Farmer lost her thumb trying to save a 10p milk bottle from a machine

Dairy farmer lost her thumb trying to save a 10p milk bottle from machinery

Dairy farmer who accidentally stuck her hand into a milk bottling machine and had her thumb chopped off is ‘thrilled’ as surgeons replace the digit with her ring finger

  • Helen Banham, from Skegness, sacrificed her hand while working bottling milk 
  • Surgeons replaced her thumb with a finger which had to be amputated anyway
  • Mrs Banham and her husband have since shut down their business
  • She says despite the horror of the accident she is still able to make jokes about it 

A farmer who lost her thumb trying to save a bottle worth 10 pence was ‘thrilled’ after surgeons managed to replace the digit with her ring finger.

Helen Banham, 51, lost her right thumb and part of her hand when reaching into a milk bottling machine to grab an empty bottle which had fallen in.

The accident was painless to begin with, she claims, but she wrapped her hand in towels to stop the bleeding and was rushed to hospital by her husband, David.

There, the farmer from Skegness, Lincolnshire, spent three weeks on a ward recovering from the accident and learning to live without her thumb. 

It wasn’t until two months later that surgeons decided to use Mrs Banham’s ring finger to replace her thumb because the finger was already damaged and needed amputating.

Since the accident Mrs Banham has sold her cows and now works as a manager on another farm, and is sharing her story to praise the experts who repaired her hand.

Helen Banham, a dairy farmer from Skegness in Lincolnshire, lost the thumb on her right hand after putting her hand into working machinery to try and catch a falling bottle worth 10 pence

Mrs Banham and her husband David started their own milk bottling business and worked long hours to make sure their products were of the best quality.

But their dream came crashing down on the day she got her hand stuck in a piece of working machinery for the sake of a bottle worth 10 pence.

During production the bottle was falling through the machine and, not wanting to waste it, Mrs Banham reached to grab it but put her hand into the contraption.

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It tore her thumb off and damaged the rest of her hand, breaking tendons and injuring her so badly her husband thought she would bleed to death.

‘I didn’t want to waste 10p so I put my hand in the machine’ 

Mrs Banham said: ‘When the bottle fell through the machine I was thinking to myself there’s 10p wasted.

‘I didn’t want to waste it so I put my hand into the machine to save it without turning the machine off first.

Mrs Banham had to have her ring finger amputated because it was so damaged by surgeons at the Royal Derby Hospital managed to salvage the fingertip and use it to replace her thumb

Mrs Banham said she was in so much shock the accident did not hurt at the time, but she had to wrap her hand in towels because her husband was afraid she would bleed to death

‘After pulling my hand out I noticed that my thumb had gone but I was in so much shock that there was no pain at all.

‘We live in such a rural area that I knew it would be faster for my husband, David, to drive us to the nearest hospital instead of waiting for the ambulance.

‘He was worried that I was going to bleed to death but I managed to wrap some towels around my hand.’ 

Experts at the Royal Derby Hospital salvaged the mangled hand 

Mrs Banham was referred from her local A&E to the Royal Derby Hospital, home to the specialist Pulvertaft Hand Centre, where experts would go on to repair her hand.

During the three weeks in hospital she struggled to use her hand to grip because tendons had been torn and her ring finger was also damaged.

Mrs Banham’s husband, David, rushed her to hospital because the couple live in an area so rural they didn’t want to wait for an ambulance to arrive to treat her injury

Her ring finger was so pulverised surgeons had already decided to remove it, but they managed to salvage some to use to replace her thumb.

After a successful operation lasting seven hours in 2013 Mrs Banham has spent years getting her life back to normal with her new three-fingered hand.

Surgeons suggested recycling the amputated ring finger

She said: ‘Two months after the accident the team at the hand unit suggested that we try and recycle my ring finger, as it needed to be amputated anyway, and use the tip to rebuild my thumb.

‘It was suggested that my big toe would be amputated to replace my thumb but I have size 10 feet and I knew that would affect my balance dramatically.

‘I can’t thank the team at Pulvertaft Hand Unit enough, their expertise and care was amazing. 

‘I was willing to try anything and I was thrilled when the seven hour surgery was a success in February 2013.

Since her disfiguring accident Mrs Banham and her husband have shut down their milk business and sold their cows but she says she can still have a laugh about what happened

‘I have spent the last few years attending physio for my hand and rebuilding my life.’

‘I’ve kept my sense of humour and love tricking people with my thumb’ 

And even though the disfiguring accident brought an end to the Banhams’ independent milk business, she says she can still laugh about what happened. 

‘The milk bottle business ended the same day of accident and I’m now manager at a farm instead,’ Mrs Banham added.

‘After my accident we decided it wasn’t worth the risk and we have since sold our cows.

‘Despite it being an awful accident I have kept my sense of humour and love tricking people who ask where my finger has gone and I show them my thumb.

‘I’ve been so lucky to have such a dedicated team at the hand centre and it’s incredible how dedicated they all are.’  


A little boy lost three fingers after a mobile phone exploded in his hand in India last month.

V Jagan Achari’s right hand was left horrifically disfigured after the accident in the village of Pendekal, Kurnool District, in the northeastern state of Andhra Pradesh.

The youngster had been listening to music on a Chinese-made device while it was charging, according to local media reports.

V Jagan Achari lost three of his fingers after a phone on which he was listening to music exploded in his hand, according to media reports in India

The Kechaoda handset reportedly heated up before exploding in the boy’s hand. 

Jagan’s father V Maddilety Achari came running after hearing his son’s screams.

After seeing his injuries, he took him to Pathikonda Government Hospital and he was later referred to the Kurnool General Hospital, where surgeons considered reattaching his fingers with surgery.

He also suffered burns to his stomach but was in a stable condition, according to local media reports. 

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