Billy in safe hands after dramatic birthday injury

Doctor, mother, father and physiotherapist sit around boy holding his hand in the air
Billy Baxter (centre) with parents Kaya Clifford and John Baxter, Plastic Surgeon Dr Duncan Taylor (left) and Physiotherapist Curtis Harmer (right)
August 10, 2017

The family of a three-year-old boy whose hand was caught in a juicer have thanked Fiona Stanley Hospital staff for saving his hand.

On his third birthday, Billy Baxter was helping his mum Kaya Clifford make juice for his party – something they had done together many times before.

“Billy loves helping me make juice – we do it all the time,” said Kaya, a former paediatric nurse.

But neither knew their fun birthday activity was about to take a dramatic turn.

As Billy happily dropped fruit into the narrow funnel of the juicer, Kaya turned away for half a second.

“I turned back and Billy’s hand had been sucked into the juicer,” Kaya said.

“It was completely stuck and we couldn’t see how to get it out – it was horrific.”

A distressed Kaya and her partner John Baxter got Billy into the car – juicer still on his hand – and rushed him to Fiona Stanley Hospital.

Emergency Department staff took Billy in straight away and worked to remove the juicer.

“It was difficult to know how bad the damage was, as no one could see it properly with the juicer still attached,” Kaya said.

Once the juicer was removed, it was clear the damage was catastrophic.

Billy had a large gash through the centre of his palm, severing nerves, tendons and crucial blood supply to his fingers.

He had multiple lacerations to all four fingers and his thumb, and a chipped growth plate.

“You could tell the blood supply had been cut off as Billy’s hand had gone grey – it didn’t look good,” Kaya said.

“We were really worried he might lose his hand.”

Plastic surgeon Dr Duncan Taylor and his team worked late into the night to save Billy’s hand.

“We don’t see a lot of injuries that severe and complex, especially in someone so young,” Dr Taylor said.

“The biggest challenge was trying to re-establish blood supply to Billy’s fingers.

“The blood vessels in his hand were tiny so we completed most of the surgery using a microscope.”

Dr Taylor said the successful 10-hour surgery was real team achievement.

“A complex surgery like Billy’s demands input from a whole range of specialist areas,” he said.

“Surgeons can’t operate without the support of nursing staff, anaesthetists, imaging technicians and other support staff.

“Paediatric ward staff, play therapists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists have all played important roles in his post-operative recovery.”

Remarkably, Billy was able to go home after only 48 hours in hospital and is expected to regain full use of his hand.

Kaya said Billy had been surprisingly positive about his first-ever hospital experience.

“He looks forward to going to hand therapy because the staff have made it really fun for him.

“Whenever we drive past the hospital he’ll point and say, ‘That’s my hospital, Mum.’”

Asked what she would say to hospital staff, Kaya’s answer was simple.

“Thank you so much. We’re so grateful.”