An at-home door slamming accident claimed the pinky finger of Deepa Kulkarni who thought she had only bruised her finger when to her horror, saw the tip of her pinky lying on the floor.
After retrieving the pinky finger and placing in the freezer, her husband, Ajit, called an ambulance and waited for family to care for their two small children. After entering the hospital emergency room the doctor on call told Kulkarni her finger could not be reattached.
An orthopedic surgeon agreed with the ER doctor and advised amputation of other digits so the finger would heal properly. Kulkarni vowed there must be a better way with so much technology available and set out on a five week journey to defy doctors who declared there was a 100 percent chance of failure.
After being sent home with a bandaged finger and painkillers, Kulkarni researched the internet only to be disappointed when she chanced upon stories from “60 Minutes” and “Oprah” about a relatively new procedure called tissue regeneration, which had made amputated finger parts grow back for other patients.
Writing the University of Pittsburgh physician who pioneered the procedure, Dr. Stephen Badylak, she told him her dilemma. Her request was acknowledged when the next day, a Sunday, one of Dr. Badylak’s colleagues gave her more procedure details with the bad news that no local doctors close to her were familiar with regenerative medicine.
Photos of her damaged pinky were emailed to the doctors in Pittsburgh and Kulkarni sent out an all-call in search of a physician close to her who was familiar with tissue regeneration technology.
Finally, Kulkarni found Dr. Michael Peterson, an orthopedic surgeon in Davis, California who had not performed the procedure but was willing to try it after research materials were given him.
Therapy involved debridement (cleaning out the finger and removing scar tissue) and then dipping the finger into MatriStem wound powder.
After seven weeks of treatment, her fingertip grew back. Subsequent physical therapy has since reduced tingling in her finger from severed nerves. Though not perfect, the pinky does not look like an amputated finger and all daily functions have been restored.
Kulkarni has learned valuable lessons along the way including that doctors don’t always know everything and emailing doctors you haven’t met before is allowable. Also, it pays to be pushy in some situations.