Surgeons save Colorado woman’s hand after traumatic injury

June 3, 2021

Sierra Piercy was doing something she’d done hundreds of times before: cleaning the remnants of her daily protein shake out of the blender. But this time was different. On July 7, 2019, the health and fitness enthusiast almost lost her hand when the appliance suddenly came to life.

“I was wiping it out, and I clicked the button on it by accident, and it just turned on,” she said. “I lost the tip of my pointer finger on my left hand, but most of the damage was to the tissue and muscle on top of my fingers.”

Her injuries would require a lot more than a few stitches to heal. In fact, her hand would have to be reconstructed. Board certified in plastic and hand surgery, Dr. Benson Pulikkottil, medical director of Burn and Reconstructive Centers of America at Swedish Medical Center in Englewood, CO, was up to the challenge.

“Sierra basically had a very deep friction burn to the top of her hand and fingers and had to be treated similar to a thermal burn,” said Dr. Pulikkottil. “It was a process, and sometimes a very ugly process, but the results are better than anyone could have asked for. Besides one missing fingernail, you would probably never know she had such a traumatic injury.”

After her initial surgeries, Sierra struggled with everyday activities. Touch screens no longer recognized her touch. Her hand throbbed in cold weather. Her fingers were stiff and hard to move. Without her husband to help her, she could barely fix her hair.

“When the bandages came off, I had to basically relearn how to use my hand,” she said. “I had hypertrophic scarring that was pretty raised and sensitive. I had so much internal and external scarring that I had a hard time moving and bending my fingers. I had maybe 15%-20% usage of my hand.”

Due to the scarring and limited use of her hand, Sierra made the decision to undergo laser scar revision therapy. This type of minimally-invasive procedure utilizes fractional lasers to adjust the color, texture, elasticity and pain associated with severe scarring, trauma, wound, or burn injuries. For Sierra, who struggled with many of the effects of scarring, function restoration and pain management were the ultimate goals.

“Before the laser, I couldn’t straighten my pointer finger and my hand was very stiff. We tried braces, therapy, and putty—all kinds of things. So, I kind of just figured that my finger would always be at an angle. Now, after lasers, I can straighten my finger completely,” she said. “It made an incredible difference. I can move my fingers. I can make a fist. I can pick things up. I can carry things. My grip is back to normal. No one thought that would be possible.”.

Sierra’s last surgery was in October 2020. She underwent more physical therapy during the following weeks before getting the all-clear to return to her normal activities in December. Today, she is back to doing everything without limitation—having regained almost 100% usage of her left hand—thanks to Dr. Pulikkottil’s handiwork.

“I told Dr. Pulikkottil that I honestly didn’t think I would get back to looking normal and feeling normal. You can still see my scarring a little bit, but it’s a night and day difference from before I had the laser,” said Sierra. “It’s definitely not the most fun thing to go through, but I don’t think I could’ve asked for a better surgeon. His whole team was awesome.”