Back on the farm using both hands

“It didn’t even look like a hand.”

Elias Handal looked down in horror at his injured left hand in July of 2014 and knew his life would change forever.

Handal, who works in University of Illinois Crop Sciences in Small Grains, was out in the field, putting bundles of wheat into a thresher. His glove got caught and pulled his left hand in. “I yanked free, and knew I was in trouble. The thresher shredded my hand,” he remembered.

He went to the Carle Emergency Department and prepared for the worst.

“I thought they’d take one look at my hand and amputate,” Handal said.

But, orthopedic surgeon Clifford Johnson, MD, a fellowship-trained hand surgeon, wasn't ready to amputate. Five reconstruction surgeries later, Handal still has his hand and is back in the field.

It was a long recovery. Handal credits Carle Hand Therapy for getting his life and livelihood back. “I lost my left pinkie and part of my thumb. Therapists worked with me to get my range of motion and strength back in the hand. They also taught me how to use my left hand. After each surgery, they’d be there and help me start new therapy,” Handal remembered.

“They always encouraged me to keep at it. In the beginning I used to look at my hand and wonder if it would ever get better,” he said.

“I do some things differently than before my accident, but I feel like I have a normal life.”

Carmen Roberts, OT, Certified Hand Therapist and supervisor of Therapy Services, said, “Elias is such an inspiration. Since he is left-handed, we worked with him to make sure he could get the most use from his hand. It was a team approach with Dr. Johnson and Therapy Services. We are so happy he is back doing what he loves.”

“Keep an open mind if you have a hand injury. You may think you’ll never get better. But work hard and good things will happen,” Handal said.

The entire Carle Orthopedics team will continue to serve patients in a new location. 

Starting January 16, Carle Orthopedics will see patients at the new Orthopedics and Sports Medicine building at 2300 South First Street in Champaign, at the corner of First Street and Windsor Road.

Carle is communicating directly with patients to guide them to the right location for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine visits. Those with questions about an upcoming appointment may call (217) 383-3260.