r. Heather Baltzer
Dr. Heather Baltzer is a hand surgeon and a researcher. "Hand trauma is an unrecognized public health issue that has a profound impact on the patient's life and livelihood." (Photo: The Globe and Mail)

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 Craig.

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.

Arthritis, for example, is extremely common in hand-injury patients and can cause long-term health consequences, even if the damaged joint was treated properly. As well, many patients find themselves struggling with mental health and addiction issues after a traumatic hand injury, according to research conducted by Dr. Heather Baltzer, a hand surgeon and interim director of the Hand Program, and a clinician investigator at Krembil Research Institute.

"Hand trauma is an unrecognized public health issue that has a profound impact on the patient, limiting the ability to carry out activities of daily living," she says.

Krembil Magazine Volume IV - 2018 

Krembil Research Arthritis Magazine featured in The Globe and Mail.

There are six million Canadians currently living with arthritis. The Krembil Research Institute has teamed up with The Globe and Mail on a special project to highlight the groundbreaking research and clinical advancements happening within UHN's Arthritis Program, at Krembil. Inside this issue, you’ll learn how our dedicated scientists and clinicians are developing innovative techniques and technologies and pioneering new discoveries to help patients prevent, treat and recover from arthritis. The Arthritis Magazine, 2019 edition is now available online.

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