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Clarion County teen whose arm was reattached undergoes another surgery

Ben Schmitt
| Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017, 12:57 p.m.
Seth Apel of Knox poses for a portrait at his home in Knox on Monday, December 7, 2015, just a month after he had his arm severed just beneath the shoulder when a piece of tractor equipment snared his coat sleeve and sliced through his skin and bones.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Seth Apel of Knox poses for a portrait at his home in Knox on Monday, December 7, 2015, just a month after he had his arm severed just beneath the shoulder when a piece of tractor equipment snared his coat sleeve and sliced through his skin and bones.
Seth Apel, 14, gives a thumb's up at St. Louis Children’s Hospital on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017.
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Seth Apel, 14, gives a thumb's up at St. Louis Children’s Hospital on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017.

Seth Apel, the Clarion County teen whose arm was severed and reattached after a 2015 farming accident, underwent surgery in St. Louis in an attempt to restore more function in his hand.

Surgeons moved a sensory nerve from his leg to his arm and plan to let it grow for about a year, his mother, Angie Apel, told the Tribune-Review on Wednesday. The surgery was Tuesday at St. Louis Children's Hospital.

"Seth is in good spirits," she said. "Uncomfortable, but he's determined to go to Bass Pro Shop."

At age 12, 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.

A medical helicopter airlifted Seth to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, where Dr. Lorelei 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.

Seth resumed his Little League baseball career that following spring, but hasn't gained complete function in his right hand.

He remains an avid hunter.

There's still a chance he'll need additional surgery in his quest for complete hand function.

"If needed, they can move a muscle from his thigh and plug it into that nerve to give him hand movement," his mother said. "We are praying that he won't need that surgery, that his hand will recover on its own. The surgeon doesn't think there's very much chance of that, which is a fair assessment.

"We know, however, God can do more than we can ask or imagine!"

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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