Young patient makes a full recovery after thumb replantation, just in time for baseball season


Brayden Haefner and Christopher Dy, MD, MPH

On November 4, 2017, tragedy struck during a family outing leaving 14-year-old Brayden Heafner with a severed thumb. Rebecca Heafner, Brayden’s mom, recalls getting the phone call and rushed to meet them at Alton Memorial. Brayden was very quickly transported to St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Rebecca recalls being concerned as it was Brayden’s right hand and he is right-handed. “He’s such a hands-on kind of kid. He’s into carpentry and robotics,” she says. There were concerns whether the thumb could be saved, let alone regain full use. 

Christopher Dy, MD, MPH, a nerve and hand specialist with Washington University Orthopedics, was brought in for the surgery. Brayden underwent an eight hour surgery. Rebecca says, “Dr. Dy and his staff kept us well informed throughout the entire procedure.” 

Photo: Brayden with Dr. Dy (right) and hand fellow Dr. Daniel Koehler (left), who assisted with surgery.

“Brayden underwent a complex reconstructive microsurgery to  repair small blood vessels and nerves, fix his bone fracture, and perform skin grafting,” says Dr. Dy. 

They were constantly monitoring the blood flow to his thumb and all signs pointed to a very successful surgery. Brayden was in the PICU from Saturday to Tuesday and then able to move to a regular room until he was released just two days later on Thursday. Dr. Dy says, “In a case like Brayden’s, using a team approach is critical to ensure chances of a great outcome.  We succeeded due to the collaborative efforts from the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Emergency Room staff, the operating room nurses and anesthesia team, our surgical fellows, ICU staff and floor nurses.” Brayden spent a total of five days in the hospital and when he was released he was sent home with a cone on his hand. He followed up with Dr. Dy a week later, and was placed in a cast.  

Brayden was out of the cast in two short weeks as he was healing so quickly. He was put in a hard splint and immediately began therapy. Rebecca says, “He has regained full use of his thumb and made a complete recovery.” They were told there could be future fine-tuning surgeries needed on Brayden’s thumb, but they may not be necessary. “We have all been so impressed with his recovery and function, it would be hard to improve on it,” says Dr. Dy. 

Just four months after having his thumb completely severed, Brayden tried out and made his high school baseball team. He plays outfield and ended the season with a 13-5 record.

Brayden HeafnerBrayden Heafner with baseball hat
Brayden in the hospital after surgery; Brayden in his baseball hat.

More Info:

Request an Appointment