News Releases

News Releases

Hand Transplant Recipient Continues To Gain Strength and Movement Six Weeks Post Surgery

For Immediate Release: 4/2/2001

LOUISVILLE, KY – Patient Jerry Fisher, the second person in the United States to receive a hand transplant, will answer questions from the media at a press conference six weeks following the innovative experimental procedure. Fisher will be joined by lead hand surgeon Warren C. Breidenbach, M.D., Kleinert, Kutz and Associates Hand Care Center, PLLC, lead transplant surgeon Darla K. Granger, M.D., University of Louisville, and physical and occupational therapists Laurie Newsome and Joann Keller, both from Kleinert, Kutz and Associates.

Mary Klausing, R.N. from the VNA Home Care Network will discuss nursing and personal care being provided to Fisher during his stay in Louisville. A special announcement from Kentucky Derby Festival president Mike Berry will also be made at the news conference.

The news conference is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. (EDT) on Wednesday, April 4 in the Jewish Hospital Rudd Heart and Lung Center, Conference Center, 16th floor, 201 Abraham Flexner Way. The conference will be up linked via satellite: Ku-Band SBS 6, Transponder 3, Horizontal Polarity Downlink Frequency 11774 MHZ. The signal will be available at 9:45 a.m. (EDT).

“Sensation is expected to return to Fisher's hand in stages beginning at six months following surgery rather than all at once. Regrowth of the nerve fibers to the tip of the fingers must take place.” explains Breidenbach. “He should first experience a pin prickling feeling, then hot and cold sensation, and later pressure. The final stage, being able to identify an object by feeling, may take up to five years.”

Fisher takes part in a two-hour physical therapy session six days a week and does therapy every two hours on his own using repetition of movement of his fingers and thumb and rotating his arm and wrist. He says, “I like going to hand therapy because I can see my progress. It is the highlight of my day.” Following the hand transplant and transfer of one tendon to restore thumb function, he was able to straighten his elbow for the first time March 19. He can move his fingers and thumb and slightly move his finger tips, can pinch with the index finger and thumb, and can hold objects in his new hand. He can pick up and release objects and has good movement and wrist control.

Keller has fitted Fisher with a new, much smaller brace, which he uses during his hand therapy sessions. “The new ‘hand based anti-claw' brace primarily fits only on his new hand and is used to prevent the contracture of the fingers into a poor position,” says Keller. When not in therapy, Fisher wears the much larger, “crane outrigger” brace.

Fisher will remain in accommodations near the Jewish Hospital Medical Campus for the next six weeks to be monitored for signs of a rejection episode, which are expected, and to continue his hand therapy sessions. He looks forward to returning home and said, “I miss my wife and boys, but talk to them daily.” Family and friends visit him on weekends.

The transplant procedure performed Feb. 16-17 at Jewish Hospital included an 18-member hand transplant surgical team from Kleinert, Kutz and Associates Hand Care Center, and the University of Louisville as well as a five-member team from Anesthesiology Associates. Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates, an organ procurement organization, coordinated the donation of the hand. 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