Las Vegas medicine helps cattle roper avoid retirement

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    He’s as down-to-earth as they come. I met 53-year-old Benjamin Mays at the UNLV Medical School Clinic on Charleston. He was visiting its plastic surgery department.

    You’re lucky, I told him.

    “You think? Right. Lucky to be in Vegas”, he answered.

    So why is Ben of Blythe, California so lucky?

    It's Dec. 10, a roping competition at the Southpoint.

    Mays and his buddy are doing some roping in a video, posted on Facebook, you can’t really see what happened, but you hear the aftermath.

    “We need an ambulance to the back of the arena right now. Ambulance to the back of the arena right now please”, said the announcer.

    That ambulance was for Mays.

    “The coils come through your hand, you know as you're roping”, he told me.

    The rope took part of Mays's right thumb with it. The severed digit remained in his glove. A fellow roper retrieved some ice, which Mays applied to his hand, and glove, with the thumb in it.

    “You know, you're kinda in shock. So you don't really feel it”, Mays told me.

    So why was ben lucky? Because it happened here. Within minutes, he was at UMC, where they specialize in reattachment.

    Dr. Richard Baynosa teaches at the UNLV Medical School and he's the chair of UMC's Plastic Surgery Department.

    “It's one of the most complicated things we do”, Baynosa says. The surgery took six hours, under a microscope.

    “The sutures that we use to repair them are thinner than the hairs on your scalp. And so we need the microscope to see these sutures,” he said.

    Horses are in Mays's blood. His wife brought with her to this check-up a picture Mays drew back on the farm when he was five where he is, roping on a horse, which is where he will be, again.

    “We'll get back, depending on what we can do”, he told me, planning a continuing career in roping, although as you get older, he told me, they put you in less-demanding contests.

    For Ben, that’s now an option, because, on that day, he was lucky to be in Vegas, with a hospital and med school that could help. He held up his thumb, smiling.

    “I can move it. I can feel it. Great feeling”, he said.

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