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Progress Excelling for Region’s First Double Hand Transplant Patient at Jewish Hospital Following Subsequent Surgeries

For Immediate Release: 10/5/2010

Physicians refer to the right hand as the “miracle hand”

Louisville, Kentucky – Dr. Richard “Rich” Edwards, the nation’s third double hand transplant recipient, is progressing well under the care of Kleinert Kutz and Associates hand surgeons at Jewish Hospital in Louisville, Ky. after complications with his right hand resulted in additional surgeries over the past four weeks.

“Dr. Edwards has made very good progress,” said Dr. Warren Breidenbach, partner at Kleinert Kutz  and Associates and assistant clinical professor of surgery at the University of Louisville.   “On the left side, we have seen the most rapid progress we’ve seen in any previous transplant.  On the right side, we call this the miracle hand.”

Dr. Breidenbach led the team of surgeons from Kleinert Kutz, Christine M. Kleinert Institute, and the University of Louisville who performed the initial 17 ½ hour surgical procedure August 24-25, 2010, at the Jewish Hospital Hand Care Center and is managing Dr. Edwards’ follow-up care.

Edwards was taken back into surgery on Wednesday, September 8, 2010, to restore blood flow, being blocked by clots, to his right hand.  Since that time, Dr. Breidenbach said the only functioning  major artery has since clotted again.  However, tests have shown that Edwards has been able to maintain blood flow and adequate temperatures in the right hand and fingers.

“Somehow, over the two week period, he has developed enough collateral vessels to maintain blood flow in the hand,” Dr. Breidenbach said.  “I have never seen this happen in my 26 years.  It is a well established phenomenon, but it usually happens over a much longer period of time. This is a fascinating case and Dr. Edwards has really stuck through it.  He’s both innovative and lucky.”

Edwards, a 55 year-old Oklahoma resident, continues daily hand therapy on both hands and says he sees improvement with each session.

“Every single day that I have therapy, I see improvement,” Edwards said. “I look forward to it every day and I always think ‘I am so glad to be here.’”

Edwards can move his wrist and each finger and make partial fist with both hands.

Dr. Edwards’ post-surgical treatment includes an immunosuppressant drug regimen that includes three medications, which is being overseen by Michael Marvin, M.D., chief of transplantation, Jewish Hospital/University of Louisville.  Dr. Marvin said Dr. Edwards continues on the same medications for anti-rejection, including steroids.

 “So far, Dr. Edwards has done extremely well,” Dr. Marvin said.  “We’ve had to adjust the dosages of his medications fairly regularly, and he is on a much lower dose of steroids than he was initially, but he’s done remarkably well.”
Dr. Edwards worked 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, Dr. 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 is nearly completely dependent on his wife and others for help.

Throughout his ordeal, Dr. Edwards has remained positive.

“It is so amazing to be able to look down at my hands and see 10 full fingers and two hands that look like my hands,” Dr. Edwards said.  “It’s such a hard road, but what gives me my positive attitude is prayer.”

Dr. Edwards’ wife, Cindy, continues to assist with his daily therapy and activities.

“Initially, I was concerned about how I would feel about the hands and them being different, but the minute I saw them, that fear was gone.  They look like his hands,” Cindy Edwards said. “Through all of this, we have really learned to trust in the Lord.”
The Composite Tissue Allotransplantation program is a partnership of physicians and researchers at Jewish Hospital Hand Care Center, Kleinert Kutz, 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 team’s 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.
Patient and physician information, photography and video are available at and  


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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