Wellesley loses Everett (“Eddie”) Knowles, RDF volunteer, medical miracle

Wellesley has lost a community volunteer, school crossing guard, and one-time childhood medical miracle, after a short illness, at age 67. A memorial service will be held for Everett Woodrow Knowles, known as “Eddie”, on Thursday, Nov. 3, at the Community Center, 503 Washington St., behind the police station, 2pm – 4pm.

Eddie, who died on September 23, lived in Wellesley for ten years and will be remembered around town as the guy who always lent a hand whether it was doing the heavy lifting while volunteering at the RDF Reusables area or grabbing a snow shovel to help clear out part of the Wellesley police department parking lot. All this despite having limited use of his right arm and hand due to a childhood accident in 1962 that could have been tragic but instead made him a medical miracle. He was the first patient to which a major limb was successfully reattached to the body. His groundbreaking surgery was performed by Wellesley resident Dr. Ronald A. Malt, a Mass General Hospital surgical resident. Dr. Malt died in 2002.

Eddie’s accident was due to youthful hijinks, when he and several friends jumped a freight train for a quick ride home after getting out of Northeastern Junior High School in Somerville. Eddie got clipped by a stone abutment supporting an overpass, and his arm was severed from his body. He somehow got to his feet and began to stagger home, but was spotted by workers in the area who assisted him and called an ambulance.

At Mass General, Dr. Malt thought it was possible to save Eddie’s arm. During the surgery, word spread through the hospital, and the operating balcony filled with medical personnel wanting to witness what all hoped and prayed would be an historic moment. According to Fletcher Knebel, blogger at Medical Miracles, and whose full and riveting account of Eddie’s surgery and the events leading up to it you really must read:

“And now came the moment of truth.  While Malt still held the arm tightly, Shaw removed the artery clamp.  Blood rushed down the arm.  People in the balcony stopped talking.  Not a word was spoken around the operating table.  Everybody watched.  Slowly, the waxen limb began to regain its flesh coloring.  A glow seemed to envelop the arm.  The doctors wanted to cheer.  In the balcony, there were exclamations of joy.

“My,” said Malt, “its nice and pink, isn’t it?” Judy Moberly, the scrub nurse, felt the hand.  “It is warm.”

In true Swellesley understated style, the good doctor filed his one-page official report, referring to the event as a “Suture of Right upper Extremity.”

Eddie recovered and went on to lead a full life. Despite some limitations, he was known as a natural handyman, drove trucks, taxis, and school vans, and volunteered his time. He made many friends during his ten years living in Wellesley, who he kept laughing with his stories and turns of phrase. “He was quite the character,” said RDF volunteer Marsha Rowlands. “His favorite meal was spaghetti and meatballs, and we called him Eddie Spaghetti with the Meatball Eyes.”

Eddie Knowles, Wellesley
Sign at the RDF Reusables area notes the time and place for those who wish to remember Eddie Knowles.

 

Knowles was the devoted brother of Julia Knowles and her husband, Laurence Bloom of Winthrop, and the late Mary Ann Knowles of Newton, uncle of Lars Knowles of Wellesley and Nora Zaldivar, and her husband, Jonathan of Norwood; granduncle to Dante and Livia Zaldivar.  A celebration of his life will be held on Thursday, November 3, from 2-4 PM at the Community Center room of his Washington Street apartment complex. All are welcome to attend. Funeral and interment services will be private.