Sword victim checks himself out of hospital

BY SIMON WOOD AND STACEY WOOD
Last updated 05:00 04/06/2009
SIMON WOOD/The Dominion Post
EXCRUCIATING PAIN: Mr Durham was taken to hospital by air ambulance.

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Just days after his hand was nearly severed by a Samurai sword, Matt Durham has confounded his surgeon by discharging himself from hospital and going home.

The doctor who led the 10½ hour surgery says his patient's decision to leave is "absolutely crazy". He risks losing his hand because he decided to "do a runner".

Mr Durham's left hand was left dangling, attached by just skin and tendons, after he was attacked with a Samurai sword at a Palmerston North party on Saturday night.

He told The Dominion Post yesterday that he put his left hand up to protect his throat. His right hand was also cut when his attacker made a second swipe, which he also managed to fend off.

It was only then that he realised his left hand had nearly been severed when the blade sliced diagonally through his wrist.

At first he felt no pain. But he knew he was in big trouble: "My hand was cut and just hanging on and the blood was squirting out for metres.

"I remember when I first noticed it I just saw my hand and all I could think was 'I need to go to a hospital or I'm going to die."'

Quick-thinking friends tied shoelaces around his arms to stem the bleeding, before calling an ambulance and police.

"When I was in the ambulance was the first time I started to feel pain, once the adrenaline wore off ... really sore, like excruciating, pain."

As Mr Durham was taken to Hutt Hospital by air ambulance he was "screaming and screaming at the top of my lungs".

A surgical team of 14, including six doctors, reattached his left hand on Sunday.

But Mr Durham, 20, discharged himself on Tuesday night, catching a ride home with mates, and has yet to make a statement to police.

"I wanted to come back to Palmerston North. I was off antibiotics and I did talk to the doctors about it. They were going to let me go anyway so I just decided to come home."

Patients have the right to discharge themselves from hospital at any time, unless there are exceptional circumstances.

A Hutt Hospital spokesman said patients could be asked to sign a form stating they had decided to leave and understood the consequences.

Mr Durham, who is right-handed and works as a farm fencer, said he already had some movement in his left hand: "It's pretty promising because I can move my fingers a little and it's only a couple of days after the Samurai sword.

"I can feel it but it's a really light feeling like pins and needles when I touch it.

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"To be honest I was pretty glad it was was my left hand, not my right hand."

He was attacked outside his flat after gatecrashers arrived at a party.

"[One] just ran at me with the sword. I put my hand up to defend myself.

"It was like something out of the movies ... like something out of America."

Mr Durham plans to go to Palmerston North Hospital for physiotherapy and hopes to make a full recovery. But Hutt Hospital plastic surgeon and burns specialist Jim Armstrong, who led the surgical team, said his patient's decision to discharge himself was "absolutely crazy".

"You have to take some responsibility and be prepared to look after it. It should be moved only very carefully and under supervision ... so all the repairs don't come apart."

The surgery had cost "tens of thousands" and his patient risked damaging the delicate repairs, the possibility of infection or even losing the hand altogether, Mr Armstrong said. The wound needed treatment over two years, including more surgery to "free up" tendons.

A male, 16, has been charged in relation to the incident.

'ABSOLUTELY CRAZY'

Matt Durham walked out of hospital against doctors' advice two days after:

Six doctors, seven nurses and an anaesthetic technician were called to work on a Sunday.

They spent 10 hours in theatre to painstakingly repair 18 tendons with hundreds of microstitches.

At least $100,000 was spent to save his hand.

- The Dominion Post

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