Britain's first ever hand transplant
Date Posted: 12.01.2013
The surgeon who carried out Britain’s first hand transplant last night praised the donor’s family for bringing about good from the ‘awful tragedy of a loved one’.
Professor Simon Kay, who led the complex eight-hour procedure at Leeds General Infirmary, said their permission had to be sought soon after their relative’s sudden death on Boxing Day.
There is no tick box for ‘limbs’ on donor register forms so next-of-kin must be consulted ‘individually by the hospital’.
The plastic surgeon said: ‘I really think we have to acknowledge the circumstances that this hand was given, at Boxing Day, at a time of enormous tragedy and loss. I would like to acknowledge the extraordinary gift.
‘Organ donation of any kind plucks something positive from that awful tragedy of a loss of a loved one.’
It is not known what tragedy befell the donor but sources say it was most likely to have been a car crash or a stroke.
Professor Kay spoke as the recipient, Mark Cahill, continued to recover in hospital and revealed that his next milestone is to be able to hold his three-year-old grandson’s hand for the first time
The 51-year-old former pub landlord, who lost the use of his right hand five years ago, said the implications of his surgery were still sinking in.
As he continued to marvel at being able to wiggle the fingers of his new hand, he said he hoped to regain his independence and enjoy family life to the full.
Speaking of his grandson Thomas, he said: ‘Anything I can do will be a bonus. Holding his hand is going to be great.’
Mr Cahill, from Greetland, West Yorkshire, lost the use of his right hand – and some from his left – when it became infected during a severe attack of gout, a condition he had suffered for 20 years.
‘I had to go into hospital to cut the infection out and it left me with a paralysed hand,’ he said.
He and his wife Sylvia, 47, had to leave their beloved village pub, the Shears Inn near Halifax, and he has been unable to work since.
‘It made it virtually impossible to do anything,’ he said. ‘My wife had to help me dress and cut my food up. You can imagine without any hands it’s very difficult.’
A friend told yesterday how so far, for all of Thomas’s life, Mr Cahill has had to settle for ‘just observing’ the little boy, rather than be able to play with him. ‘He’s the apple of his eye,’ the friend added.
Mr Cahill’s operation nine days ago became a world first when his original hand was removed in the same procedure. While there have been 70 hand transplants world-wide, in those cases recipients had already lost the limb before the surgery.
Yesterday Professor Kay said it could be 18 months before the operation is considered a success. ‘If all goes well, I would hope he has quite strong grasp, and have good sensibility, a good ability to feel, and he’ll have a precision pinch,’ he said.
Mr Cahill, who has had psychological help to enable him to accept the new hand as his own, continues to be kept in isolation at hospital to reduce risk of infection.
‘The feelings are starting to come back and everything’s looking very good,’ he said.‘It feels like my hand.’