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News Releases

Louisville Team’s Seventh Hand Transplant Recipient Has Six Month Check-up

For Immediate Release: 1/17/2012

Louisville, Ky.—Donnie Rickelman, the seventh recipient of a hand transplant at Jewish Hospital, will return to the Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center, the Christine M. Kleinert Institute for Hand and Micro Surgery, and Jewish Hospital in Louisville on Tuesday, January 17, 2012 for a six-month check-up and evaluation with his team of doctors.

Rickelman says, “I can feel hot and cold sensation in the hand now.”

Rickelman received a new left hand in a 14½ hour procedure at Jewish Hospital on Sunday, July 10, 2011. Joseph Kutz, M.D., with Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center, led the 15-member team of hand surgeons, which included hand fellows from the Christine M. Kleinert Institute for Hand and Micro Surgery.  He returned to his home in Linton, Indiana in October, but continues to return to Louisville on a monthly basis to meet with his medical team as they monitor his progress.

“I enjoy playing video games - two handed - with my son and look forward to playing ball outdoors with him when the weather warms up,” said Rickelman. “I also continue to become more efficient at doing household chores such as cooking and cleaning, which really pleases my wife, Kelli.”

Drs. Kutz and Michael Marvin are the co-principle investigators for the Composite Tissue Allotransplantation program. In addition, Dr. Kutz is the medical director of the Kleinert Institute, the research and teaching arm of the Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center. Dr. Marvin is also the director of Transplantation at Jewish Hospital, associate professor of Surgery at the University of Louisville.

“Donnie continues to exceed our expectations in recovery from the hand transplant procedure,” said Dr. Kutz.  “His hand activity has been incredible for someone just six months post surgery.  His hot and cold sensation will continue to get even better.”

The research team at the Kleinert Institute will be evaluating Donnie and performing some clinical, as well as research tests during his one day visit to Louisville.

“Donnie still has a mild rash on his hand and arm that comes and goes which is considered a mild rejection episode, said Dr. Marvin. “But he continues to do quite well. These mild rejection episodes are not unexpected and can be treated with modifications to his medical regimen.”  Dr. Marvin, along with Rosemary Ouseph, M.D., professor of medicine at the University of Louisville, oversees Rickelman’s immunosuppressive drug therapy by closely monitoring him for signs of rejection and adverse reaction to medications with lab tests and biopsies.

Rickelman, 36, injured both hands in a factory accident on March 9, 1998 when they were caught in a steel-splitter machine. His dominant right hand was crushed and his left hand partially amputated below the wrist, leaving a partial thumb and limited wrist movement with the left hand. While he remained independent, he struggled with the activities of daily living.

The Composite Tissue Allotransplantation program is a partnership of physicians, researchers and healthcare providers at Jewish Hospital, Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center, the Christine M. Kleinert Institute and the University of Louisville. The group developed the pioneering hand transplant procedure and has performed a total of eight hand transplants on seven patients including the world’s most successful in 1999. Indiana Organ Procurement Organization in coordination with the Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates arranged the hand donation for Rickelman’s hand transplant procedure.

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 is available at

About Jewish Hospital
Jewish Hospital is an internationally renowned high-tech tertiary referral center developing leading-edge advancements in hand and microsurgery, heart and lung care, home care, rehab medicine (including sports medicine), orthopaedics, neuroscience, occupational health, organ transplantation and outpatient and primary care.  Site of the world’s first successful hand transplant, the world’s first and second successful AbioCor® Implantable Replacement Heart procedures, and world’s first trial of cardiac stem cells in chronic heart failure, the hospital is also federally designated to perform all five solid organ transplants – heart, lung, liver, kidney and pancreas.

About the Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center
Kleinert Kutz is one of the largest hand care programs in the world, pioneering achievements in hand and microsurgery, research, therapy and orthotics. The 13 physicians of Kleinert Kutz offer expertise in orthopedic and plastic surgery and provide comprehensive care for the hand and arm. Kleinert Kutz’s significant achievements include the nation’s first five hand transplants, one of the world’s first cross-hand replantations, pioneered work in primary reconstruction using free tissue transfer and national award for research in blood flow to the nerve.  For more information, please visit or call (502) 561-4263.

About the Christine M. Kleinert Institute for Hand and Micro Surgery
Named in honor of Dr. Kleinert's mother, the Christine M. Kleinert Institute for Hand and Micro Surgery (CMKI) is a world-renowned nonprofit education and research organization funded by the Kleinert-Kutz Endowment for Education and Research in Hand and Micro Surgery. The physicians of the Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center teach the next generation of hand surgeons through CMKI’s accredited fellowship program, which is cooperative effort with the University of Louisville School of Medicine. The Fellows are fully trained plastic, orthopedic, or general surgeons from around the world who come to Louisville to get additional training in hand and micro surgery. To date, more than 1,200 physicians from 58 countries have served as Fellows. Dozens of research projects refining surgical techniques, testing new devices and pushing the frontiers of basic and clinical science in the field of hand surgery are currently underway. CMKI also provides patient rehabilitation services after surgery and patients recovery services without surgery through the Hand Therapy Center and Orthotic Care Center. For more information, please visit or call (502) 562-0310. 


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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