Massachusetts · Newspaper clippings

Boy’s severed arm reattached, the first recorded successful reattachment of a completely severed arm

May 23, 1962
Boston, Massachusetts
A team of doctors successfully reattach a boy’s severed arm, the first known successful procedure of reattaching a completely-severed limb

Everett Knowles (12) had decided to try train hopping — the act of jumping into or onto a car of a moving train — “just once.” The practice had become somewhat of an epidemic in the area, and police had been attempting to stop children from trying it.

Knowles’ attempt resulted in his arm being cut by the sharp flange of the train’s wheel, severing his right arm at the shoulder. According to the Daily Press (Newport News, Virginia) in their June 24, 1962 edition, police stated “the arm dangled halfway down the calf of his leg. It isn’t certain when it fell away.”

Knowles, crying and carrying his severed right arm with his left, was discovered by a factory worker who yelled “There’s a boy out there with his arm hangin’ way down low!” A female worker initially mistook him for her son and raced to his side. Upon discovering he was not her son, she comforted him as if he were her own, wiping his face and moving his severed arm from his sight. She attempted to make a tourniquet but, as Knowles’ arm was severed too high, was unsuccessful. It was later revealed by doctors that this in all likelihood helped reattach the limb, as a tourniquet may have irreparably damaged the tissues.

Exactly three weeks after his accident, Knowles was discharged from the hospital.

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