A woman who received a transplant for her right hand has adapted so well that she can barely remember what it was like not to have one, she says.
Emily Fennell, 26, of Northern California had her right hand amputated after it was crushed in a car rollover in June 2006. About 6½ weeks ago, she received a donor hand attached in a 14-hour surgical procedure at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles.
"It has been surreal to see that I have a hand again, and be able to wiggle my fingers," Fennell said in a hospital statement.
"My six-year-old daughter has never seen me with a hand," said Fennell, a single mother. "She looked at it, touched it and said it was 'cool.'"
The transplant involves grafting a hand from a deceased donor and connecting the nerves and blood vessels. It was the 13th such case in the United States and the first for the hospital. Dr. Kodi Azari, surgical director of the UCLA hand transplantation program, said Fennell's recovery has gone well both psychologically and physically.
"She is making the emotional transition from calling it 'the' hand to 'my' hand," Azari said. "From a surgical standpoint, we achieved a good connection of the nerves and blood vessels, and the balance between the palm and back-of-the-hand tendons appears to be pristine."
Fennell is taking medication to keep her body from rejecting the hand and is also receiving intensive occupational therapy to help her brain accept it and learn how to use it.
After the amputation, Fennell learned to use her left hand to tie her shoes, write, dress and drive. But she remained unsatisfied with how her myoelectric prosthetic hand functioned.
Fennell hoped a hand transplant would help her provide more fully for her daughter, gain independence and advance in her career, the hospital said.
Little has been revealed about the donor except that the hand matched the patient's in terms of blood type, size and colour.
The first hand transplant was done in Ecuador in 1964 before the development of modern immunosuppressive drugs. That transplant failed after two weeks and the patient had to have the donor hand amputated.