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News Releases

Hand Transplant Recipient Upbeat with Media; Physicians Discuss Progress

For Immediate Release: 3/2/2001

Transplant Procedure Performed Feb. 16-17 at Jewish Hospital by Kleinert, Kutz and Associates and University of Louisville Surgeons

LOUISVILLE, KY – Jerry Fisher, the second person in the United States to receive a hand transplant, today offered a glimpse of how his life has changed since the surgery two weeks ago. Appearing upbeat and confident at a news conference, Fisher was joined by lead hand surgeon Warren C. Breidenbach, M.D., Kleinert, Kutz & Associates Hand Care Center, and lead transplant surgeon Darla K. Granger, M.D., University of Louisville. Also speaking were Laurie Newsome and Joann Keller, Fisher's physical and occupational therapists from Kleinert, Kutz & Associates.

“I couldn't be happier. I'm very pleased with my progress,” said a smiling Fisher. “The exercise can be quite strenuous. There's a lot of give and take in the therapy sessions, but the exercises are becoming much more natural.”

“There are so many people to thank in this process. I especially want to thank the donor family and Kleinert, Kutz and Associates, Jewish Hospital and the University of Louisville. I would also like to recognize Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates for the role they played,” Fisher said. “All of the work that went into the selection process for this procedure is amazing. Even the size and skin tone are the same.” With a chuckle, he added, “I think they did a good job in selecting me.”

His family is remaining in Michigan during the rehabilitative process, but will visit him often. His wife, Sonya, and three sons are expected to arrive in Louisville later tonight.

In discussing Fisher's progress to date, Dr. Breidenbach said, “I definitely would give him an A-plus in terms of where he is at this stage. He is right on course. His thumb motion is incredible and he can move his hand back and forth. His cooperation is helping to make the physical therapy go very well.”

According to Dr. Granger, there has been one mild episode of rejection. “Earlier this week, Jerry had a mild rash on his hand and a biopsy showed a very early stage of a rejection episode,” said Dr. Granger. “We have altered Jerry's medication and it is working very well. We took a biopsy yesterday and everything looks good. His skin is perfectly clear. We have said from the very beginning that episodes of rejection are expected.”

Fisher takes part in daily two-hour physical therapy sessions six days a week. “At this point, Jerry is doing his exercises at night in the brace that was placed on his hand last week,” said Laurie Newsome, the physical therapist who has been working with Jerry over the past two weeks. That brace will soon be replaced, according to JoAnn Keller, Jerry's occupational therapist. “Within the next two weeks, we hope to replace the current brace with a much smaller one that will primarily fit only on his hand.”

Recently released from Jewish Hospital, Fisher will remain in other accommodations near the Jewish Hospital Medical Campus for the next three months to be monitored and to continue his hand therapy sessions. Visiting Nurse Association will provide nursing and personal care during his stay in Louisville.

The 18-member transplant team included surgeons from Kleinert, Kutz and Associates Hand Care Center, PLLC, the University of Louisville and Jewish Hospital as well as a five-member team from Anesthesiology Associates. Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates, an organ procurement organization, coordinated the donation of the hands for both recipients. The group of surgeons that performed the procedure also performed the nation's first hand transplant on Matthew Scott two years ago.

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