened. He said it was as his arm were being jammed up behind his back and cramping terribly.
He never complained and never shirked his duties to his family.
He was a general foreman for a family which made parts for the military and when he went back to work after his recuperation, the plant manager who was also missing an arm, fired him because they said he could no longer do his job.
If I were old enough at the time knowing what I now know, I would have lhad to explore legal paths.
He was the most honest person I ever knew and I have to credit his upbringing as well as having to work his way through the depression. 12 hours a day, 7 days a week picking up potatoes for 50 cents a day until he went into the WPA. We knew it as the CCC'S (civilian conservation corp).

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ihave1465fans February 26 2014 at 6:48 PM

No worries guy that amputation should net you about 250 grand from your company Aflac policy and at least a 50% disability rating for your now to be collected SSD checks.

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Susan February 26 2014 at 6:00 PM

That is sad and wonder why the arm still had to be removed like that from what kind of pressure that something not so drastic could have been done instead.

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thelaughingpig February 26 2014 at 10:57 PM

Compartment syndrome is a very rapid event that cuts of all blood supply to the affected area. If caught VERY EARLY- like right after the initial injury, microvascular surgery can sometimes correct the damage and the limb can be saved. What happens more often is the initial injury is not recognized as being as severe as it really is. When that occurs, the window for the surgery to be effective has already passed. The limb quickly becomes gangrenous and can lead to fatal sepsis if it is not amputated right away. The upside is that the current technologies with prosthetic limbs will allow this young man to return to close to normal function when he can be fitted with a prosthesis.

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Diana February 26 2014 at 5:36 PM

I am so sorry to hear about your injury. My first thought though was the extensive research that is being done at Johns Hopkins on hand/arm surgery. Maybe now is not the time but when you've recovered and if you have the desire. My daughter's plastic surgery team was responsible for the bilateral arm transplant. They have done some amazing work and new procedures are coming as we go. Good luck with your recovery. http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/stories/double_arm_transplant.html

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