White Coat Notes

‘How do you plug in a blood vessel?’ and other questions in recovery

I write in today’s Globe about Muji Karim’s recovery after a fiery car wreck in 2011 and how he is using his experience to help Marathon victims and other trauma survivors to picture their lives after injury.

Surgeons at Brigham and Women’s Hospital amputated Karim’s lower legs and part of his left hand. His care was so complicated that it took him awhile to understand all that doctors had done in treating him.

Some details he prefers not to know. But in March 2012, seven months after the crash, the 30-year-old from Quincy went in for a check-up with Dr. Simon Talbot, a surgeon, and had some questions ready.

Advertisement—Continue Reading Below

Talbot took video of Karim walking with the help of a crutch and marvelled at the fact that he already was living in an apartment on his own.

“I couldn’t be happier,” Talbot said. “I mean, what can I say. You’re walking…. You’re going to get so good at that in no time at all.”

They sat in an exam room, and Karim slipped off his prosthetics. He rubbed an oblong section of smooth skin, free of scarring, at the end of his right leg.

“I don’t understand this,” he said. “How did this come from my back?”

Talbot explained that a surgical team, hoping to preserve exposed bone on his right leg, had searched for a blood vessel in Karim’s back and removed it along with a rectangle of skin and tissue, reattaching it below the knee.

“How do you plug in a blood vessel?” Karim said.

“Under the microscope,” Talbot said. “It’s kind of small.”

Talbot examined Karim’s hand, which had been amputated to about his mid-palm, and called in two other clinicians who treated him to show off Karim’s progress. Karim said he had been walking a lot, but practiced “no-legs Sundays.”

As Karim slipped on his prosthetics, Talbot marvelled at his independence and talked about how much of his treatment doctors had to figure out as they went along. This had been no simple case. Talbot paused for a moment and stared at the floor.

“You’re standing on my toe, man,” he said, and the two men laughed.

Watch Karim, now 31, talk about what it means to support survivors of the Marathon bombing in the video above, and read the full story on BostonGlobe.com.

Share