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Clarion County boy whose arm was reattached to receive award

Ben Schmitt
| Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017, 10:12 a.m.
Seth Apel, of Knox, throws the ball from first base when his little league team played at Rimersburg Elementary School in Clarion County, May 3, 2016. Seth lost part of his right arm in November 2015 when his coat sleeve got caught in a piece of tractor equipment. He has developed a strong swing in spite of his injuries.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Seth Apel, of Knox, throws the ball from first base when his little league team played at Rimersburg Elementary School in Clarion County, May 3, 2016. Seth lost part of his right arm in November 2015 when his coat sleeve got caught in a piece of tractor equipment. He has developed a strong swing in spite of his injuries.
Dr. Lorelei Grunwaldt speaks to the media at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC in Lawrenceville on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015.
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Dr. Lorelei Grunwaldt speaks to the media at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC in Lawrenceville on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015.
Seth Apel,  of Knox, picks up stray baseballs with batting instructor, Ed Kemmer, at Kemmer's practice facility, The Garage, in Shippenville, May 12, 2016. Seth lost part of his right arm in November 2015 when his coat sleeve got caught in a piece of tractor equipment. He has developed a strong swing in spite of his injuries.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Seth Apel, of Knox, picks up stray baseballs with batting instructor, Ed Kemmer, at Kemmer's practice facility, The Garage, in Shippenville, May 12, 2016. Seth lost part of his right arm in November 2015 when his coat sleeve got caught in a piece of tractor equipment. He has developed a strong swing in spite of his injuries.
Seth Apel, of Knox, warms up on the third base line at Rimersburg Elementary School in Clarion County, May 3, 2016. Seth lost part of his right arm in November 2015 when his coat sleeve got caught in a piece of tractor equipment. He has developed a strong swing in spite of his injuries.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Seth Apel, of Knox, warms up on the third base line at Rimersburg Elementary School in Clarion County, May 3, 2016. Seth lost part of his right arm in November 2015 when his coat sleeve got caught in a piece of tractor equipment. He has developed a strong swing in spite of his injuries.

Seth Apel, whose arm was severed in a farming accident and reattached by Pittsburgh doctors, is traveling to Orlando to be honored along with his surgeon by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

On Oct. 6, Apel will be one of three recipients of the "Patients of Courage" award along with Dr. Lorelei Grunwaldt, a pediatric plastic surgeon at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.

Seth has exemplified both bravery and the importance of keeping a sense of humor throughout his entire recovery process," said Michael Stokes, a spokesman for the ASPS. "At a young age, Seth has learned the power of storytelling and shares his experience to encourage adults and children in their times of need."

Then 12 years old, Seth lost part of his right arm on Nov. 7, 2015, while unloading firewood at his Knox home in Clarion County.

His coat sleeve became entangled in a piece of tractor equipment. As it continued to rotate, the machinery tore off his arm just beneath the shoulder.

After quick response by rescue workers, a medical helicopter flew Seth to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, where Grunwaldt and a trauma team reattached the arm in a six-hour surgery.

In reattaching the arm, she connected Seth's bones, arteries, veins and nerves. Grunwaldt also nominated him for the upcoming award.

After his initial recovery, Seth knew he wanted to find a way to continue playing Little League baseball.

As he rehabilitated his arm in physical therapy, he worked on devising a unique way to swing a baseball bat. Seth, who is right-handed, also found a way to catch and throw with his left hand.

Seth's regained movement in his shoulder and elbow. Still, he hasn't regained use of his right hand. His mother, Angela Apel, said Seth will undergo surgery at St. Louis Children's Hospital in an attempt to restore more function in his hand.

"Dr. Grunwaldt referred Seth to a team of surgeons there who specialize in the type of surgery he needs to give him hand and finger movement," she said.

The procedure is scheduled for Nov. 7, exactly two years after the accident.

In a letter to Seth, now 14, and his family, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons called his story inspiring.

"The grace, focus and faith he has exhibited throughout his treatment and continued recovery is a testament to his strength of character and determination," the letter said. "He's a remarkable young man."

Grunwaldt "represents the very best of her specialty – and the seemingly limitless potential of reconstructive surgery," the ASPS said.

Seth will be presented the award on-stage during opening ceremonies at Epcot in Orlando. He will also participate in a panel discussion the following day with roughly 3,000 plastic surgeons.

Ben Schmitt is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7991, bschmitt@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @Bencschmitt.

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