UK's first hand transplant operation a success

Friday 04 January 2013 22.39
Mark Cahill is getting slight movement in his new hand following the transplant operation
Mark Cahill is getting slight movement in his new hand following the transplant operation

The first person in the UK to have a hand transplant has described how he is most looking forward to holding his grandson's hand.

Mark Cahill, 51, was told on St Stephen's Day that a donor hand was available.

He underwent the procedure a day later in a pioneering eight-hour operation at Leeds General Infirmary.

The former pub landlord from Greetland, near Halifax, West Yorkshire, said the move had changed his life.

He told ITV's Daybreak: "Eight o'clock on Boxing Day night we got a phone call saying we may have a donor.

"As you can imagine, the day after Christmas it was quite a shock,” he said.

"I'm getting slight movement now, my feeling has just started coming back, but everything's looking very, very good," he said.

"Long term I won't have 100% use of it, but obviously I'm going to have a lot more use than I had with the existing hand."

He said he hopes to be able to cut up his food, button his shirts, fasten a pair of shoelaces, and hold his grandson's hand.

Mr Cahill, who is married to Sylvia and has one daughter, lost the use of his right hand due to severe gout, which also affects other parts of his body.

He had been part of a programme of potential recipients at the LGI and was one of two potential candidates when the donated limb became available on Boxing Day.

The hospital said he was selected because he was the best tissue match.

The operation, which was done by a team led by consultant plastic surgeon Professor Simon Kay, used a new technique which involved Mr Cahill having his non-functioning right hand removed during the same operation as the donor hand was transplanted.

This procedure allowed very accurate restoration of nerve structures and is believed to be the first time this approach has been used, surgeons said.

Professor Kay said: "This operation is the culmination of a great deal of planning and preparation over the last two years by a team including plastic surgery, transplant medicine and surgery, immunology, psychology, rehabilitation medicine, pharmacy and many other disciplines.

"Any organ donation brings something positive from tragedy and I would like to acknowledge the tremendous gift the family of the donor have made at such a distressing time," he said.

Keywords: hand transplant