A grandfather has undergone Britain’s first hand transplant, saying he has already gained movement of his fingers following the “dream” operation. Mark Cahill expressed delight at his “brand new hand” saying it would enable him to cut up his own food once more, dress himself, and play properly with his grandson. The 51-year-old, a former publican, was left with a functionless right hand as a result of gout and a subsequent infection. For five years it had been totally rigid.
But on December 27 a specialist team at Leeds General Infirmary amputated it, replacing it with the donor hand during an eight-hour operation. The procedure involved mapping all the nerves, blood vessels and tendons on both hands to ensure the best possible result. Although this hand transplant is not a world first – that happened in France in 1998 – it is the first time surgeons anywhere have carried out a hand amputation simultaneously. Mr Cahill can already move his new fingers and is progressing better than expected.
The new limb was a surprise for the patient, from Halifax, who only signed up to the hospital’s unique hand transplant programme in October.
On Boxing Day he received the call that he was the best match for a donor hand that had become available. Within 24 hours he was under the knife.
Speaking last night, Mr Cahill said: “The operation has changed my life.
“Before the op, I couldn’t tie my own shoes, do up the buttons on my shirt, cut up my own dinner or play with my grandson’s toys with him – hopefully I’ll be able to do all these things now.”
He added: “When I got the call on Boxing Day to say there was a donor I was gobsmacked.
“I really expected quite a wait, and it was a bit of a ‘gulp’ moment. My wife Sylvia and I were meant to be going on holiday to Goa this week, but this is obviously a much better turn-out.”
“It didn’t feel real until I woke up after the op,” he confessed. “It felt like a dream, even when I was going into theatre.”
He was, however, realistic about how the hand would look. At present bandaged to aid the healing process, he admitted it did look different to the original – something that is hardly surprising but can be overlooked.
“It’s how I expected it to look, because I’ve done a lot of research about hand transplants,” he said.
“But you can do all the research you want but you don’t know how you’re going to feel.
“I’ve had a lot of help from psychologists because the biggest thing is afterwards, whether I would accept it as mine.”
Save the medical difficulties of the operation, this has been one of the surgeons’ biggest worries.
The recipient of the world’s first such trans