A U.S. submarine sailor lost his right hand in an at-sea industrial accident in March, but the appendage was saved after the sailor was rushed to a surgical team in Spain that was able to reattach the hand, the Navy’s 6th Fleet confirmed Tuesday.
The accident occurred March 27 as the submarine steamed in 6th Fleet’s waters.
The unidentified 21-year-old lost the hand while the boat was about 70 miles off Cartagena, Spain, in the Mediterranean Sea, according to a report by the Spanish newspaper ABC.
He was treated by medical personnel onboard the boat, airlifted to a Spanish coast guard vessel and on to Hospital de Manises in Valencia, Spain, according to 6th Fleet.
It took 10 hours to get the sailor to the hospital, making the operation more complex because of blood flow issues, according to a report on ThinkSpain.com, a news and real estate site for expatriates in Spain.
During the five-hour operation, Dr. Pedro Cavadas, a renowned Spanish surgeon, first had to place a catheter between the wrist and hand to get blood flowing, ABC reported.
A skin graft from the sailor’s leg was then used to help reattach the hand, according to ABC, which reported that Cavadas expects the sailor to make a full recovery.
The sailor was transferred to a military hospital in the states on April 10, according to ABC.
Adm. James G. Foggo, the head of U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, presented Cavadas and his surgical team with awards on May 4.
Foggo said in a Navy release that the surgical team’s efforts were a “testament to enduring partnership between the U.S. and Spain.”
Cavadas praised his team in the Navy release.
“It seems that normal, well-trained and motivated people doing routine things, when they come together, can do remarkable things,” he said.