Cobbler Has Toe Stitched To Hand After Losing Thumb In Accident

by : Emily Brown on : 25 Jan 2020 17:11

Warning: graphic images

Cobbler Has Toe Stitched To Hand After Losing Thumb In AccidentSWNS

A cobbler had his big toe sewn onto his hand after losing his thumb in a traumatic work accident. 


We all know someone with ‘finger-toes’ – aka weirdly long toes – but this story gives a whole new meaning to the phrase.

David Lee, 40, lost his thumb last January while trimming the heel of a shoe. As he worked, the cobbler’s hand got snagged in the machine and his right thumb was cut off.

Man with medical staff who helped after losing thumbSWNS

The worker actually saw his thumb ‘drop on the floor’, but incredibly he managed to stay level-headed and pressed his hand into his jumper to prevent blood loss.


David ‘calmly’ turned the machines off and even went outside for a cigarette while he waited for the ambulance to arrive, though when he realised how bad his injury was he started to worry he would lose his job.

Recalling the ordeal, the cobbler said:

I knew how bad it was and I just worried that I wouldn’t be able to fix shoes again. I cried my eyes out when I thought about it, as I thought I was going to lose my shop.

I was more concerned about that than my thumb because this is my passion.

It all happened so fast but I felt no pain at all.

Guy has toe sewn on to hand after losing thumbGuy has toe sewn on to hand after losing thumbSWNS
WarningGraphic ImageClick to reveal.

David was rushed to King’s Mill Hospital in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, before being transferred to the Pulvertaft Hand Centre at Royal Derby Hospital. There, doctors suggested replacing David’s lost thumb with his big toe.

Realising this may be the only way he could continue working, the cobbler wasted no time in agreeing to the surgery.

He explained:

I was okay with the idea of moving my toe to my hand. My main concern was the business and my shop as I had recently moved in.

I thought, ‘I’m never going to do my job again and I’m going to lose my business’. It was a no-brainer going down this route.

As a right-handed person, I wouldn’t have been able to do a lot of the job. I was really conscious of it to start with.

Man with four toes after having big toe sewn in place of thumbSWNS

Jill Arrowsmith, one of the two Consultant Hand Surgeons who performed the operation, explained the toe-to-thumb surgery is typically only considered for patients ‘who have lost a lot of their thumb, usually down to close to the knuckle’.

She explained:

Not having any of the thumbs can be very disabling, especially for those who do a manual job.

This type of injury could mean that these patients are not able to remain at work, so we’re delighted to be able to provide this treatment option.

Toe-to-thumb reconstructions are quite rare but we have been really pleased with all of the outcomes these patients have achieved.

Man grinning after having toe stitched on in place of thumbSWNS

David was keen to get back to work after undergoing his operation, and while his new ‘thumb’ feels heavier than his old one, physiotherapy and the strength work have made it feel more normal.

Arrowsmith said using the big toe gives the ‘best functional and cosmetic benefits’ as it is ‘the thing most like a thumb on the body’.

The cobbler admitted he was anxious when he went back to work and first approached the machine that caused his injury, but he has since made adjustments that have ‘put [him] at ease’.

Man showing off toe-thumb after losing thumb in work accidentMan showing off toe-thumb after losing thumb in work accidentSWNS
WarningGraphic ImageClick to reveal.

David’s desire to get back to work meant his foot took longer to heal as he was walking around a lot, but he’s just glad he’s able to work at all.

Arrowsmith commended David’s determination, saying:

David has worked really hard to recover after his injury and has done amazingly well.

He’s the first master cobbler I’ve ever met, so it’s really nice to hear that he’s back doing what he loves to do.

David definitely deserves a big thumbs up – or rather, toes up – for the way he dealt with the accident!

If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected] 

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Emily Brown

Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.

Topics: Life, Surgery