A dad whose fingers were replaced with his TOES after a horror accident has learned how to use his new digits to hold a pen – and even peel vegetables.
Jeremy Payton, 55, feared he would be disabled for life after severing all the fingers on his right hand in an industrial power blending machine.
But amazingly surgeons were able to remove three of his toes and attach them to his hand giving him basic dexterity.
Determined Jeremy has slowly learned to live with his new hand and taught himself to carry out most daily tasks, including tying shoelaces and cooking.
The sports fan has even managed to continue playing golf.
Recalling the incident, he said: “When the accident happened I didn’t realise how serious it was.
“I went to find a first aider at work and said to him ‘I think my I’ve taken some skin off my hand.’
“When I looked down at my hand, I realised my fingers were gone.”
Jeremy’s life changed forever 17 years ago when the former factory manager put his hand into a powder-blending machine which had been left unguarded.
The rotating blades, which were as powerful as a lawn mower, pulled his fingers away from his hand – and when he looked down, there was just a stump left.
A quick-thinking colleague fished the dad-of-three’s fingers out from between the blades and wrapped them in a teatowel packed with ice.
Paramedics were optimistic they could be sewn back on as Jeremy was taken away in an ambulance.
The damage was so severe that only Jeremy’s middle finger and ring finger had a hope of being salvaged, and medics worked to ‘replant’ them by sewing them back.
But less than a fortnight later the fingertips turned black as necrosis set in, and Jeremy was wheeled back into the operating theatre to have them removed.
Later he was told of a radical operation which could help him regain the use of his hand by surgeons at East Grinstead Hospital, West Sussex.
“It sounded really weird when they explained it – I couldn’t get my head around it until I spoke to a young lad who’d lost his thumb in a forestry accident,” Jeremy said.
“He showed me what was on his hand – they’d taken off a toe and sewn it on.
“You need your thumbs – otherwise no matter how many fingers you have, you can’t pick anything up.”
In a series of operations over the course of a year the mangled stump of his right hand was transformed into a patchwork of new digits.
The second and third toes from his right foot were removed and transplanted and the big toe from his left foot was used to replace his thumb.
Just five weeks before the accident Jeremy had been in hospital as his wife Sue, now aged 46, had given birth to newborn twins Max and Charlotte.
For a month after the accident, Sue had to manage the tiny babies as well as their eldest child, Oliver, aged 18 months, alone.
Jeremy, of Dartford, Kent, said: “Although I wasn’t able to do much for the babies, I could still spend time with them.
“And I could take Oliver to the shops on his trike, using one hand.”
“It allowed me to spend more time with my kids than most dads do.
“But if you were to ask my wife, she’d probably say it was like having four children.”
The determined dad carried on the hobbies he enjoyed before the accident, including gardening, DIY and golf, although his handicap has dropped from 24 to 16.
He drives a manual car and finds ways to adapt tools to help him, in addition to using his three toes.
Jeremy said: “The garden is my domain, and we are always decorating the house.
“Without the operation, I’d be struggling physically and mentally.”