PBS correspondent Miles O’Brien hat to undergo a full amputation of his left forearm, after injuring it in a freak accident, while packing some up some equipment. According to an accound on O’Brien’s personal blog, posted on Tuesday, the incident and subsequent complications unfolded at the end of a lengthy reporting trip to Japan and the Philippines.
The 54-year-old reporter recalls his initial injury, caused by a storage container falling on his arm, which left his arm sore and swollen. O’Brien didn’t think much of it at the time, but the pain proved persistent. Over the next few days, the pain amplified, due to a condition known as acute compartment syndrome, where the blood is constrained to an area of the body. Compartment syndrome can often be life-threatening, as was the case with O’Brien. The situation got even worse after O’Brien had an emergency procedure known as fasciotomy, the surgical removal of fascia, or connective tissue. The idea was to relieve the pressure and save the limb, but the outcome proved disastrous.
"I was later told that things tanked even further once I was on the table," he wrote. "And when I lost blood pressure during the surgery due to complications ... the doctor made a real-time call and amputated my arm just above the elbow."
In the end, O’Brien wrote, it boiled down to a choice between life and a limb. Highlighting the challenges he is now facing, the journalist explained that he had written the blog post with one hand and the help of dictation software. Nevertheless, he faces his new normal with hope and humor. "Life is all about playing the hand that is dealt you," he wrote. "Actually I would love somebody to deal me another hand right about now - in more ways than one."
O'Brien, a native of Detroit, is the science correspondent for the "PBS NewsHour," a producer and director of the PBS science documentary series "NOVA," a correspondent for the PBS documentary series "Frontline" and the chief correspondent for the National Science Foundation's "Science Nation" series.