News Releases

News Releases

Double Hand Transplant Recipient Sees Hands for First Time at Jewish Hospital

For Immediate Release: 8/27/2010

Louisville, Kentucky – Dr. Richard “Rich” Edwards got a look at his new hands for the first time today when all the bandages were removed so doctors could evaluate how the hands are doing.  A team of surgeons from Kleinert Kutz and Associates and the University of Louisville performed a double hand transplant on the Oklahoma resident during a 17 ½ hour surgical procedure beginning August 24 at the Jewish Hospital Hand Care Center.

As Edwards saw his hands for the first time, he said, “Ooh, awesome.  I am a blessed man.” He later added, “I feel very blessed and fortunate to be one of the few people chosen to have new hands.  I just can’t believe I got this far and am so happy about it. I have been praying for the donor family ever since I got the call that donor hands were available. I prayed to God to give them peace.”

Warren C. Breidenbach, M.D, with Kleinert Kutz & Associates, who lead a team of 20 hand surgeons to perform the bilateral hand transplants said, “His movements are already four weeks ahead of our other patients.  Movement is good and better than I anticipated.   We are in good shape, and I don’t see anything to be overly concerned about. He is already forming a fist in his left hand.  In both hands, he can move the wrist and each individual finger. ”

The patient’s immune system will be suppressed with a combination of drugs.  Michael Marvin, M.D., chief of transplantation, Jewish Hospital/University of Louisville, will closely monitor the patient for signs of rejection and adverse reaction to medications with lab tests and biopsies.  Marvin said, “There is no firmly established regimen to prevent rejection in hand transplant patients, therefore, we are basing in large part, our combination of drugs on the established experience in solid organ transplantation such as liver, kidney and pancreas.”

The 55-year-old double hand transplant recipient made his living as a chiropractor before losing both hands when his truck caught fire on February 11, 2006.  Unable to escape the burning vehicle, he was severely burned on his face, back, arms and hands, leaving very little tissue left in both hands.

Since his injury, Edwards had multiple reconstructive surgeries and skin grafts, but remained with very little hand function.  He requires assistance with all activities of daily living and nearly completely dependent on his wife and others for help.

The Composite Tissue Allotransplantation program is a partnership of physicians and researchers at Jewish Hospital Hand Care Center, Kleinert Kutz & Associates, and the University of Louisville. The group developed the pioneering hand transplant procedure and has performed five other hand transplants since 1999.  Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates coordinated the hand donation for the teams hand transplant procedures.

The hand transplant is sponsored by the Department of Defense, Office of Naval Research and Office of Army Research to further research in the composite tissue allotransplantation program.

Broadcast quality MPEG-2 720x480 video file of the hands and bandage change is available for download after 3:30 p.m. EST today at Other information, photography and video of the double hand transplant and the other five hand transplants performed by the team are available on at  Other video on the website is not broadcast quality.

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Barbara Mackovic
Senior Manager

Jewish Hospital & St. Mary's HealthCare Kleinert Institute Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center University of Louisville School of Medicine