Luke Brittain reached for the cell phone in his pocket. He wasn’t going to be able to get his lawnmower out of the six-foot ditch that he and the heavy machine had landed in alone.
But he couldn’t seem to get his hand into his pocket. Brittain looked down. The pocket was intact, but his dominant left hand was completely gone.
The 23-year-old groundskeeper’s hand had been severed by the still-turning blades of his lawnmower.
Brittain was on the job, trimming the yard of a client in his hometown of North Canton, Ohio in the summer of 2019 when the machine slipped on a patch of mud, the lawnmower flipped over into a ditch and Brittain landed on top of it.
Because he had put his hands up to protect his face, his left hand was cut clean off. Doctors were unsure it could be salvaged.
After a painstakingly long 14-hour procedure, surgeons at the Cleveland Clinic were able to successfully reattach the appendage.
With countless of hours of physical therapy, Brittain is slowly recovering strength in his left hand and said he is thankful that he has two working hands in time to hold his recently born infant daughter
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Luke Brittain, 23 (pictured), from North Canton, Ohio, had to have his hand reattached after it was severed during a lawnmower accident in April 2019
Brittain was working as a groundskeeper at Kent State University when his lawnmower slipped on a patch of mud and flipped over and landed on top of it. Pictured: Brittain in bed after surgery
Prior to the accident, Brittain was an avid baseball player, starting with playing T-ball at age three.
He played summer games in middle school and high school and eventually in college, mostly pitching but occasionally playing first base and outfield.
‘All my childhood life was consumed by baseball,’ he told DailyMail.com.
On April 29, 2019, Brittain was working at Kent State, his alma mater, and got on a lawn mower that he didn’t normally use.
It had been raining the night before and, in the middle of trimming the grass, the machine slipped on a muddy hillside and clipped the concrete of a drain pipe.
The mower went over a ledge and fell six feet into a ditch, upside down. Brittain, seeing he was about to land on top of the still-spinning blades, put his dominant left hand up instinctively to protect his face.
‘I thought I was okay. I didn’t even really realize at first that I was hurt. It was more the fall that hurt than anything,’ he said.
‘I was going to go reach for my phone because the next thing I was thinking was: “Dang, I gotta call my boss and we have to drag this thing out of this ditch”…and that’s when I realized my hand wasn’t going into my pocket.’
Brittain’s left hand had been severed by the mower.
He used part of his jacket, which had also been torn to shred by his blades, as a tourniquet and tied it around his arm to stop the bleeding.
Because he had put his left hand up to protect his face from the still spinning blades, it was cut off. Pictured: X-ray of Brittain’s left hand
He was taken to Cleveland Clinic Akron General, where doctors successfully reattached his hand during a 14-hour surgery. Pictured: Brittain’s hand after the surgery
Before the accident, Brittain was a baseball player who played throughout elementary school, middle school, high school and college. Today, he says he’s able to throw a baseball again. Pictured: Luke playing baseball as a kid, left, and as a teenager with the Cincinnati Eagles, right
‘I called my boss and told him what happened and first he thought I was kidding,’ Brittain said.
‘And I explained to him like: “No, I cut my hand off. You need to get over here as fast as possible and I’m gonna hang up so I can call 911 and wait for them here.”‘
An ambulance first took him to Aultman Hospital in Canton but, because it is not a trauma center, Brittain needed to be transferred.
The closest orthopedic surgeon was at Cleveland Clinic Akron General and, within an hour of arrival, he was in surgery.
‘I didn’t really have a lot of hope. It was either I’m gonna wake up with my hand reattached or I’m gonna wake up with no hand,’ Brittain said.
However, Dr William Lanzinger, an orthopedic surgeon hand specialist at Cleveland Clinic, felt differently.
‘Certainly, we couldn’t guarantee that his hand could be saved,’ he said.
‘But I wanted to assure him that we’d do everything we can. That’s what I wanted him to remember – to at least have some peace before going under anesthesia.’
Over the course of 14 hours, Lanzinger and his team succeeded in reattaching Brittain’s hand.
Next, was more than 20 grueling weeks of therapy from putting his hand under to get blood flow back to it and grip tests.
After four more surgeries and several weeks of therapy, Brittain says he has almost regained complete strength in his hand. Pictured: Luke during a follow-up with Dr Lanzinger
Brittain recently welcomed a daughter with his fiancée, Isabella. He said he hopes his story inspires others going through a difficult journey to not give up hope. Pictured: Brittain with Isabella, left, and during a follow-up visit, right
When he started therapy, Brittain wasn’t even able to hold a pencil in his hand, but eventually worked his way up to stress ball and even a baseball.
He also had to undergo four more surgeries to get more mobility in his knuckles, with the last operation performed to correct the positioning of his pinkie finger.
‘At first, I couldn’t shower on my own, I couldn’t button my pants, I couldn’t tie my shoes,’ Brittain said.
‘It was a lot of adapting…There’s really not a whole lot I can do now that I wasn’t able to before. I can throw a baseball again, so that’s incredible. It’s just more difficult.’
Today, he is back at work on the grounds crew at Kent State and just welcomed a daughter, Oakleigh, with his fiancée, Isabella, last week.
‘I’ve practiced changing diapers on our little nephew so I should be able to handle that. That’s going to be the big thing,’ he said.
Brittain said that he hopes his story inspires others undergoing difficult health journeys of their own to not give up.
‘I cut my hand off so I very well could have just stopped working out or stopped trying to play baseball right there and nobody would have blamed me,’ he said.
‘That was never an option in my mind [to quit]. It was just immediately: “How can I get back to where I was?”
‘Now that I have a daughter…I can set that example for her. I had more people than just myself to do this for.’