Hairstylist almost cuts off arm, but is back in salon after hand reattachment surgery

Surgeon leading hand transplant program rebuilds patient's arm, reattaches hand

Robert Ruffer was working on his farm with a saw, cutting up pieces of wood, when a horrible accident happened.

His sleeve got  caught on the blade. The blade ripped through his arm and his bones.  His son fashioned a quick tourniquet out of a belt and waited for an ambulance to arrive.

Ruffer arrived at the University of Michigan Health System with his arm hanging by just a flap of skin.

Ruffer ended up in the care of Kagan Ozer, M.D., the hand surgeon who is leading U-M’s new hand transplant program. Ozer reconstructed Ruffer’s arm, building back bone, tendons and nerves.

Amazingly, within six weeks, Robert was back in the Grosse Pointe, Mich. salon where he has worked for years, cutting hair and doing makeup.

“It is absolutely a gift to return to work,” Ruffer says. “They gave me a tremendous amount to be thankful for. … U of M rescued me.”

Ozer says Ruffer had a lot of motivation and positive energy that helped his recovery.

“Seventy-five to 80 percent of all tendons were completely lacerated, in addition to two major nerves and an artery,” says Ozer. “The window of opportunity to perform such surgeries is so narrow that it needs to be performed within the first four to six hours following that kind of major trauma. Not everybody is as lucky as Robert.”

Take the next step:

Watch Robert Ruffer tell his story in this video.

Watch Dr. Ozer explain Ruffer’s injury in this video.

Learn more about hand surgery at the University of Michigan Health System.

Learn more about transplant and organ donation.

Ozer_2705Dr. Kagan Ozer is the surgical lead for the U-M Transplant Center’s new hand transplant program, which launched in 2015. He specializes in post-traumatic reconstruction in elbow and hand surgery. Ozer also is clinical associate professor of orthopaedic surgery at the U-M Medical School. Learn more about Dr. Ozer here.



HS_150x150_BLOG.fwU-M has one of the oldest and largest transplantation programs in the country and has performed more than 10,000 transplants. U-M surgeons perform transplants of hearts, lungs, pancreases, livers, hands, kidneys, and corneas. About 400 to 450 transplants are done at U-M annually, mostly kidney transplants followed by liver, heart, lung and pancreas.