Brit Gets Rare Double Hand Transplant And A New Lease On Life

The patient is Chris King and his current prognosis since his double hand transplant surgery, according to Dr. Simon Kay, is that he is doing very well.

Dr. Simon Kay was the lead surgeon for the procedure — the second of its kind at the Leeds General Infirmary, which is a teaching hospital.

The double hand transplant surgery is said to have been very complex and it took a total of 8 surgeons and 12-hours to complete.

Dr. Kay provided some detail on the procedure.

“It’s the first time we’ve done that in the U.K. It’s the first time, as far as I’m aware, that a hand transplant has been done which hasn’t been above the wrist, which has been within the substance of the hand, which makes it much more difficult and more complex.”

Nano News is one of the sources reporting on the transplant and says that the 57-year old patient was encouraged by Mr. Cahill who had his own hand transplant surgery years before when he lost them to gout.

Hospital in Leeds, U.K. where hand transplant procedure was completed.
Second hand transplant surgery in the U.K and hospital done at the Leeds General Infirmary. [Image by GeeJo via Wikimedia/Creative Commons]

Chris lost his hands during a press accident at a industrial factory he worked in three years ago, which only left his thumbs. The report says that the name of the donor of the hands has not been released, but that the family has sent a message to the patient, telling him they hope he’s doing well.

Apparently, he will have his job back at the plant when he makes a full recovery, in the meantime the patient says that the hands are a perfect fit.

ABC News reported on another duo hand transplant for a Zion Harvey in July of last year, who is now 9-years-old. An operation that was said to be groundbreaking as he is the youngest recipient of the operation since the first hand transplant surgery was done in 1998.

Double hand transplant procedures are becoming more of the norm, even for children.
As Dr. L. Scott Levin holds speaks with double-hand transplant recipient eight-year-old Zion Harvey during a news conference Tuesday, July 28, 2015, at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) in Philadelphia. Surgeons said Harvey of Baltimore who lost his limbs to a serious infection, has become the youngest patient to receive a double-hand transplant. [Image by Matt Rourke/AP Photo]

The hand transplant requires some monitoring to see if the body rejects the new hands but thus far, as of this writing, there is no indication that this is going to be a problem. The doctor elaborated on the condition.

“The hands look absolutely tremendous. But not only do we have to match the hands immunologically, in the same way that we have to match kidneys and livers, they also have to look appropriate because the hands are on view the whole time.”

The Guardian reported on the procedure, but went further to look at the psychological issues some patients might have, who feel detached from the their new hand(s) and it references a case of Clint Hallam, who, years after his transplant, demanded that he have his hand amputated in 2001. At the time he was the first person to have such a procedure.

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But those involved with performing the double hand transplant for the patient are hoping they can begin to encourage more people to become donors to be able to help those in need, as they were unable to find donors for the recent transplant.

The article goes even further with the case of Mark Cahill who had his hand surgery in 2012, and how he’s made a full recovery, even saving his wife when he had to perform CPR on her just weeks ago.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my transplanted hand because my other hand was so deformed, I wouldn’t have been able to put any pressure on her.”

The article also covers some details with patients having to use immunosuppressants for the rest of their lives, to prevent rejection of the appendage and refers back to the case of Hallam, where rather than accept the idea he felt detached from his new hand as the reason he had it removed, that he simply could not pay for the medication after 2.5-years of having it on.

Such is the case with Mr. King who will likely have to be under immunosuppressants for the rest of his life, but one thing is certain; once he regains the ability to fully use his hands, he’ll no doubt celebrate the success of his hand transplant with a beer.

[Image by Kristofher Muñoz via Flickr/CC BY 2.0]