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In Good Hands
Craig Burgen

​Craig Burgen is thrilled to be back at work after nearly losing his thumb in a workplace accident

Bridging research with her clinical work, Dr. Heather Baltzer is treating more patients with severe hand injuries than almost any other doctor in Canada

OCTOBER 23, 2018, IS A DATE Craig Burgen won’t soon forget. The 48-year-old industrial mechanic was in the midst of a repair, removing a massive eight-foot steel roller at the Woodbridge, Ont., plastic sheeting company where he works, when one side of it slipped and came down on his left hand like a guillotine. His thumb was severed between the two knuckles, left to hang perilously from a small piece of skin. “I held my thumb in my right hand and started to freak out,” recalls Burgen.

In shock, he didn’t feel any pain. Paramedics took him directly to Toronto Western Hospital, which performs the largest number of hand and finger replacements in the province. “I felt like I was going to be in good hands, so to speak,” he says, reflecting on the experience. “You don’t realize how much you need your thumb until you don’t have use of it anymore.” Hand injuries are extremely common, sending more Canadians to the emergency room annually than any other cause. In Ontario alone, research suggests that there are more than 100,000 cases of traumatic hand injuries every year – including fractures, dislocations and amputations.