As a second-year medical student with aspirations to be a surgeon, 23-year-old Emmanuel knows the importance of having two fully functioning hands.  However, when he intervened to help a woman being harassed by a drunk man his dominant right hand was cut deeply by a knife, making it impossible to use his hand.

In 2018, Emmanuel had a first stage tendon graft completed by local surgeons in Papua New Guinea.  In this procedure a tendon was removed, and an artificial ‘spacer’ put in to create a channel for a new tendon to go through.

In their recent surgical mentoring program in PNG, Interplast volunteer plastic and reconstructive surgeon Mr Siddharth (Sid) Karanth, the Interplast team and the team at Port Moresby General Hospital performed a second stage tendon repair and graft.

Interplast volunteer hand therapist Penny McMahon explained that Emmanuel was quite lucky.

“Emmanuel had a palmaris longus muscle.  This is essentially an extra muscle in the arm which could be used to graft the new tendon.  Only about 85 per cent of people have a palmaris longus muscle.” Penny said.

“This makes for a much easier recovery because a muscle is taken which doesn’t play a vital role,” she said.

Penny said that it is very important to actively involve a patient in their recovery.

“Emmanuel had a good understanding of anatomy and what had been done surgically.  This really helped with his recovery.”

Penny demonstrated a hand flex to Emmanuel, who then flexed his hand.  Penny said: “See! You have just shown that every tendon is intact, and that the surgery was 100 per cent successful!”

Emmanuel was looking forward to returning to his studies with new-found insight into hand surgery, hand therapy and being a patient in hospital.

The Interplast surgical mentoring program to PNG was supported by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.  The allied health mentoring program was supported by a private donor and the nurse education program was supported by Rotary Club of Melbourne.