Rare Surgery Gives Romanian Girl Her Arms Back

A tragic accident left a 15-year-old girl with no arms, but Romanian doctors succeeded in reattaching both, performing a rare, almost impossible 20-hour surgery - the first bilateral arm reattachment surgery in Romania.

Doctor's hand with latex gloves taking stainless tweezers to help people with patience, on a white gray background. Modern medecine, life saving stock photo
Photo: iStock.com / Georgiy Datsenko

Alexia is a dancer, and on one cursed day this past December, she was on her way to do what she knows best – dance. The young girl hopped on a bus, not knowing that in just a couple of hours, images of her alongside the overturned vehicle would be splashed across the covers of every major news outlet in the county with a headline like, “No hands, no arms.” At that point, no one would have imagined that in just two weeks, she’d be exiting the hospital on her own two feet – and with both of her arms.

On 16 December, the clock began ticking for Alexia as the fight for her life started. An entire country looked up to the skies, praying for a miracle for the young girl. Luckily, a miracle is exactly what she received. It took the form of a 20-hour-long surgery at the end of which Alexia’s arms were added back to her body.

Rescuers, surgeons and the brave brother

But the fight wasn’t over yet. Alexia’s miracle started long before she landed on the operating table. The fact that she reached the hospital in time was, in itself, a miracle. The successful surgery was the result of the extensive work performed by the operating team, but without the excellent help of the rescue crew and the ER medics, it would have been impossible to succeed. In a fight where every minute counts, Alexia was able to get to the hospital in prime time for the surgery, and the outstanding performance of the staff made it so that no minute, which could make the difference between life and death in such a complex scenario, was lost. 

Besides the dedicated and professional medical staff, who performed their jobs outstandingly to ensure the intervention’s success, one more person made it possible: a civilian and no other than Alexia’s brother. According to BotosaniNews, the 16-year-old boy showed immense courage as he began searching around the bus wreckage for his sister’s arm, which was lost after the powerful impact. In cases where amputation is involved, the stakes are extremely high as it is not only the individual in need of special care but also the amputated limbs. The timeframe that dictates the success or the failure is mere hours if not minutes.

Miraculous surgery

“It’s almost hard to imagine that this child is alive,” says Dr. Susanu, the coordinator of the Department of Plastic Surgery at the “St. Maria” Iași Children’s Hospital and lead doctor of the surgery declared to News.ro. However, the first surgery was just the beginning, as six more surgeries and a total of over 30 hours were needed. Finally, on 30 December, she was discharged from the hospital. 

Not only did the surgeons succeed in reattaching both of her arms, but by doing so, they performed one of the most challenging surgeries in the world. “After seven surgeries, totaling more than 50 hours, our team performed the only bilateral arm reattachment ever reported in Europe and the second in the world,” Dr. Sidonia Susanu mentioned in a congratulatory post on Facebook.

Alexia has a long journey ahead to full recovery, but the medical specialists are optimistic that she will be able to use both hands by the end of the year. The surgery was able to give back Alexia not just her hands, but she is slowly beginning to return to her normal life. 

Two months after the horrendous accident, images and videos of Alexia began circulating on the internet. Next to her peers and with a bright smile on her face, she was filmed dancing in the studio, enjoying herself as if the past two months when she came face-to-face with death were nothing but a bad dream.

Naomi Gherman

Master student in Cultural Diplomacy and International Relations at Babeș-Bolyai University, eager to share more about our world's most fascinating stories and people. Romania-based reader, writer and content creator with a strong interest in journalism, foreign languages and politics.

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