PBS Science Reporter Miles O'Brien's Arm Amputated After Injury

Wednesday, 26 Feb 2014 09:21 AM

By Clyde Hughes

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PBS science reporter and former CNN correspondent Miles O'Brien woke up to what he called a "new reality" nearly two weeks ago after part of his left arm was amputated after an injury while on assignment.

With a mixture of humor, humility and serious matter-of-factness, O'Brien described on his blog post "Just a Flesh Wound" the fast moving and alarming circumstances that led to his amputation, which he said saved his life.

"I wish I had a better story to tell you about why I am typing this with one hand (and some help from Dragon Dictate)," wrote O'Brien, who covers science for PBS and is a producer and director for its "Nova" series. "A shark attack would be interesting. An assassination attempt would be intriguing. Skydiving mishaps always make for good copy. An out-of-control quad copter that turns on its master would be entertaining (and would come complete with a grim, potentially viral, video)."

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O'Brien said that a case filled with television gear fell on his left arm while returning from a reporting trip to Japan and the Philippines Feb. 12 and while the injury was "painful and swollen," he didn't believe it needed medical attention.

He said by the next evening though, the pain became so great that he decided to see a doctor. The doctor told him he may have Acute Compartment Syndrome.

"I had to Wiki it, but in essence it is an increase in pressure inside an enclosed space in the body," O'Brien said on his blog. "This can block blood flow causing a whole host of serious, life-threatening consequences. . . . Over the next few hours, I endured probably the longest, most painful experience I could ever imagine. My forearm developed some dusky discoloration, but more alarming was the numbness. I could not feel my forearm!"

Physicians took him into surgery where doctors had to remove his limb just above his elbow to save his life.

"So I woke up to a new reality in the hospital," O'Brien wrote. "It's been a challenging week dealing with the phantom pain, the vicissitudes of daily life with one hand and the worries about what lies ahead."

USA Today reported that O'Brien is a licensed pilot and had served as a science, space and aviation correspondent for CNN before joining PBS. ()

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