World & Nation

Former CNN correspondent’s arm amputated after accident

Miles O’Brien
Freelance TV reporter Miles O’Brien, pictured here in 2010, lost his arm after TV equipment fell on it and he developed what is known as acute compartment syndrome.
(PBS, courtesy Robert Severi)

It was just a little thing. When veteran TV reporter Miles O’Brien was stacking some cases filled with TV gear on Feb. 12, one of the cases fell on his left arm.

“It hurt, but I wasn’t all ‘911' about it,” O’Brien, a former CNN reporter for 17 years, wrote in a blog post published Wednesday in which he recounted the incident. “It was painful and swollen but I figured it would be OK without any medical intervention. Maybe a little bit of denial?”

Maybe. Because what happened next shocked him, as well as many of his fans and aquaintances, who have been sharing the post he wrote detailing what happened next.

The next day, his arm got sore and swelled up.


It kept getting worse.

A day later, after going to a doctor -- O’Brien doesn’t mention where the accident happened -- the doctor told O’Brien he might have acute compartment syndrome, in which bodily tissue expands too much for fluids to circulate.

O’Brien, 54, wrote that he went to the hospital as his arm “developed some dusky discoloration,” adding, “more alarming was the numbness. I could not feel my forearm!”

He underwent emergency surgery to relieve the pressure in his arm, and when he woke up, his lower arm was gone.


“I was told later that things tanked even further once I was on the table,” O’Brien wrote. “And when I lost blood pressure during the surgery due to the complications of compartment syndrome, the doctor made a real-time call and amputated my arm just above the elbow. He later told me it all boiled down to a choice … between a life and a limb.”

O’Brien, who is based in Washington and does freelance work for PBS, did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment Wednesday.

O’Brien’s post, which included a photo of himself without an arm, went viral instantly and has earned him words of support from all over the Web.

“Like everyone else, we are amazed by Miles’ determination to soldier on, in spite of his life-changing accident,” Linda Winslow, executive producer for PBS NewsHour, said in a statement provided to the Los Angeles Times. "We are prepared to assist him every way we can, so our viewers will continue to benefit from his great intelligence and knowledge of science. He is an incredible human being – and a true professional.”

“All your friends are amazed at your courage, and so grateful you’re doing well,” PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff tweeted at O’Brien. “Please take care of yourself!”

At the end of O’Brien’s post -- which he said he wrote with one hand and with the help of a voice-dictation app -- he wrote that it had been a “challenging” week since the surgery.

But, he added, he was grateful to be alive.

“Life is all about playing the hand that is dealt you,” O’Brien wrote. “Actually, I would love somebody to deal me another hand right about now – in more ways than one.”


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