THE first person in the UK to have a hand transplant has described how the operation has changed his life.
• Mark Cahill looking forward most to holding his grandson’s hand
• Procedure to be carried out on more UK recipients
Yorkshiremn Mark Cahill, 51, was told on Boxing Day that a donor hand was available and he he underwent the procedure a day later in a pioneering eight-hour operation at Leeds General Infirmary (LGI).
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 former pub landlord from Greetland, near Halifax, West Yorkshire, 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.
“I’m getting slight movement now, my feeling has just started coming back, but everything’s looking very, very good.
“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.
“I think I’ve dealt with it pretty well. The only thing you can’t do is know what is going to happen after the operation, and as it has turned out it is brilliant. I’m well happy.
“Hopefully I will be able to get back to work for a start, that’s a major difference.
“For a start I might be able to cut my food up, button my shirts, fasten a pair of shoelaces, and mainly I’ll be able to hold my grandson’s hand.”
And Mr Cahill told the BBC: “When I look at it and move it, it just feels like my hand.
“Right now it feels really good, it’s not a lot of pain, it looks good, it looks a great match and I’m looking forward to getting it working now.”
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.
“The team was on standby from the end of November awaiting a suitable donor limb, and the call came just after Christmas.
“It was extremely challenging to be the first team in the UK to carry out such a procedure.
“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.
“It is still early days but indications are good and the patient is making good progress.”
Leeds Teaching Hospitals announced in late 2011 that it was starting to look for potential candidates for hand or arm transplants.
A spokesman said that since then, the LGI team had been preparing and assessing potential recipients from across the country.