For the first time ever in the United Kingdom, a double hand transplant operation was successfully done at Leeds General Infirmary. The patient, Chris King from Doncaster, says his new hands look ‘tremendous’.
The 57-year-old lost both his hands, not including his thumbs, in a metal pressing machine accident at his job three years ago. The complex operation took half a day to complete, and though it’s been just over a week, King says there’s already some movement in his new hands.
Professor Simon Kay led the operation at the UK’s Centre for Hand Transplants.
“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,” Kay said.
The one key difference between an organ transplant and transplanting an actual body part is aesthetics.
“Nobody cares what their kidney looks like as long as it works,” Kay continued.
“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.”
It seems Kay did an outstanding job – just ask the patient himself.
“They look absolutely tremendous,” he said.
“They’re my hands. They really are my hands. My blood’s going through them. My tendons are attached. They’re mine. They really are. I couldn’t wish for anything better. It’s better than a lottery win because you feel whole again.”
With the success of this double transplant, the team at Leeds General Infirmary hopes to perform between two to four hand transplants per year; there are four people on the waiting list as of now.
King is encouraging others to donate their hands, or at least give it consideration if they’re in a position to do so.
“Even if you don’t have a card, just have the conversation with your family. There’s no greater gift.”