Flushing baby with rare disorder gets surgery for new thumb

Photo: Angélica Acevedo/QNS

Who’s got two thumbs and is a happy baby? This little guy!

One-year-old Brandon Torres of Flushing is only a month into recovery after a successful surgery to create a working digit to be used in place of his right thumb. Torres was born without a thumb due to a disorder known as Duane-radial ray syndrome, which can result in abnormalities of bones in the arms and hands.

“It would be extremely difficult just to try to do anything without a thumb,” said Anderson Torres, Brandon’s father, who became visibly emotional when recounting the lifelong physical limitations that could have resulted from his son’s condition. “So for a better future for him we just went ahead and did the [procedure].”

Brandon’s parents, Yuli Ramirez and Torres, found out about his condition when hospital staff did a routine count of the boy’s hands and toes immediately after his birth following an otherwise normal pregnancy.

The boy underwent a three-hour correctional procedure at Cohen Children’s Medical Center on April 27 where his right index finger was shortened, rotated, and moved into the place of the thumb. A metal pin will hold the finger in place so a pseudo joint can form from the bone.

“It was very scary, because of course as a parent you never want anything to go wrong with your children, but we knew that this would be a great thing for him,” said Ramirez, who also has another son.

In order to better understand her youngest son’s experience with a disabled hand, she and her partner would often try to spend time with their own thumbs tied back to recreate the heightened challenges of everyday activities.

The thumb is the most single important finger in the human hand and has a specific area in the brain associated with the task of its movement. Its power is necessary as an opposing force to the other four digits used on a hand when grasping objects.

According to Dr. Nick Bastidas, the pediatric plastic surgeon who treated Brandon, patients with Duane-radial ray syndrome are too rare to statistically quantify, with only about 30 cases reported around the globe. Although the young boy will still only have four fingers and a 30 to 40 percent weakness in his new thumb, he will be able to hold and grasp objects normally after undergoing some physical therapy to perfect his use of the new digit.

Bastidas said the ease in which children like Torres can adapt and heal after extraordinary circumstances is one of the reasons he chose to specialize in pediatric plastic surgery.

“It’s the reason why I went into medicine in the first place, is to really make an impact,” Bastidas said. “Just to shape a child’s life and let him go on to live a normal happy healthy life is the most rewarding thing you can expect.”