Fisherman details nearly losing his hand, amazing recovery

WARNING: Some of the details in this story are graphic.

PEAKS ISLAND (WGME) – Nearly two months ago, a scallop fisherman got his lower arm caught in a hydraulic winch.

It nearly took his hand off.

Doctors were able to re-attach it, in one of the most difficult surgeries they'd ever performed.

In 35 years of fishing off the coast of Maine, Rick Callow says he's been injured many times, but nothing like what happened to him seven weeks ago on his fishing boat, the E Cosi.

He and his crew were using a winch to haul in a catch of scallops when his glove got caught in the capstan, the revolving cylinder used to wind the cable.

"It jerked my hand towards the capstan,” Callow said. "Pinched my glove in there, just the tip of my index finger."

Seconds later, the machine was ripping through his lower arm and hand.

"At that point I'm screaming, ‘Turn it off! Turn it off!’ Then my shirt sleeve got caught in," Callow said.

His wife Nancy Stanhope immediately turned the winch off.

Callow says a few more turns would have killed him.

"She came just in a nick of time,” Callow said. “Turned the winch off. First thing I said was, ‘Back it off.’ So she backed it off right away."

Stanhope could see immediately how bad the damage was.

"Rick had been twisted into a position where he was down,” Stanhope said. “And we looked at each other and said amputation."

Callow could see it, too.

"I saw a glove on the deck,” Callow said. “That was my hand. And it was still attached and I'm amazed there wasn't any blood coming and shooting out."

It was his artery, still intact. Rick's nephew radioed the Coast Guard, who got to the boat in three minutes.

"And I says 'Come on alongside, boys, I gotta get to town.' And I jumped right on the boat," Callow said.

Three minutes later, the Coast Guard dropped him off. EMT's from the Portland Fire Department then rushed him to Maine Medical Center, where he underwent hours of surgery to reattach his hand.

"Dr. Camuso. He fastened the bones back together," Callow said. "Dr. Barr. Fabulous doctor. He did all the reconnecting of the tendons and nerves. And it was like putting dental floss into hamburger is what he called it."

Now, seven weeks later, Rick Callow is able to move his reattached hand. Even his hand therapist is amazed by his range of movement.

Callow knows he has a long road to recovery. But he's determined to get back out on his fishing boat as soon as he can. For now, he's learning to use his left hand.

"You should try shaving sometime with your left hand,” Callow said. “Brushing your teeth, it goes all over your face."

There is a GoFundMe page set up to help with the medical costs. Some of the pictures on that site are graphic.

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